Shared Histories: Germans and Jews in Eastern Europe – Aspects of a Historical Entanglement?
From the late Middle Ages up until the Second World War, German and Jewish population groups constituted a formative economic and cultural element in many regions of Eastern Europe. In the shadow of the holocaust, the role of both groups as imperial or post-imperial minorities and their temporary entanglement as well as historical parallels received not the attention they deserved. Newer studies, mainly informed by paradigms of cultural research, tried to abandon the problematic bi-polar juxtaposition of minority and majority. Instead, researchers took greater account of the constant and daily negotiation of coexistence in Eastern Europe and put more emphasis on the manifold experiences of people in the most various orders.
The young-scholars-conference to be announced here is welcoming contributions concerning the settlement of the fertile black soil regions in the Russian Empire since the reign of Catherine the Great and other related subjects like internal colonization understood in the perspective of shared history or intertwined history or histoire croisée. Similarities and historical parallels concerning Germans and Jews were noticeable not only in the Tsarist Empire. After the end of the First World War German and Jewish politicians from Eastern Europe cooperated in the course of the Congress of European Nationalities to assert that respect be accorded to minority rights they had been assured of in the Paris Peace Conference. Independent Poland after 1918 accommodated significant Jewish and German minorities that had a political, cultural, and economic life of their own. In the early Soviet Union the cultural autonomy of Jews and Germans was promoted – albeit under the banner of communism. In 1924, a Volga German Republic was established while the territorial component of cultural independence in the case of the Jews was realized only at the beginning of the 1930s in Birobidshan, in the Soviet Far East.
The genocide of the Soviet Jews committed by the German occupying forces as well as several waves of deportations that affected among others the population of the formerly autonomous regions of the Volga Germans put the historical role of Germans and Jews in the Russian realm to a sudden end. This was also true for Central Europe and South-East Europe from where a considerable part of the German population fled, was expelled, or deported. In the light of these events, it becomes clear that not only the beginnings of the history of Germans and Jews in Eastern Europe, in the form of the so-called Eastern colonization, were firmly interconnected, but so was their end in the early 20th century, too. Admittedly, studies will have to be continued to overcome the problematic proposition of the simultaneous destruction of the German Empire in the East and European Jewry as it was proposed by Andreas Hillgruber in 1986. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, there is a newly awakened interest in the transnational history and the heritage of these multi-ethnic cultural landscapes of Eastern Europe. While German and Jewish immigrants from the states of the former Soviet Union in considerable numbers live in re-united Germany today, the German public is confronted with post-Soviet realities.
We seek to engage young scholars who study Germans and/or Jews as minority groups in Eastern Europe in their academic theses or other academic projects and are interested in presenting and commenting on their findings within the framework of an international workshop. Scholars who are dealing with one of the two groups only, are welcomed too.