Conferences in Germany 2016: “1938: Forced Migration and Flight” and “Jews in the GDR”

“1938: Forced Migration and Flight”

Leipzig, October 27-28, 2016

Against the background of current debates about refugees and mass migration, the LBI co-sponsored an academic workshop that focused on the refugee crisis of 1938. The organizers, who included the Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture at the University of Leipzig and the office of the German Federal Commissioner for Culture and Media, Monika Grütters, say that the aim of the conference was a reevaluation of the dynamics of the refugee crisis with emphasis on the perspective of Jewish protagonists. In the history of Jewish migration, 1938 was a watershed year. After five years of escalating discrimination within Germany, a series of events put Jews in an ever wider swath of Europe in new danger. The annexation of Austria was followed by the occupation of the Sudetenland. Legal discrimination soon gave way to expulsion and organized violence. In June thousands of men were arrested for allegedly shirking employment, in October as many as 17,000 Polish Jews living in Germany were hastily deported, and on November 9, Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues were burned and looted as thousands were arrested. The international community’s attempt to grapple with the ensuing refugee crisis at the Évian Conference brought the refugees little in the way of relief or security. Participants in the workshop presented research that reevaluates the dynamics of this period with a focus on the experiences of the refugees themselves. Debórah Dwork, Professor and Director of the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University in Massachusetts gave the opening lecture.

 

“Jews in the GDR: Research Approaches and New Perspectives”

Berlin, November 1-2, 2016

Although the media have paid increased attention to the history of Jews in the GDR in recent years, significant blind spots remain in scholarly research and public perception. A workshop sponsored by the LBI, the Jewish Museum Berlin, and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung sought to shed light on these. A public screening of the film The Sojourners: The Return of German Jews and the Question of Identity (1993) kicked off the workshop. The film deals with the situation of Jews who returned to Germany shortly after the country’s reunification in 1990. After the screening, there was a discussion with Jeffrey Peck, a co-author of the book on which the film is based. The second day of the conference featured four discussion panels on the following topics: returning Jewish émigrés, mixed marriages and families, Jews in the GDR in the 1980s, and the treatment of Jews, Jewish culture, and antisemitism by public and state actors.

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