The University of Chicago News Office
Sept. 9, 1998 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
(773) 702-6421

International conference to revisit the Holocaust in light of the new millennium

Has the Holocaust altered our sense of the future? What lessons can it teach us for the 21st century? On Nov. 14 through 16, the University of Chicago will host the Rethinking the Holocaust at the End of the Twentieth Century Conference in which scholars from Israel, Germany, England and the United States will grapple with fundamental questions concerning the catastrophe.

“Conference participants will strive to capture what is unique about the Holocaust as well as to place it in the historical context of the entire century,” said Michael Fishbane, the Nathan Cummings Professor of Jewish Studies in the Divinity School at The University of Chicago and chair of the Committee on Jewish Studies.

Eric Santner, the Harriet and Ulrich E. Meyer Professor of Modern European Jewish History at the University of Chicago and a conference organizer, said, “The task of the conference is a paradoxical one: we are trying to understand processes, events and actions that together represent a traumatic rupture in the fabric of human history.

“We have brought together a remarkable group of scholars doing path-breaking research on the genocide itself, its place in the history of racism and violence in our century as well as on the problems of how we might live with what we know.”

Santner said some of the questions experts will answer include: Where do we locate individual agency and moral responsibility? How do we situate the Holocaust within the logic of 20th-century history? What are the tasks and imperatives of memory and memorialization?

Saul Friedlander, Maxwell Cummings Chair in European History at Tel Aviv University and the 1939 Club Chair for History of the Holocaust at the University of California, Los Angeles, will deliver the keynote address. Friedlander, who is also a member of the Independent Experts Commission investigating Swiss politics during World War II, will discuss what he calls “redemptive anti- Semitism,” the worldview cultivated under Hitler’s leadership and according to which the future of “Aryan” humanity depended upon the annihilation of the Jews.

Other conference participants include Geoffrey Hartman, Sterling Professor Emeritus of English at Yale University; Ulrich Herbert, professor of history at the University of Freiburg; Dominick LaCapra, professor of history at Cornell University; Anson Rabinbach, professor of history at Princeton University; and Shulamit Volkov, professor of modern history at Tel Aviv University. Hartman, who has served as scholar-in-residence for the Cardozo Law School and the Rockefeller Center at Bellagio, will deliver the closing remarks at the conference. In 1997, he received the Prize for Contribution to Jewish Scholarship from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. This year, he was awarded the Distinguished Scholar of the Year by the Keats-Shelley Association as well as the 1998 Rene Wellek Prize of the American Comparative Literature Association.

From 1992 through 1995, Herbert was director of the Investigation of the History of Nationalism in Hamburg. Since 1995, he has served as chair of modern history at the University of Freiburg.

LaCapra is the Bryce and Edith M. Bowman Professor of Humanistic Studies at Cornell and the author of Representing the Holocaust: History, Theory, Trauma  (1994) and History and Memory after Auschwitz  (1998).

Rabinbach, recipient of the Victor Adler State Prize of Linz, Austria, is author of In the Shadow of Catastrophe: German Intellectuals between Apocalypse and Enlightenment  (1997).

Volkov holds the Konrad Adenauer Chair for Comparative European History and heads the graduate school of history at Tel Aviv University. Her books include The Rise of Popular Anti- Modernism in German: The Urban Master-Artisans, 1873-1896  (1978) and Die Juden in Deutschland, 1780-1918  (1994).

The Rethinking the Holocaust at the End of the Twentieth Century Conference is open to the public.
Last modified at 03:51 PM CST on Wednesday, June 14, 2000.

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