In postwar Europe, nobody could deny that it was the Germans who were guilty of the crimes of the Second World War. While the Holocaust was not forgotten in postwar or Communist Czechoslovakia (especially in the small survivor community), stories of national suffering and courage established already in the midst of the war have since dominated the memory of the Second World War in Czechoslovakia.
An unexpected Jewish migrants’ influx from the crumbling Soviet Union and its successor states has “saved” and stabilized the Jewish communities in Germany since the 1990ies. Moreover: The FSU immigrants and the growth of the communities opened surprising perspectives for building a “New German Jewry” – in the country of the former Nazi perpetrators.
The first research-based monographs analyzing the genocide against European Jews were published in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. Next to their counterparts in countries such as Poland and France, Hungarian Jewish authors – including Ernő Munkácsi, Jenő Lévai or Endre Sós – made some of the major contributions to this early wave of Holocaust historiography (avant la lettre), which have subsequently been largely forgotten and remain to be properly rediscovered and reassessed to this day.
Is it true that Hasidism dominated most of East European Jewry already by the end of the eighteenth century? What were the borders of Hasidic influence? When did Hasidism come to Hungary? Which Hasidic dynasties were strongest and why? How Hungarian and Romanian Hasidim differ? What brought an end of Hasidism in Eastern Europe? How did Hasidism resurrect in the post-Holocaust world? How strong is it today? These and other questions inform the lecture about the geography of this most important socio-religious movement in modern Judaism.
In 1860, a group of French Jews created the first permanent international Jewish organisation, the Alliance Israélite Universelle. They were soon joined in their endeavour to defend coreligionists around the world by the prominent French Jewish lawyer and statesman Adolphe Crémieux (1796-1880). Under his leadership, the elite of French Jewry tried – and sometimes managed – to improve the legal situation of Jews in the successor states to the Ottoman Empire in Southeast Europe and in French colonies in North Africa.
Emerging in 16th century Prague, the Jewish musical guild-member, the klezmer became a unique cultural feature of the largest transnational Jewish culture of modern times - the Ashkenazim of Eastern Europe. Much of the musical and choreographic history of the Ashkenazim is embedded in the klezmer repertoire, which functioned as a kind of non-verbal communal memory.
What does biography allow us to see that other approaches might lead us to overlook? What do individual life histories reveal and make clear about the wider contexts around them? How do biographies allow us to see across real and imagined boundaries? Taking these questions as its starting point, my talk will highlight how biography can alter our methodologies and shift our perspectives.