What I Learned After Writing 'Learning From the Germans' with Susan Neiman

Wednesday, November 10, 2021 - 12:00pm - 1:30pm
online, registration required

     In Learning from the Germans, published in Fall 2019, Susan Neiman argued that Germany was far ahead of the United States in what Germans call Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung and Americans call historical – more often, racial – reckoning.  In this talk she will summarize this argument, showing how Germany made a historically unique transition from its self-understanding as the war’s biggest victim acknowledging its role as a perpetrator nation - albeit with resistance and foot-dragging comparable to that of defenders of the Lost Cause account of the Confederacy.  In the U.S., my arguments were embraced in quarters as different as the U.S. Holocaust Museum and Black radio/television stars.  In Germany, the same arguments were largely scorned.

      Both countries have seen significant changes in the past two years.  In the U.S., historical reckoning has proceeded at a pace that could not have been foreseen, sometimes at the cost of justice, not to mention nuance.  In Germany, debates of the past year have revealed major cracks in the German model of Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung.  Neiman will discuss these developments and offer some suggestions about what both Americans and Germans can do better in confronting their different histories of racial injustice.

Susan Neiman is Director of the Einstein Forum in Berlin. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Neiman studied philosophy at Harvard and the Freie Universität Berlin, and was professor of philosophy at Yale and Tel Aviv University. Her books, translated into many languages, include Slow Fire: Jewish Notes from Berlin, The Unity of Reason: Rereading Kant, Evil in Modern Thought, Fremde sehen anders, Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-up Idealists, Why Grow Up?, Widerstand der Vernunft: Ein Manifest in postfaktischen Zeiten and Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil.   She has also published over one hundred essays.  She is the mother of three grown children and lives in Berlin, Germany.

The lecture is free, and all are welcome, but registration is required. It will take place online, and you will receive a link and a password via email before the talk.

Questions? Feel free to contact jsp-info@sas.upenn.edu

This is the 36th Annual Joseph Alexander Colloquium in the Jewish Studies Program, sponsored by the Joseph Alexander Foundation and the Mackler Family.

Additional support comes from the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, as this is also the annual Kristallnacht commemoration with the Jewish Studies Program. 

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After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Jewish Studies Program
711 Williams Hall, 255 S. 36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305
215-898-6654 / 215-573-6026 fax / jsp-info@sas.upenn.edu