For best experience please turn on javascript and use a modern browser!
You are using a browser that is no longer supported by Microsoft. Please upgrade your browser. The site may not present itself correctly if you continue browsing.

This conference aims to investigate the pan-European postwar fascination for Jewish literature and the role it played in articulations of, and promoting a shared political and cultural agenda. Speakers will relate the widespread interest for Jewish writers and their work to patterns of cultural and political regeneration in postwar Europe. The conference will kick off with an interview (in Dutch) with writer Arnon Grunberg on 28 January in SPUI25, which will be available with English subtitles on 1 February.

Event details of The Politics of Jewish Literature and the Making of Post-War Europe
Start date 2 February 2021
End date 3 February 2021
Time 12:30

Jewish literature — by which we understand all literature that is perceived or labeled as Jewish by critics, readers, publishers and/or authors — has struck a powerful chord in postwar European culture. Its unprecedented popularity can be discerned in the interest in authors whose work is labeled as Jewish within various European countries, but also in the popularity of particular authors throughout the continent (including also the European wide admiration of American Jewish and Israeli literature).

As an umbrella term, Jewish literature in the postwar era covers a wealth of topics crucial to the re-imagining of a cultural, post-Holocaust Europe. These topics range from testimonial literature about the Holocaust experience (e.g. Jean Améry, Tadeusz Borowski, Primo Levi, Elie Wiesel, G.L. Durlacher, Natalia Ginzburg, Imre Kertész, Aleksandar Tišma), groundbreaking inventions in the art of the novel (Danilo Kiš, Georges Perec) to literature ‘documenting’ Jewish life, be it of the shtetl (e.g. Isaac Bashevis Singer, Eva Hoffman), of ultraorthodox societies (e.g. Chaim Potok) or exploring modern Jewish identity (e.g. Philip Roth, Nathan Englander, Robert Menasse, David Bezmozgis), the Zionist project (e.g. Amos Oz and David Grossman) and the unrelenting interest for and re-canonization of prewar authors (Kafka, Benjamin, Zweig, Josef Roth, Bruno Schulz).

The notion of Jewish literature, in short, establishes new transnational connections in a fragmented post-war Europe, across geographical borders (transatlantic and transmediterranean, and east-west during the Cold War), but also across borders of time, reconnecting Europe to a past that has been destroyed. Today, as we witness fundamental transformations in Holocaust remembrance alongside the rise of new tensions and divisions, it is time to assess the nature, functionality, and limits of this European cultural paradigm.

Because of the online character of the conference, the sessions will be wholly devoted to discussion amongst the panelists and therefore not consist of the reading out of papers. The discussions will be based on the panelists research projects and expertise, on which abstracts will be distributed in advance



28 January

16:00 - 17:30   Interview with Arnon Grunberg (in Dutch). Check the website of SPUI25 for more information and registration.

2 February  

12:30 - 14:00    Paul Celan and the regeneration of postwar Europe and the memory of the Holocaust: 

Panelists: Paul Sars (Radboud University), Ton Naaijkens (Utrecht University) and Andreas Kilcher (ETH Zürich). Moderator: Ann Rigney 

Paul Celan, and in particular his poem Todesfuge occupies a central place in the postwar literary memory culture of the Holocaust. On the occasion of an exhibition on Celan in the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, this panel uses Celan as a departure point to discuss the centrality of Holocaust testimonial literature for the regeneration of Europe as a cultural continent.  


14:30 - 15:30    Kafka, Zweig, Anna Seghers and the postwar European renaissance of prewar German - Jewish Literature  

Panelists: Nicole Colin (University of Amsterdam), Vivian Liska (University of Antwerp)  and Marleen Rensen (University of Amsterdam). Moderator: Yolande Jansen 

A number of Jewish authors that wrote before 1940 experienced renaissances at various moments after the war, when the Jewish condition they wrote about had markedly changed. This panel will investigate the postwar appeal of these authors by looking at the work of Franz Kafka, Anne Seghers and Stefan Zweig.

16:00 - 17:00    Contemporary Jewish literature on Jewish Identity in the Netherlands and France  

Panelists: Remco Ensel (Radboud University), Yra van Dijk (Leiden University) and Yolande Jansen(University of Amsterdam). Moderator: David Duindam 

The problem of Jewish identity and its place in an ever more culturally diverse world has become an important inspiration for many Jewish writers and also caused several controversies. This panel will discuss this topic through the work of the Dutch-Jewish authors Arnon Grunberg and Robert Vuisje and the French-Jewish authors Jean-Christophe Attias and Denis Guénoun.

3 February 

13:00 - 14:00    Dialogue and Conflict: The European appeal of Israeli literature 

Panelists: Yaniv Hagbi (University of Amsterdam) , Hilde Pach,(translator of Israeli literature to Dutch) and  Anat Feinberg  (Hochschule fuer Juedische Studien in Heidelberg). Moderator: Irene Zwiep 

Modern Hebrew literature holds a salient place in the landscape of current world literatures; specifically, its prominence in the United States and in Europe is noteworthy. Historically tied to various cultural and political traditions and attitudes, such as Zionism, nationalism, as well as cosmopolitanism, what does the European interest in Israeli literature tell us about Europe’s self-perception today? 

14:30 - 15:30    American Jewish literature and Europe’s transatlantic imaginaries of jewishness 

Panelists:  Andrew Gross (author), Michael Kimmage (Catholic University of America, Washington D.C) and George Blaustein (University of Amsterdam). Moderator: Luiza Bialasiewicz 

Jewishness as a literary theme and identity opened up an extremely influential channel of cultural and political cross-fertilization between Europe and North-America in post-WWII Europe. What exactly is the appeal of American Jewish Literature, and how do its specific configurations of individual and group identity relate to Europe’s post-WWII conceptions of cultural diversity? 

16:00 - 17:00    Eastern European Jewish literature 

Panelists: Ewa Stanczyk (University of Amsterdam), Gabor Schein (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest), Guido Snel (University of Amsterdam). Moderator: Artemy Kalinovsky 

Europe’s post-WWII recovery and integration was motivated by a shared aversion to the violence, racism, and persecution under totalitarian rule. There are important differences, however, in cultures of memory, specifically between former communist countries and their Western-European neighbors. What role did and does the notion of Jewish literature play in these old and new distinctions between an Eastern and Western half of Europe? 


Conference conveners

  • dr. Guido Snel (senior lecturer European Studies, UvA, ARTES, Amsterdam school for Regional and Transnational Studies)
  • Prof. dr. Ton Nijhuis (department chairman Political Science/ Germany Studies,  director Duitsland Institute, Amsterdam)
  • Dr. David Wertheim (director Menasseh ben Israel Institute for Jewish Studies)
  • Prof. dr. Irene Zwiep (Amsterdam School of Historical Studies, director Amsterdam Institute of Humanities Research)

This is an ACES Conference is organized with the support of the Amsterdam School for Regional, Transnational and European Studies (ARTES) and in collaboration with the Menasseh ben Israel Institute