2022 marks the 70th anniversary of the Luxembourg Agreement of 1952. This agreement with the State of Israel and the Jewish Claims Conference, which was pushed through by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, was followed in West Germany by further regulations for the redress of National Socialist injustice. With the Federal Supplementary Act of 1953, individual compensation was standardized nationwide and directed at an expanded group of persons who had been persecuted. However, numerous groups of victims remained left out. It was not until 2020 that the German Bundestag recognized persons who had been persecuted as so-called "asocials" and "professional criminals" as victims of National Socialism, giving the few remaining survivors of this group easier access to compensation benefits. Continuities of discrimination are evident both in the political discourse surrounding the recognition of victims and in the administrative practice of compensation, so that many survivors were forced to lend public weight to demands. Tendencies such as these also manifested themselves in the East of Germany (GDR). Nevertheless, differences in the everyday life of authorities and administrations at the regional and local level can be discerned that go beyond the differences in the German-German system conflict.
Thus, not only the question arises today how the all-German compensation policy and practice can be assessed, but also, in connection with this, how the status of the historical reappraisal of these fields is. Numerous studies are devoted to "coming to terms with the past" or "transitional justice" in relation to the National Socialist era. In addition to the prosecution of Nazi perpetrators or forms of commemoration, they also deal with the recognition and compensation of survivors of persecution. Historiographically, however, the matter of compensation has long been overshadowed by other aspects of the politics of the past, such as the Allied military tribunals, the prosecution of Nazi violent crimes, and denazification. A first wave of research only began in the 1980s. Scholarly and public attention was not evenly distributed among the various subfields of this topic: Global compensation for Israel and the Claims Conference under the Luxembourg Agreement were always at the center. Other aspects, such as restitution and individual compensation for non-Jewish victim groups, have not received as much systematic attention. This is due to the ongoing activities of the Compensation Administration, but also to the fact that so-called "forgotten victims" were not recognized by society as a whole for a long time. The influence of the global political situation on the history of compensation is illustrated by the group of foreign, mostly Eastern European forced laborers, who were completely excluded for decades and whose compensation from funds of the Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility, Future" (EVZ), established in 2000, only became possible after the collapse of communism.
The access to the individual case files of the state compensation offices, which has meanwhile been facilitated by systematic digitization processes of the archives, solves the central source problem that has severely hampered research on individual compensation over the past 40 years. Moreover, with the death of the last survivors in the foreseeable future, the expiration of compensation payments is imminent. These factors – combined with impulses from the field of provenance research – lead us to expect a new boom in the research of compensation in Germany as well as a more systematic historicization of compensations practice. The Research Center on Antigypsyism at the University of Heidelberg and the Heidelberg University on Jewish Studies want to take these developments as an opportunity to recapitulate the state of research to date and to invite discussion of the development and knowledge potential of the topic at a scientific symposium. The perspectives of older research are to enter into a productive dialogue with newer questions. In particular, current and planned research will be presented, which is dedicated to the following problem areas, among others:
- Political Recognition of National Socialist Injustice and the Legal Framework for Compensation Payments
- Everyday administration, decision-making mechanisms, scope for action by authorities and comparative perspectives at regional and local level
- Perspective of survivors and their scopes of action
- Placing compensation payments in the context of society as a whole or in the general political discourse
- Transnational cooperation and alliances in recognition as persecuted persons and in compensation practice
- National and institutional interpretations and implementations of the recommendations developed at the Washington Conference regarding Nazi looted property
- Interdisciplinary approaches and theories
Methodological approaches, e.g. quantitative analyses or digital humanities
- Comparative perspectives on different groups of victims ("racially", "politically" or "religiously" persecuted persons, homosexuals, forced laborers, Soviet prisoners of war or so-called "Italian military internees", forced sterilized persons, "euthanasia" victims, persons persecuted as "asocials" and other "forgotten" groups of victims)
- Comparative perspectives on the various types of damage under the Federal Compensation Act (life, health, freedom, property and assets, professional advancement), linking problems specific to victim groups and types of damage
- Diachronic analyses and development of the reappraisal or historicization of the reappraisal of Nazi injustice, comparisons with the reappraisal of injustice by the SED dictatorship after 1989/90
- Global and transnational comparisons to historical overcoming of dictatorship in other countries, especially dealing with victims of state injustice
Please submit your abstract in German or English, consisting of approx. 500 words and a short academic CV including contact details and institutional affiliation by December 31, 2022 via email to FSA-Symposium@zegk.uni-heidelberg.de. Applications from early career scholars are strongly encouraged. Notification of acceptance will be made in mid-January 2023.
The symposium is funded by the Baden-Württemberg-Stiftung as part of the joint project Reintegration, Schuldzuweisung und Entschädigung. Bewältigung und Nicht-Bewältigung der NS-Vergangenheit in den drei Vorgängerländern Baden-Württembergs 1945–1952“. The event will take place from March 30 to 31, 2023 in Heidelberg and is organized by the Research Center on Antigypsyism at the University of Heidelberg (Verena Meier, Joey Rauschenberger) and the Heidelberg University on Jewish Studies (Philipp Zschommler).