"All They and Everyone Else Remember is the End”: Confronting the Holocaust and the Pitfalls of Memory Culture. Gerda Lerner’s Report from Germany (1993/1994)
Vera Kallenberg (Fulbright Visiting Scholar in the Department of History at Duke University)
Abstract: This lecture focuses on the story of the first visit to Germany in 1993 by feminist historian Gerda Lerner, one of the most influential protagonists of Women's History in the second half of the 20th century in the U.S. and beyond. This visit was part of her coming to consciousness as a Jewish woman and marked a crucial step in Lerner's approach to Germany as well as a confrontation with her own Nazi persecution. Born in Vienna in 1920 to a wealthy, acculturated Jewish family, Gerda, who later became a feminist writer, leftist activist, and history professor of U.S. Women's History, escaped Nazi-occupied Europe for the United States in 1939. The lecture uses archival material and publications to analyze how Lerner processed her experiences in Germany and how she pointed out the pitfalls of the German and European culture of remembrance at the time. The case is a reminder of how hard the struggle for a broader public reappraisal of the Shoah in Germany was, how much resistance had to be overcome, and how late German-Jewish history found recognition and attention in German scholarship-indeed, not until the 1990s. Bio: Vera Kallenberg (Dr. phil EHESS Paris/ TU Darmstadt) is a historian working at the crossroads of Jewish studies, gender studies, North American studies, and German studies. Currently, she is a Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin (research associate) at the Interdisciplinary Center for Gender Studies at Bielefeld University and a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Research Training Group "Experiencing Gender. Constitution and Transformation of Being-in-the-World." Vera is currently a Visiting Fulbright Scholar in the History Department at Duke University, where is conducting research on her planned monograph on the life and work of Gerda Lerner (1920-2013) entitled "The Making of Women's Experience: Gerda Lerner in a Transnational History Perspective."