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Book Notes: An Interrupted Past: German-speaking Refugee Historians in the United States after 1933, Hartmut Lehmann and James J. Sheehan (eds.)

John Klier

<plain_text><page sequence="1">An Interrupted Past: German-speaking Refugee Historians in the United States after 1933. Edited by Hartmut Lehmann and James J. Sheehan (German Historical Institute, Washington, DC and Cambridge University Press, Cam? bridge and New York, 1991) 234pp. ?30.00. The flight from Nazi Germany to the United States of great names in science and the arts, such as Albert Einstein and Bertolt Brecht, is well known to the general public. Less explored is the topic of this collection of essays, the movement of professional German (and German-Jewish) historians from the Reich to academic posts in America. While at first glance this book might appear over-specialized, it has much of interest to offer even the general reader. The work is divided into three parts. The first recalls the traditional links between American and German professional historians. American academic study of history was based on the German model, many Americans studied in German universities, and an academic-exchange programme was in place before the First World War. American scholars were aware of the quality of personnel who landed 384</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes on their shores, even if they were wary about their guests' command of English or willingness to carry a heavy undergraduate teaching load. The second part chronicles the difficult process by which individual German historians made the decision to seek refuge abroad. For Socialists, Liberals, and various mavericks, reality intruded within the first months of National Socialism. Interestingly, not all Jews immediately left, for the few who had achieved pro? fessorships were generally exceptional individuals, with status, a war record, and conservative political views. The virulence of Nazi anti-Semitism, culminating in the Nuremberg Laws, soon disabused even this tiny minority. This section also recalls the travails faced by the emigres and their families. An especially valuable essay by Sibylle Quack reminds us of the role which women played. Not a few of them abandoned their own professional careers to work as typists or domestics, while their husbands sought a place on the academic ladder. The third part records the impact of refugee historians on work in that disci? pline in America. Not only did they assist in the creation of a formal field of German history through their own academic rigour, but they also helped to change American attitudes and values. Small-town college communities suddenly found their isolationist tranquillity disrupted by sophisticated foreigners who were well attuned to events in far-away Europe. The arrival of refugee historians, many of them Jewish, forced even elite institutions to re-examine prejudices and practices. The respected Black American historian John Hope Franklin recalled his surprise at finding anti-Semitism at Harvard as strong as prejudice against Blacks, if not stronger. The newly arrived scholars forced a re-examination of such attitudes. After the war a few emigre historians returned home to help rebuild the study of history in postwar Germany, but most remained as an important part of the American academic scene. This volume presents a vigorous portrait of the Ger? man-American symbiosis of which they were a part. John Klier 385</page></plain_text>