Workshop on "Academic setting, Jews and antisemitism at universities in Europe between 1918 and 1939", to be held at the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies on June 15 and 16, 2012
Jewish students and professors studied and taught at numerous European universities during the interwar period. For some universities, Jews even constituted a major part of the student body particularly so in Eastern and Central Europe.
At the same time, the university setting displayed a strong proclivity to antisemitism and anti-Jewish excesses. In some countries, such as Austria or Poland, antisemitic trends were even more widespread in the university context than in other spheres of social life. Although most European states did not follow Germany's example to close the doors of their universities to Jewish students and professors in 1933, they nevertheless introduced various antisemitic limitations and regulations. Anti-Jewish articles and cartoons appeared in student media, a numerus clausus for Jewish students, riots against Jewish students and the introduction of antisemitic segregated seating rules - "ghetto benches" - became a routine part of university life in the 1930s in particular in countries such as Poland, Hungary, Austria or Romania.
This conference of the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies on June 15 and 16, 2012 will focus on the different ways in which antisemitism was borne, shaped and motivated in the interwar period (political, social and economic conditions, the influence of the biological racism discourses, fascist ideologies, the world economic crisis and the tense employment situation, etc.). While the situation of Jewish students in fascist and authoritarian states will be illuminated, the discussion will also turn to the circumstances in democratic or largely democratic countries like France, Great Britain or Czechoslovakia.
The conference will furthermore address different forms of Jewish and non-Jewish resistance. On the one hand, we will consider those professors who ignored or criticised antisemitic orders, as well as those students and student associations who supported their Jewish colleagues and defended them against the verbal and physical attacks by antisemitic students, assistants, lecturers and professors. On the other hand, there shall be a discussion on how Jewish resistance took shape and thus reflect on Jews as actors. What role can be ascribed to Jewish student associations, which had been in existence since the late 19th century? To what degree can one attribute Jewish student migration to university antisemitism?
Special attention will be paid to transnational aspects. The question of whether the example of states with pronounced antisemitic state ideology such as Germany had an effect on different European universities will receive particular consideration.
The aim of the conference is to contribute to a comparative view of the situation of Jews at European universities during the interwar period and to debate the correlation between the crisis of democracy and the growth of antisemitic trends at European educational establishments.
Please submit your applications of up to 600 words (including a brief CV) in German or English referring to "VWI-Workshop June 2012" to by March 31, 2012. Conference languages will be German and English.
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