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Other titles in the Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism series:
Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism #20: Beyond the Conceivable: Studies on Germany, Nazism, Holocby Dan Diner
Synopses & Reviews
The major essays of Dan Diner, who is widely read and quoted in Germany and Israel, are finally collected in an English edition. They reflect the authors belief that the Holocaust transcends traditional patterns of historical understanding and requires an epistemologically distinct approach. One can no longer assume that actors as well as historians are operating in the same conceptual universe, sharing the same criteria of rational discourse. This is particularly true of victims and perpetrators, whose memories shape the distortions of historical narrative in ways often diametrically opposed.
The essays are divided into three groups. The first group talks about anti-Semitism in the context of the 1930s and the ideologies that drove the Nazi regime. The second group concentrates on the almost unbelievably different perceptions of the "Final Solution," with particularly illuminating discussions of the Judenrat, or Jewish council. The third group considers the Holocaust as the subject of narrative and historical memory. Diner focuses above all on perspectives: the very notions of rationality and irrationality are seen to be changeable, depending on who is applying them. And because neither rational nor irrational motives can be universally assigned to participants in the Holocaust, Diner proposes, from the perspective of the victims, the idea of the counterrational. His work is directed toward developing a theory of Holocaust historiography and offers, clearly and coherently, the highest level of reflection on these problems.
"What is the connection between the collective memory of Germans and Jews and the epistemology of historical scholarship about the Holocaust? What roles do political history and social history play in this enterprise? Why has there been a trend toward universalizing the causes of the Holocaust in both collective memory and historical method, and what are the arguments for a reassertion of historical specificity? Why do utilitarian and materialist explanations continue to elide the causes of the mass extermination of the Jews? What is the purpose of a historiographically renewed emphasis on contingency as opposed to tidy teleological accounts? These are the questions that Dan Diner addresses in his valuable book; and they are not as esoteric or as narrowly academic as they sound...." Jeffrey Herf, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
"The brilliance of Diner's essays stems in good part from the astonishingly wide perspectives in which he sets his inquiries and from the interdisciplinary synthesis he is able to master. Publication in English is of extreme importance in enriching the debates on Nazism and the Holocaust in this country." Saul Friedlander, author of Nazi Germany and the Jews
"One of the most probing and intellectually sophisticated historians of the German Jewish conundrum, Dan Diner has a quality of mind and an intellectual depth and precision that are altogether unique." Anson Rabinbach, author of In the Shadow of Catastrophe
'Diner is a brilliant theorist of Germany and the Holocaust [who] shows that at times anti-Jewish acts were not motivated by anti-Semitic beliefs and that anti-Semitic beliefs did not always lead to anti-Jewish acts." Tikkun Magazine
Includes bibliographical references (p. 231-272) and index.
About the Author
Dan Diner is Professor at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, and Director of the Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture at Leipzig University.
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