Emancipating Jews from Narratives of Victimhood and Redemption: Susan Neiman Discusses Germany’s Current Memory Culture

In this conversation with RevDem editor Ferenc Laczó, Susan Neiman dissects what has made the articulation of universalistic Jewish commitments increasingly difficult in the German public sphere; explores why debates concerning global colonialism and the Nazi-colonial connection tend to be so fraught in the country; explains what post-colonial criticisms misunderstand about the intellectual heritage of the Enlightenment; and shows how both ignorance regarding Eastern Europe and social solidarity with the victims have shaped German responses to the ongoing Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.

Susan Neiman is the Director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam. She is a philosopher, cultural commentator, and essayist who has written extensively on the juncture between Enlightenment moral philosophy, metaphysics, and politics. Her major books include Slow Fire: Jewish Notes from Berlin (1992), The Unity of Reason: Rereading Kant (1994), Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy (2002), Moral Clarity:  A Guide for Grownup Idealists (2008), Why Grow Up? (2014) and Learning from the Germans: Race and Memory of Evil (2019).

Historiker streiten. Gewalt und Holocaust – Die Debatte (Historians Quarrel. Violence and the Holocaust. A Debate), which Susan Neiman has just co-edited with Michael Wildt, is published by Propyläen Verlag.

In collaboration with Lucie Hunter.

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