German university paves way for first Holocaust chair | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 24.07.2015
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German university paves way for first Holocaust chair

Seventy years after World War II, Germany plans to establish its first professorship devoted to the study of the Holocaust. The yet-to-be-named professor will start work at Frankfurt's Goethe University in 2017.

Several institutes in Berlin, Leipzig, Frankfurt and Munich have programs to study the Holocaust.

As of 2017, however, a German institution will install the first long-term professorship with a specific focus on the repercussions that have followed the Holocaust through to the present day. The yet-to-be-appointed Goethe University professor will also head Frankfurt’s Fritz-Bauer Institute, which focuses on studying and documenting the Holocaust.

"Seventy years after the end of the Holocaust, this is a long-overdue step," Hesse state Science Minister Boris Rhein said, adding that people should not forget what happened in the "land of the perpetrators."

"This is a milestone in German Holocaust research," Goethe University spokesman Olaf Kaltenborn told DW.

The university has secured the funding to establish the country's first chair devoted to studying the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazi regime during World War II. The university has begun searching for someone to fill the position.

The new professor will likely be something of a public figure. "We want to reach out to the people with this topic," Kaltenborn said.

Researching the impact

Holocaust and genocide studies, including professorships and bachelor's or master's programs, have long existed in the US and several European countries.

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The professorship is in fact a bit "overdue in Germany," said Johannes Houwink ten Cate, who has taught Holocaust and genocide studies at Amsterdam University since 2002.

News of an upcoming position in Frankfurt is "fantastic and incredibly positive," the Dutch historian told DW. "It goes hand in hand with the present attention to the issue in the German public, and it's also in line with international currents."

Racism still an issue today

Amsterdam University, he said, has seen a run on the subject matter: "It's extremely popular, there's an incredible interest in Holocaust studies."

In a statement, Goethe University Vice President and Professor Manfred Schubert-Zsilavecz also praised the upcoming professorship as a milestone for research: "It gives us the important impetus to better understand discrimination and oppression in the world by looking at the structure of the domination of Nazi control during the war."

Schubert-Zsilavecz called Goethe University an ideal site for the new professorship. The university opened in 1914 as a citizen's foundation with mainly Jewish founders.

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