International conference looks at the history of the Jewish Frankfurt during the Nazi era and after 1945

Die Frankfurter Westendsynagoge heute. (Foto: Roland Meinecke)

An international conference organized by Goethe University’s Buber-Rosenzweig Institute for Jewish Intellectual and Cultural History of Modernity and the Present as well as several partners, will take place from Sunday, November 6, through Tuesday, November 8, 2022 in the Casino Building on Goethe University’s Westend Campus. The topic of discussion will be “Jewish Frankfurt. Destruction and Fragile New Beginnings, 1933 to 1990”.

Frankfurt am Main was one of the most important centers of Jewish life and culture in Europe up until 1933. During the National Socialist regime, Frankfurt’s Jews were also systematically disenfranchised, persecuted and murdered, and the city’s Jewish communities dissolved. The conference is dedicated to the history of the Jewish Frankfurt in the Nazi state and traces both the threats to it as well as its destruction. Under the protection of the U.S. military administration, a new Jewish community was established in the postwar period, several Jewish organizations settled in the city, and Jewish life developed anew. The conference will also shed light on this history until the 1980s, when it was precisely from Frankfurt that impulses emanated for a new visibility of the Jewish community in the Federal Republic.

The conference focuses on different facets of these two highly different, yet closely linked phases of Frankfurt’s Jewish history. How did Frankfurt’s Jews experience the exclusion from the city’s society and their persecution, what was irretrievably lost in the process, and how was the intellectual and cultural legacy of the Jewish Frankfurt able to continue thriving in exile? Under what conditions did the Jewish community reestablish itself, and by what means did Jews return to the center of Frankfurt’s urban society in the postwar decades?

The conference will bring together internationally renowned scholars and present the latest findings on Frankfurt’s Jewish history during the Nazi era and after World War II. The event will kick off on Sunday, November 6, at 19:00 with a keynote lecture by Steven E. Aschheim, professor emeritus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, on the topic “Before the Catastrophe: Frankfurt’s Diverse Jewish Intellectuals and the Entangled Vortex of Change.” On Monday, November 7, at 19:00, Professor Michael Brenner of Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich will give a second keynote lecture on “Jewish Postwar Geography: Frankfurt between Föhrenwald, Düsseldorf and Berlin.”

The conference is part of the project “Synagogue Memorial Book of Hesse”, organized by the Martin Buber Professorship for Jewish Philosophy of Religion at Goethe University Frankfurt, the Education Department of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and the Institute for Christian-Jewish Studies at the Augustana University Neuendettelsau. The project’s aim is to comprehensively research and document the history of the Hessian Jewish communities and their synagogues. The “Synagogue Memorial Book of Hesse” is organized in cooperation with the Fritz Bauer Institute for the History and Impact of the Holocaust, the Jewish Community Frankfurt and the Jewish Museum Frankfurt.

The conference program is available here (in German)

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