Early Modes of Writing the Shoah. Practices of Knowledge and Textual Practices of Jewish Survivors in Europe 1942–1965 (PREMEC)
This project was focused on the practices of knowledge and the textual practices of five Jewish authors who developed distinctive modes of writing about the Shoah between 1942 and 1965. The project examined works by Joseph Wulf, Michel Borwicz, Nachman Blumental, and Noé Grüss, who belonged to the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland and later immigrated to France and Germany. In addition to this group of authors, the project also considered the writings of H.G. Adler from Czechoslovakia, who immigrated to England in 1947. Even while detained as prisoners or on the run from the Nazis, these authors still conducted research on genocide (including collections of documents and witness reports) and developed different modes of writing (literary, testimonial, academic, in different styles and genres) that articulated new forms of knowledge. Their writings are characterized by their interdisciplinarity and the ways in which they balance and shift between objectivizing and subjectivizing gestures. This body of work is polyvalent right down to the diverse modes of writing, through which the texts combine and blend the perspectives of the scholar with those of the author and/or eyewitness.
Up until now, these authors have been treated separately as belonging to discrete fields of knowledge (some to history, some to literature). Departing from this divisive approach, the project examined the multifaceted nature of their practices and further asks how the knowledge the texts produce and the modes of writing they employ undermine or even transcend the usual divisions between styles, genres, and disciplines. As part of this examination, the project also pursued the hypothesis that, on the one hand, there are certain lines of continuity between the practices of knowledge developed before the war and those that followed, while, on the other hand, there was a significant rupture in practices of knowledge that might be interpreted as the result of the “Catastrophe” that befell human knowledge with the Shoah. This study made it possible to better comprehend the epistemological value of these practices and the extent to which they still apply to research today—not just in the specialized field of Holocaust studies but also more broadly in the field of the history of knowledge.
The establishment of the Shoah as an object of knowledge was analyzed according to the following three aspects:
- The presentation of a heretofore marginalized text collection that was written before the “era of the witness” hailed by the 1961 Eichmann trial.
- The analysis of an innovative culture of knowledge surrounding these texts and embedded in specific cultural and political contexts.
- The combination of approaches from the epistemology of history and social science with the unique forms of knowledge that literature and witness testimonies make available.
The goals of the project relied on an interdisciplinary approach that unites the field of history with literary studies, in particular the French histoire culturelle des écrits (“cultural history of writing”) with the German Kulturwissenschaft (“cultural studies”).
The PREMEC-project took place in German-French cooperation. Historians and literary scholars of the two linguistic areas were engaged in dialogue in order to bring German-French dynamics into the European exploration of the Shoah.
Head of the project was Aurélia Kalisky (ZfL). She was supported by Nicolas Berg (Simon Dubnow Institute), Elisabeth Gallas (Simon Dubnow Institute) and Katrin Stoll (Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena).
The main cooperation partners in France were Judith Lyon-Caen (EHESS / GRIHL / CRH) and Malena Chinski (EHESS / GRIHL / CRH).
Audrey Kichelewski (Straßburg University) and Anna Saignes (Grenoble University) also worked on the French side.
Translated from Yiddish by Almut Seiffert and Miriam Trinh. Introduction and epilogue by Aurélia Kalisky
Salmen Gradowski: Die Zertrennung
Aufzeichnungen eines Mitglieds des Sonderkommandos
- PREMEC: Der Nachlass Nachman Blumentals. Eine außergewöhnliche Sammlung zur Geschichte der Shoah, in: ZfL Blog, 28 Jan 2019
Aurélia Kalisky: Mallette clandestine, témoignages exilés, livres voyageurs : l’archive dispersée de H.G. Adler
Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme (MAHJ), Hôtel de Saint-Aignan, 71 Rue du Temple, 75003 Paris
Noah Benninga and Aurélia Kalisky: Problematic Sources and Hybrid Methodologies: The Case of the Sonderkommando Manuscripts
online via Zoom
Aurélia Kalisky: David Rousset in der französischen Erinnerungsliteratur
Institut français Berlin, "Maison de France", Kurfürstendamm 211, 10719 Berlin
Aurélia Kalisky: Anna Langfus und die Shoah
Institut français Leipzig, Thomaskirchhof 20, 04109 Leipzig
Aurélia Kalisky: Anna Langfus und die Literatur der Shoah
Goethe-Institut Dresden, Königsbrücker Straße 84, 01099 Dresden
»Sprachhandeln«. Reflexionen über die deutsche Sprache nach dem Holocaust
Leibniz-Institute for Jewish History and Culture – Simon Dubnow (DI), Goldschmidtstr. 28, 04103 Leipzig, Seminarraum
Aurelia Kalisky: The Theoretical Potential of Early Holocaust Testimonies and Historiography
Charles University, Opletalova 38, 110 00 Staré Město, Prag (CZ)
Rythmer le chaos. Composition, circulation et collecte des chansons et poèmes des ghettos et des camps nazis
EHESS, 96 bd Raspail, 75006 Paris, Salle Lombard (France)
Aurélia Kalisky: Refusal to Testify. Testimony, Denial, and the Violence of Law
Leibniz-Institut für jüdische Geschichte und Kultur – Simon Dubnow, Goldschmidtstraße 28, 04103 Leipzig
Translating M. M. Borwicz
Warsaw University, Institute of Applied Social Sciences (Instytut Stosowanych Nauk Społecznych), Warsaw, Żurawia 4, room 205
La nouvelle Ècole Polonaise D'Histoire de la Shoah
EHESS, 105 bd Raspail, 75006 Paris (FR)
Exil et apatridie dans le Berlin de l’entre-deux-guerres. Ville du refuge ou lieu de transit? (With Aurélia Kalisky)
Centre Marc Bloch, Friedrichstraße 191, 10117 Berlin
Aurélia Kalisky: A Case of Historiographic Perversion? Regarding the Genocide of the Tutsi
American University of Paris, The George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention, 6 rue du Colonel Combes, 75007 Paris (FR)
Telling, Describing, Representing Extermination. The Auschwitz Sonderkommando, their Testimony and their Legacy
Centre Marc Bloch (CMB), Friedrichstraße 191, 10117 Berlin / ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. floor, conferece room
Joseph Wulf: A Polish-Jewish Historian in Western Germany. The Knowledge of the Witness, the Engagement of the Historian and the Writing of History
Académie polonaise des sciences à Paris, 74 rue Lauriston, 75016 Paris
West German Historians and the Holocaust. A critical Reconsideration of their Topics, Narratives and Concepts
École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, 54 Boulevard Raspail, 75006 Paris (FR), Salle AS1_24
Early Modes of Writing the Shoah. Practices of Knowledge and Textual Practices of Jewish Survivors in Europe (1942–1965)
EHESS, 105 Boulevard Raspail 75006 PARIS
Review by Stephan Lehnstaedt, in: Journal of East Central European Studies 70.1 (2021), 124–125; also published in: sehepunkte 21.7–8 (2021)
Review by Werner Renz, in: Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 3 (2020), 269–271
Workshop review by Cornelia von Einem, in: H-Soz-Kult, 23 Mar 2020
Review by Thomas Schmid, in: Die Welt, 27 Jan 2020
Review by Jeremy Adler, in: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 05 Jan 2020
Review by Marie Luise Knott, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 24 Jan 2020
Review by Michael Wurmitzer, in: Der Standard,
Article by Gal Beckerman, in: New York Times, 24 June 2019
Article by René Schlott, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 06 Feb 2019