Competing memories: Inter|National Debates about Remembering the Holocaust and Colonialism

01.12.2021, Debatte, online

Competing Memories? Inter|National Debates about Remembering the Holocaust and Colonialism

Panelists: Frank Biess (UC San Diego), Robert Heinze (DHI Paris), Esra Ozyurek (University of Cambridge), and Stefanie Schüler-Springorum (Center for Research on Antisemitism, Berlin)

Moderators: Rita Chin (University of Michigan) and Akasemi Newsome (University of California, Berkeley)

Organizers: Simone Lässig (German Historical Institute Washington), Akasemi Newsome (University of California, Berkeley), Lutz Raphael (German Association of Historians), and Isabel Richter (DAAD | University of California, Berkeley)

Co-sponsored by the American Historical Association.


In Spring 2021, a new translation of Michael Rothberg’s book Multidirectional Memory (2009) ignited a debate among historians, intellectuals, and journalists across the major German newspapers. Many described this debate as a second Historikerstreit. While the original Historikerstreit in the 1980s centered around the question of the Holocaust's uniqueness as well as its place in Germany's public culture, the most recent debates specifically addressed the relationship of the Holocaust to European colonial history.

Simone Lässig (German Historical Institute Washington), Akasemi Newsome (University of California, Berkeley), Lutz Raphael (German Association of Historians), and Isabel Richter (DAAD | University of California, Berkeley) have organized a panel discussion to reflect on the debate as it has unfolded thus far in Germany. Invited experts from the United States, the UK, and Germany will discuss the different receptions of work by Michael Rothberg and a related essay by Dirk Moses titled, “The German Catechism,” that became a few of the central pieces of this debate. This panel discussion is not intended to further fuel the very heated debates in Germany. Rather, we are interested in transatlantic reflection on why different publics, as well as different representatives of historical scholarship, deal so differently with the problem of competing and converging memories. Our goal is thus not to deepen conflicts, but to clarify the debates in a way


Frank Biess is professor of history at the University of California San Diego. He has published widely on the political, social and cultural history of Germany in the 20th Century. The German version of his most recent book, Republik der Angst. Eine andere Geschichte der Bundesrepublik (2019) was a finalist for the non-fiction award of the Leipzig book fair; the English version German Angst. Fear and Democracy in the Federal Republic of Germany (2020) received the 2021 Norris and Carol Hundley Award from the Pacific Branch of the American Historical Society for the most distinguished book in any category. He is currently working on a new project on the global history of the interwar Weimar Republic.

Robert Heinze is a research fellow at the German Historical Institute Paris (DHIP). He is working on a history of urban transport in Africa, using four case studies (Bamako, Kinshasa, Lusaka, Nairobi). Before embarking on this Post-Doc research at the University of Trier, he completed his PhD in 2012 at the University of Konstanz on the history of radio in Namibia and Zambia, with a focus on decolonization periods, anticolonial resistance and post-colonial nation-building. He is interested in exploring infrastructures in (post-)colonial societies through a lens of historical materialism, analyzing them both as material technologies and in their interactions with political economies and urban societies.

Esra Özyürek is Sultan Qaboos Professor in Abrahamic Faiths and Shared Values at the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge. She received her PhD in Anthropology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.  Professor Özyürek is an anthropologist who seeks to understand the tension between politics, memory, and religion in Turkey and in Europe. She is the author of Being German, Becoming Muslim: Race, Religion and Conversion in the New Europe (Princeton University Press, 2014) and Nostalgia for the Modern: State Secularism and Everyday Politics in Turkey (Duke University Press, 2007). Her newest manuscript Shouldering the Guilt, Embracing Empathy: Holocaust Memory and Muslim Belonging in Post-War Germany is under review by Stanford University Press.

Stefanie Schüler-Springorum is director of the Center for Research on Antisemitism at Technical University of Berlin. Her previous roles include director of the Institute for the History of German Jews in Hamburg and  chair of the Leo Baeck Institute’s Academic Working Group in Germany. Professor  Schüler-Springorum’s work focuses on German, German-Jewish history and Spanish history in the 19th and 20th centuries and is characterized by a gender perspective. She is the author of Die jüdische Minderheit in Königsberg/Pr. 1871-1945 (1996); Krieg und Fliegen. Die Legion Condor im Spanischen Bürgerkrieg (2010; Spanish translation in 2014); and Perspektiven deutsch-jüdischer Geschichte: Geschlecht und Differenz (2014; to be published in English in 2022).


Rita Chin is professor of history at the University of Michigan and Vice President, Professional Division of the American Historical Association (AHA). She received a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley in 1999. She is a scholar of modern Europe with particular expertise in immigration and human mobility; race and ethnicity; and colonialism and postcolonialism. Her area of interests include postwar Germany, Britain, and France; immigration and migration studies; racial and ethnic minorities; colonialism and postcolonialism; gender; and European Leftism and the New Left. She is the author of The Crisis of Multiculturalism in Europe: A History (Princeton University Press 2017), and The Guestworker Question in Postwar Germany (Cambridge University Press 2007). She co-authored with Heide Fehrenbach, Geoff Eley and Attina Grossmann, After the Nazi Racial State: Difference and Democracy in Germany and Europe (University of Michigan Press 2009)

Akasemi Newsome is the associate director of the Institute of European Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. and associate director of research at the Global, International and Area Studies Hub, both at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research on the politics of labor, immigration, and comparative racialization addresses topics at the forefront of international and comparative political economy, including rights and global governance, institutions, capitalist development, and social movements. In addition to three co-edited special issues and published articles in International Relations, the Journal of European Integration, Comparative Labor Law and Policy Journal, Perspectives on Europe, and PS: Political Science and Politics, her book manuscript The Color of Solidarity examines the conditions for labor union support of immigrant claims-making in Europe. She is also a co-editor (with Marianne Riddervold and Jarle Trondal) of The Palgrave Handbook of EU Crises (2021).


Simone Lässig is a full professor for Modern History and the director of the German Historical Institute Washington (GHI). The GHI is a center for advanced historical research. Working with junior and senior scholars around the world, the GHI facilitates dialogue and scholarly collaboration across national and disciplinary boundaries. The GHI was established in 1987 as an independent non-profit foundation. Since 2002 it has been part of the Max Weber Stiftung – Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland (Max Weber Foundation – International Humanities Institutes Abroad), funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, which coordinates an international network of humanities institutes. In 2017, the GHI opened its Pacific Regional Office on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, to foster cooperation with a myriad of world-class scholars and renowned research institutions on the West Coast, and to extend its public outreach effort there.

Akasemi Newsome is the associate director of the Institute of European Studies (IES) at the University of California, Berkeley. IES is the leading center for research and education on Europe in the Western United States, and among the top three such organizations in the U.S. Through interdisciplinary public events, research programs, grant opportunities, and community outreach, IES seeks to enrich America's understanding of Europe – its people, developments and challenges – at Berkeley and throughout the state of California. Newly created in 2020, the Global, International & Area Studies (GIAS) is the leading research and outreach hub for international and area studies on the UC Berkeley campus.

Lutz Raphael is a research professor for modern history at Trier University and president of the German Historical Association (VHD), a representative organ of German historical scholarship in the public. The core task of the VHD is to organize the Biennial Convention of German Historians (“Historikertag”) – one of the largest conferences in the humanities in Europe, most recently with more than 4,000 participants. As a lobby group, the VHD is committed to the interests of its members in a variety of ways and, as a professional association, is in constant dialogue with universities, university-related institutions, and society. The VHD currently has about 3,400 members.

Isabel Richter is DAAD Professor in the departments of history and German Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. The German Academic Exchange Service, or DAAD is the largest German support organization in the field of international academic co-operation. Since it was founded in 1925, the DAAD has supported more than 2.6 million academics in Germany and abroad.