UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Still Fighting Fascism: How German Communists of Jewish Origin Remembered Nazism

15 March 2022, 5:00 pm–7:00 pm

Fighting fascism - people in the streets

A SSEES Study of Central Europe Seminar with Dr Anna Koch

This event is free.

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While the war ended in 1945, for German Jewish communists the fight against fascism continued. Those who returned to their home country hoped to build an antifascist, socialist Germany, and discussing Nazi racism and its roots played a crucial part in their efforts to shape postwar society. In contrast to much of the existing literature which postulates a suppression of Holocaust memory in postwar East Germany, this research reveals that Jewish communist writers, artists and scholars spoke and wrote about the murder of European Jews in the immediate aftermath of the war. In this talk I will examine how communist Jews in the Soviet Occupied Zone framed their experiences to fit an official antifascist narrative while at the same time aiming to shape broader public memory.

While they considered racism a central part of fascism, communist Jews in East Germany largely perceived the past from an antifascist rather than a distinctly Jewish perspective. Rather than highlighting the uniqueness of Jewish suffering and German perpetration, most communist intellectuals of Jewish origin perceived the fight against racism as an international struggle which did not end in 1945. They did not suppress the memories of Jewish suffering, but rather subsumed them into an antifascist narrative that highlighted the central role of racism in the Nazi state as well as the persistent and continuous threat of fascism.

Image credit: Ottomar Geschke spricht, Deutsche Fotothek, Wikimedia.