20th Annual Symposium of the Friends of the GHI

Presentation of the Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize

November 11, 2010, 11:00 a.m - 1:00 p.m.
Symposium at the GHI

  • Event Report

    The twentieth Annual Symposium of the Friends of the GHI featured the award of the 2011 Fritz Stern Dissertation Prizes to Brendan Karch (Harvard University), for his Harvard dissertation "Nationalism on the Margins: Silesians between Germany and Poland, 1848-1944," and to Eric Steinhart (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum), for his dissertation "Creating Killers: The Nazification of the Black Sea Germans and the Holocaust in Southern Ukraine, 1941-1944," completed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The prize selection committee was composed of Ian McNeely (chair), Maria Mitchell, and Benjamin Marschke. After introductory remarks by Hartmut Berghoff, director of the GHI, the award ceremony was chaired by David Blackbourn (Harvard University), President of the Friends of the GHI. After the presentation of the awards, the two Stern Prize winners gave lectures about their dissertation research.

    Brendan Karch's dissertation uses Upper Silesia in the period 1848-1944 as a case study to examine how borderland communities endured and dealt with the rise of radical nationalism. In Upper Silesia, he argued, ethnic ambiguity outlasted efforts to instill radical nationalism. Most Upper Silesians were indifferent to nationalist agitators, preferring Catholic communalism and regional identification. In fact, radical nationalism and ethnic ambiguity formed a reinforcing feedback loop. Giving a quick overview of his findings for the Nazi period, Karch noted that Poles remained a protected group in Nazi Upper Silesia until 1937 thanks to League-of-Nations minority protections. When those protections ended, the Nazis cracked down on the Polish minority; nevertheless, Polish-speaking Upper Silesians escaped the worst Nazi anti-Polish measures. After the end of the war, most German speakers in Upper Silesia stayed in place.

    Eric Steinhart's dissertation addresses the question why the local German population in Transnistria, in the Southern Ukraine, participated in the Holocaust. Although this German-speaking population had greatly suffered under the Soviet regime, their initial attitude to the Nazis was primarily one of indifference. But when the Romanian authorities deported large numbers of Jews to Transnistria, the local German-speaking population participated in their mass murder under the leadership of the SS. How to explain this transformation from indifference to willing participation in mass murder? Steinhart argued that for Black-Sea Germans taking part in the Holocaust was a way of demonstrating their German-ness to the Nazi authorities in order to gain access to the resources that were being reserved for ethnic Germans. This was possible because Nazi Sonderkommandos used attitudes and behavior to gauge German-ness.

    The presentations were followed by a commentary by Fritz Stern and a lively discussion with the audience. Articles based on Brendan Karch's and Eric Steinhart's dissertations will be published in the Spring 2012 issue of the GHI Bulletin.

    RFW

  • Picture Gallery
  • 20th Annual Symposium of the Friends of the GHI Presentation of the Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize

    November 11, 2010, 11:00 a.m - 1:00 p.m.
    Symposium at the GHI - Directions

    Prize Winners

    • Brendan Karch (Harvard University): "Nationalism on the Margins: Silesians between Germany and Poland, 1848-1944"
    • Eric Steinhart (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill): "Creating Killers: The Nazification of the Black Sea Germans and the Holocaust in Southern Ukraine, 1941-1944"

    The Symposium of the Friends of the German Historical Institute in generously supported by the Ebelin and Gerd Bucerius ZEIT Foundation

    Please RSVP (acceptances only) by Tel. 202.387.3355, Fax 202.387.6437, or E-mail.

    Click on image to enlarge or print (pdf)
    Annual Symposium of the Friends of the GHI Invite