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Germany establishes first Holocaust Studies professorship

May 18, 2017

Although Germany has been actively researching the Holocaust since the 1960s, it did not have any specific research professorships until now. Historian Sybille Steinbacher is about to change that.

Entrance to the former Auschwitz concentration camp
Image: picture alliance / dpa

Seventy years after the Holocaust, it is a measure that seems long overdue. The Goethe University Frankfurt presented on Wednesday its newly appointed professor, Sybille Steinbacher, the historian who has taken on Germany's first professorship for Holocaust Studies.

The renowned researcher was until recently professor for Dictatorship, Violence and Genocide Comparative Studies at the Vienna University.

From May 1, she has been the director of the Fritz Bauer Institute of the Frankfurt University. This institute, named after the Jewish public prosecutor who initiated the Auschwitz trials, has been exclusively dedicated to researching the history and impact of the genocide on the Jews.

Professor Sybille Steinbacher
Professor Sybille SteinbacherImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Foto Stein Jena

'An important signal'

Steinbacher sees the establishment of the new institute in Frankfurt as an "important signal." She believes there are sill many aspects of the Holocaust that need to be researched. "Some might think that we already know everything about Auschwitz, but that is certainly not the case," she said.

"Especially in the perpetrators' country, we can never forget," added Hessian Minister of the Economy, Boris Rhein, also present to introduce the new professor on Wednesday. The Hessian state is supporting the Fritz-Bauer Institute with 375,000 euros ($417,000) this year and the Holocaust professorship with a further 150,000 euros.

Long overdue in Germany

In other countries such as the United States, the Netherlands, Sweden, Poland and Austria, specialized Holocaust Studies already exist. It is therefore long overdue in Germany. However, even without a specific Holocaust professorship, Germany has been researching the crimes of the Nazi regime for years.

In Munich, the Institute for Contemporary History established its own Center for Holocaust Studies. In Leipzig, the Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture has been focusing on genocide research and Berlin-Brandenburg has a Center for Jewish Studies. There is also research being done in the country's numerous Holocaust museums and hundreds of memorial sites.

bb/nf/kle/eg/kbm (with dpa)