Franz Steiner Prize Award 2010

Oct 13, 2010

Prize Ceremony in Stuttgart

The 2010 Franz Steiner Prize, offered biennially for the best German-language manuscript in transatlantic and North American studies, was awarded to Jan Surmann, Hamburg, for his dissertation on "Shoah Remembrance and Restitution: The U.S. Politics of History at the End of the Twentieth Century."

The prize, awarded by the German Historical Institute in Washington DC and the Franz Steiner Verlag in Stuttgart, which publishes the GHI's book series Transatlantische Historische Studien, carries an honorarium of 3500 Euro. The prize was presented by Dr. Thomas Schaber, editor-in-chief of the Franz Steiner Verlag, and PD Dr. Marcus Gräser, Deputy Director of the GHI. The ceremony took place as part of a German-American Day celebration at the Neues Schloss in Stuttgart, organized by Christiane Pyka, Director of the James Byrnes Institute in Stuttgart and Dr. Gabriele Kloesel-Schaefer, head of the Federation of German-American Clubs in Swabia.

The laudatio was delivered by Thomas Schaber, who gave an overview of the work and praised the recipient for his important work of scholarship:

"At the end of the cold war era and the breakdown of socialist regimes in Eastern Europe, a highly controversial debate began on unresolved claims resulting from National Socialist plunder and extermination policies. Particularly in the United States, the focus was on moral and economic questions. Compensation for National Socialist crimes was 'unfinished business.' At first, there were material issues - to what extent were the demands of the Holocaust victims met? However, the debate quickly centered on our conception of history and the way we deal with the Holocaust. One of the major achievements of Surmann's work is outlining and examining the nature of this restitution discussion. The key protagonist in that discussion - which Surmann places at the center of his work - was the Clinton administration. By consistently supporting the claims of Jewish organizations for restitution, the subject was turned into an important political reality.

At the heart of the matter was the Clinton administration's motto: "We must not enter a new century without completing the unfinished business of this century." Clinton urged an economic, but more importantly a moral solution of the open issues of restitution. The debate turned not only on payments, but on interpretations and perceptions of history. The next century was meant to start with a new moral coherence in the Western world.

Surmann's work demonstrates that our experience and understanding of the past have substantial impacts on present political decisions."

Marcus Gräser

Franz Steiner Preis des DHI Washington