The Holocaust in Modern Spanish Culture

The Holocaust in Modern Spanish Culture

Susanne Zepp (Simon-Dubnow-Institut) Antonio Gómez López-Quiñones (Dartmouth College)
Leipzig / Hanover, NH
Vom - Bis
15.01.2008 - 01.11.2008
Susanne Zepp

We are seeking papers for a volume on the Holocaust in Modern Spanish Culture edited by Antonio Gómez López-Quiñones and Susanne Zepp which will be published in 2009 in the series Leipzig Studies on Jewish History and Culture, a series edited by Dan Diner, Director of the Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture at the University of Leipzig.

The issuing of Spanish passports to Sephardic Jews in Saloniki and Hungaria in 1943 and 1944 saved numerous Jews from deportation and death. But the version launched and propagated by Franco himself -- namely that Spain, beyond all self-interest, rescued countless Jews from deportation and destruction -- although it functioned to guarantee the isolated country in post-war Europe some added prestige, must be seen in its true dimensions: instead of a rapid, unbureaucratic rescue operation, the Spanish bureaucracy actually did not become active in this effort until quite late, indeed for many Jews too late. At the same time, thousands of Spanish Republican exiles ended their lives in tragic exile and imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps.

Literature and the arts have always been the adjusting pattern of the discourse on the ethics and aesthetics of the Holocaust and the discourse of remembrance. The long silence of memory was the reason underlying why Spain’s entry into the European mnemonic setting was belated: the memory of the Holocaust and the Spanish Civil War – two main European memory icons – did not return until 60 years after the end of WW II. What sparked that remembrance redux was a new parliamentary law in Spain on material restitution for victims of the Civil War. The law itself is in keeping with a tendency observable across Europe for memory and remembrance of mass crimes. Traditionally for decades, the Spanish Civil War was part of the basic icons of the universal memory of the Second World War. What was presumably the first prime event on the path down into the European catastrophe entered as the last into the ensemble of pan-European restituted memories.

Spain’s way is a consequence of the transformation of the image and imaging of the Second World War that has transpired in the meantime. In the immediate post-war era and down into the 1970s, the predominant notion was of an ideological ‘universal civil war’ and served as a schematic interpretive matrix. In the imagery of the 30s, 40s and 60s, the Spanish civil War functioned as an iconic event for the universal juxtaposition between fascism and anti-fascism. But that image begins to change with the increasing importance of the Holocaust.

The present volume for which papers are sought will provide a wide array of textual and cultural analyses about the presence of the Holocaust in the Spanish literature, history, cinema, architecture, philosophy and painting.

This volume seeks to rethink and rearticulate the positions that Spain has taken in relation to a genocide that radically altered the European history and the European perceptions about its history and its future. As has often been repeated after Adorno’s seminal ideas, the Holocaust has functioned and still does as a ‘negative mirror’ of Western modernity and as a fatal and perverse turning point for the project of the Enlightenment.

If we understand the Holocaust as a decisive point of departure for new critical reflections on European modernity, Spain could be seen as a tangential locus from where we could creatively rethink and enrich our understanding of the Holocaust as a complex and multifaceted historical reality, a map of temporal and geopolitical places and spaces that play different roles in this wide-ranging and abrasive process. This reality adopted different manifestations in different geographical and political contexts, posing different theoretical and interpretative problems that we seek to reconsider from a peninsular perspective.

This volume will adopt a multidisciplinary approach, but it will also have special emphasis on textual manifestations. The first section will be devoted to those authors that wrote novels, historiography, memoirs or philosophy about the Holocaust during Franco’s regime. The second section intends to include papers which look at more recent authors who, over the past three decades, have rearticulated what we could understand as a ‘post-memory discourse’ on the Holocaust. The final section will analyze the presence of the Holocaust in a diverse array of other cultural fields, such as architecture, commemorative dates or monuments, film, painting and sculpture, among others.

We are looking for essays 5-8,000 words in length, in English, in accordance with MLA style norms. Deadline: November, 1 2008. Manuscripts, preferably in Microsoft Word, should be sent in an attachment to following e-mail addresses: and


We will be organizing a Workshop on the same issue in the Simon-Dubnow-Institut Leipzig on 18-19 September 2008.


Dr. Susanne Zepp
für jüdische Geschichte und Kultur
an der Universität Leipzig
Goldschmidtstraße 28
D-04103 Leipzig
Tel. +49-341-217 35 50
Fax +49-341-217 35 55
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