The Challenge of German Histories: An American Retrospective

May 09, 2024  | 6:00 - 8:00pm ET

15th Gerald D. Feldman Memorial Lecture at the German Historical Institute Washington | Konrad H. Jarausch (Lurcy Professor of European Civilization Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

The Gerald D. Feldman Memorial Lecture was established by the Friends of the German Historical Institute in 2010 to honor the legacy and achievements of Gerald D. Feldman (1937–2007). The lecture is generously supported by the many individual donations to the Friends of the German Historical Institute.

Because of the World Wars and the Holocaust. the “German problem” has fascinated several generations of American intellectuals and historians. A peak of interest in the last decades of the twentieth century constituted a vibrant field of research, but in more recent years there seem to be signs of a relative decline of the field as a result of a general turn away from Europe. Moreover, conventional accounts focused on the departure from Western values in the Sonderweg appear to have grown somewhat stale, unable to inspire much interest in the younger generation. Nonetheless, the financial and organizational infrastructure which ranges from the German Academic Exchange Service to the German Studies Association remains strong enough to support a recovery. Breaking out of the traditional nation state framing will require an opening to the amazing plurality of the German pasts so as to do greater justice to the multiple experiences of what was considered “German” at any given time. Only by engaging fresh perspectives of gender constructions, everyday lives, memory conflicts, and transnational entanglements will German history be able to recover its intellectual vitality in the future.

Speaker Bio

Konrad H. Jarausch is the Lurcy Professor of European Civilization Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Senior Fellow of the Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung in Potsdam/Germany. Among the more than 50 books which he has written or edited on German and European History are Reluctant Accomplice: A Wehrmacht Soldier’s Letters from the Eastern Front (Princeton 2011), Out of Ashes: A New History of Europe in the Twentieth Century (Princeton, 2015), Broken Lives: How Ordinary Germans Experienced the Twentieth Century (Princeton, 2018), and The Burden of German History: A Transatlantic Life (Berghahn, 2023).