Library ZOOM Lecture: Julia Lange presents Identity Trouble: German American Politics of Memory and the Holocaust

Tue. Sep. 19, 2023 - 6:00pm - 7:00pm
In my talk, I will examine the dynamic interrelation between German American identity politics and the American Holocaust discourse since the onset of the ethnic revival in the last third of the 20th century. Several players in the field of German American identity politics, I argue, attempted to enforce their specific interests in the name of German America while both competing for discursive power and establishing cooperations. Focusing on the Steuben Society of America, the German-American National Congress and the United German-American Committee of the United States / German-American Heritage Foundation of the U.S.A. I will demonstrate how the memory politics of these organizations developed in close relation and entanglement with the Holocaust discourse. Over long stretches of time, so the argument, the genocide of the European Jews functioned as a projection screen for prejudices and fears over a loss of reputation for German American ethnicity. The historically variable representation of the Holocaust and its changing function thus stand and stood in a fundamental, dynamic interrelation to constructions of German American identity, with German American identity politics being much more influenced by the Holocaust discourse than vice versa. Paradoxically, the “Americanization of the Holocaust”, as it appears, essentially did not negatively affect German American organizations’ identity politics, which had intensified since the onset of the ethnic revival, but much rather catalyzed its successes.

Julia Lange is a journalist at the German news magazine Der SPIEGEL and a lecturer at the Department for English and American Studies at Hamburg University. She studied American Studies, English Literature and Law at Hamburg University and Oxford University. She received her PhD from Hamburg University in 2022.