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Book Notes: A Past Renewed: a Catalogue of German-speaking Refugee Historians in the United States after 1933, Catherine Epstein

John D. Klier

<plain_text><page sequence="1">A Past Renewed: a Catalogue of German-speaking Refugee Historians in the United States after 1933, Catherine Epstein (Cambridge University Press, 1993) vii + 386. Bibliography. Index. At first glance, this book does not appear to be light reading to be kept by the bedside, unless it be characterized as a remedy for insomnia. The text consists of the curricula vitae of almost ninety historians who fled Nazism in Germany and Austria to settle and practise as historians in the United States. The book, spon 242</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes sored by the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC, is a companion piece to an earlier volume of essays published in 1991 entitled An Interrupted Past: German-speaking Refugee Historians in the United States after igjj. Appearances can be deceiving, however, for the book is fascinating reading. As the compiler notes, every person in the book had a Schicksal (destiny), which we are able to follow with its help. It was not a uniform tale of escape and triumph, for some of the accounts are melancholy in the extreme. At least one individual committed suicide, and, as a group, these historians never enjoyed the types of career for which their training and experience might have prepared them. Indeed, many historians simply ceased to pursue their professions, including a number of women who took menial work to support their husbands. A number of those listed here worked as private scholars, and several found posts in academia only after a number of years as manual labourers. The best way to read the book is to dip in and out, exploring these diverse destinies. As Epstein observes in her introduction, some of the emigres brought glowing reputations with them, and were snapped up by universities such as Harvard, Chicago or Princeton. Others served out careers in obscure institutions in the American South and Midwest. Epstein sought information from institu? tional archives about their staff, and many smaller colleges responded with the melancholy report that 'we hold no information on Professor X'. These were precisely the types of institutions where refugees found themselves teaching lan? guage and literature, political science and other subjects in addition to history. Most of the historians listed here were of Jewish origin, but there are also those who fell into disfavour because of their political or religious opinions. One striking characteristic of the Jewish historians is how well assimilated into German life they were: they were the generation which had fought in the Great War, and many, if not most, list front-line service. It is refreshing to note that some of the political refugees brought their healthy political dissidence with them. Having struggled hard to make a career in the US, two historians threw it away by refusing to sign the loyalty oath required of personnel in the California state system in the early 1950s in the heyday of McCarthyism. In short, a moral as well as an intellec? tual heritage was brought by these scholars to the New World. The work is well edited and attractively presented. Even the casual reader will find it of interest. John D. Klier</page></plain_text>