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Moses Mendelssohn Award for Historian Atina Grossmann

Thu, Mar 14, 2024

Grossmann accepted the award at the Center for Jewish History in New York City after a lecture based on her most recent research, which unites a transnational approach to Jewish history with her own family’s story.

On January 23, 2024, Atina Grossmann, Professor of History at The Cooper Union in New York, delivered the 64th Leo Baeck Memorial Lecture titled “Trauma, Privilege, and Adventure: Jewish Refugees in Iran and India.”

Marsha Rozenblit, a historian of Austro-Hungarian Jews and an LBI Trustee, introduced the honoree and gave an overview of her career. Grossman began as historian of German feminism with early work on the movement for sex-reform and abortion rights in Weimar Germany before turning her attention to Jewish history, especially in the book Rozenblit called her magnum opus, Jews, Germans and Allies: Close Encounters in Occupied Germany, a richly sourced social history of Jewish survivors in the immediate aftermath of World War II.

In her lecture, Grossmann used the example of her own family – Berlin Jews who escaped to spend the war years in Iran and India – to examine the ambivalent, paradoxical, and diverse experiences of Jews who found refuge in “non-Western” countries. Always shadowed by the emerging European catastrophe, these uprooted Jews were also precariously privileged as white Europeans in colonial or semi-colonial societies. Grossmann drew on her family papers as well as other archival sources to illuminate the everyday lives of refugees in the changing context of interwar fascination and contact with the “Orient,” global war, anti-colonial independence movements, and gradual revelations about the Holocaust.

After the lecture, Markus Krah presented Grossmann with the Moses Mendelssohn Award for outstanding scholarship. This annual program is endowed by the late Marianne C. Dreyfus and Family, descendants of Rabbi Leo Baeck.

From LBI News No. 117