Holocaust Studies in Our Societies

  • Dieter Pohl
Keywords: EHRI, Holocaust Studies, Cultural Memory

Abstract

In his keynote to the public conference of the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI) in April 2019 entitled Holocaust Studies and its Social Setting [https://www.ehri-project. eu/final-conference-second-phase-ehri-project], Dieter Pohl, a longstanding member of the International Academic Advisory Board of the VWI, raised important questions on the future of Holocaust studies. After having given an overview on the origins, developments, and present state of the discipline, he elaborated on the twofold nature of Holocaust studies as both scholarly research and at the same time part of cultural memory. As such, he also reflected on the tension in the field between the underlying moral drive and the requirements concerning its scholarly logic. Yet he also addressed specific gaps, absences, and deficiencies that have emerged in the field over the last decade: the general lack of context, specifically the disconnection between Holocaust studies and the study of the Nazi dictatorship, war, and occupation, while only few studies address structural questions on a Europe-wide basis. Pohl came to the conclusion that the role of Holocaust studies for societies is very distinct has to cope with different contexts, though its main asset should remain a methodological and conceptual rigour as well as an openness to new and even more unpleasant findings. It can deliver the basis for societal discourses that transcend rituals of memorialisation, with painful insights. Yet Holocaust research can also identify and evaluate examples of help and rescue, of international intervention. Finally, the most important pursuit for our understanding of the Holocaust and the lessons to be drawn from it should be an apprehension and analysis of the destruction of democratic order or of any order based on a law-abiding state.

Published
2020-05-10