Skip to main content

2021–2022 Gerald Westheimer Career Development Fellows

Fri, Oct 1, 2021

Markus Krah is a lecturer in Jewish religious and intellectual history at the University of Potsdam. His research explores the transnational roots of American Jewish culture, especially how East European- and German-Jewish culture were adapted and appropriated in their new historical context.

“My research on the history of ‘Schocken Books’ in New York explores a project to preserve the German-Jewish cultural heritage in post-WWII America. In 1945, Salman Schocken (1877–1959) founded his American publishing house in order to replicate the success of the Berlin Schocken Verlag, which was a central player in the interwar Jewish cultural renaissance. Between 1931 and 1938, it published a “Who’s Who” of Central European Jewish intellectuals, among them Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, Franz Kafk a, S. Y. Agnon, Leo Baeck, and Gershom Scholem. It offered Jewish culture to spiritually fortify a community facing first assimilation, then persecution.

Schocken saw parallels in post-1945 America: a community in need of cultural elevation to strengthen its Jewishness. But Schocken, who had moved to Jerusalem in 1933/34, and his editors like Nahum Glatzer and Hannah Arendt, had difficulties adapting to a new audience. At first, Schocken Books published mostly translations from its German program – mistaking it for a transnational Jewish canon. They found out the hard way that few American Jews were interested in the elite Central European Jewish culture that Schocken tried to sell. After almost failing in the 1950s, Schocken Books Americanized its program, while more American Jews became interested in the Jewish culture Schocken presented.”

Sheer Ganor is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate classes on the Holocaust, global Genocide history, the Second World War, the Weimar Republic, and the history of Human Rights. Prior to joining the University of Minnesota, Sheer held a postdoctoral research fellowship at the German Historical Institute at UC Berkeley.

“I am working on a book manuscript entitled, In Scattered Formation: Displacement, Alignment and the German-Jewish Diaspora. This study traces the emergence of a transnational diasporic network of Jewish refugees who escaped Nazi Germany and its annexed territories. Encompassing five continents and spanning from 1933 and until the end of the twentieth century, my book portrays displacement as a long-term, dynamic process. In its geographic scope, it explores the varied responses of a community bound by shared history to the shock of near-total dispersion. My research is fueled by my interest in everyday experiences and involves the study of a large variety of historical documents and sources, from humorous anecdotes doodled in personal notebooks, through letters seeking guidance from advice columnists, to the contents of suitcases carried by refugees along their journey. Many of the fascinating sources that I analyze in my work are housed at the LBI archive and library, and I am grateful for the continued support of the LBI and its team members."

From LBI News 112