Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize, 2010

The 2010 Fritz Stern Dissertation Prizes were awarded to Yair Mintzker (Princeton University) and Alice Weinreb (Northwestern University). The award ceremony took place at the 19th Annual Symposium of the Friends of the German Historical Institute on November 12, 2010. The selection committee was composed of: Mary Lindemann, chair (University of Miami), Donna Harsch (Carnegie Mellon University), and Ian McNeely (University of Oregon). 

  • Yair Mintzker (Princeton University), The Defortification of the German City (Ph.D. dissertation, Stanford University, 2009).

    Prize citation Yair Mintzker's dissertation on The Defortification of the German City, is one of those rare and wonderful topics that seem so obvious but only after someone, like Mintzker, has done it. His work demonstrates how the gradual disappearance of the old city walls was neither an obvious nor an inevitable process. Not only does Mintzer cross established chronological boundaries, moving easily and sure-footedly from the mid seventeenth century through the railway age, he also breaks down other accepted distinctions between large cities and small towns and between the putatively pronounced distinctions characterizing German-speaking areas and their neighbors. Mintzker combines sensitivity to differences and individual idiosyncracies with a strong line of argument and an original conceptualization. He shows how city walls did not merely come tumbling down; their demolitions required negotiations among, and between, those in the city and those outside. Moreover, he demolishes simplistic interpretations of why the walls had to go. He rejects as facile and inadequate explanations based on the need for room to expand and on the sheer inevitability of industrialization and economic growth in favor of a more subtle understanding of how politics worked within the cities, between cities and their surroundings, and within the larger German and European worlds. Especially impressive is Mintzer's ability to draw theory out of his rich empirical materials. Deeply researched, elegantly presented, and robustly theorized, it is a tour de force of historical writing and analysis.
  • Alice Weinreb (Northwestern University), Matters of Taste: The Politics of Food in Divided Germany, 1945-1971 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 2009)

    Prize citation: Alice Weinreb's dissertation on Matters of Taste: The Politics of Food in Divided Germany, 1945-1971, is a highly sophisticated investigation of post-war experiences in the two Germanies. Several previous studies have considered food and hunger but none has systematically made them the focus of a German-German comparison. Her work deftly explores the multiple discourses about food, hunger, the body, and national identity and uses these discourses to illuminate a host of historical questions centered on the transition from the Nazi regime to postwar Germany and, subsequently, the divided country's history during the 1950s. Professor Weinreb focuses closely on food, its production, consumption, and value as a contested political terrain, contextualizing and historicizing these topics in several key ways. First, she places postwar food and hunger in the broader context of German history. Second, she anchors German hunger in both a comparative European context and within particular post-war political cultures. The dissertation combines in a wonderful and impressive scholarly manner a series of consequential historical topics, memory and identity, barbarism and victimhood with what would seem the most prosaic ones, such workplace canteens and the provision of school lunches. Its empirical richness combined with its strong conceptual framework make this work an excellent vehicle for interrogating our categories of prosperity and want, wartime and peacetime, capitalist and socialist, German and other.