Lisa Gerlach MA

A cultural history of letters of recommendation in the context of German-Jewish networks in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

This doctoral research project explores letters of recommendation in the social networks of German-speaking Jews in the first half of the twentieth century and the period immediately preceding it. Recommendation of a person’s character by another to a third party is a phenomenon known since the pre-modern period and has remained resilient and societally effective in the modern era. In the period under examination, the practice of recommendation references both the arena of family relationships and friendships and the professional sphere, influencing individuals’ learning and career trajectories.

The broad spectrum of letters of recommendation and their potential to transform situations and lives manifest with particularly emphatic force in German Jewish history. At the outset of the twentieth century, written recommendations served Jewish people in Germany in their aspirations to climb the social ladder and aided the recruitment of staff and cooperation partners for institutions whose radius of action was increasingly extending beyond national borders. During the National Socialist era, recommendations became key in securing Jewish individuals’ and families’ livelihoods, escapes to safe countries, and therefore, in many cases, survival.

The project explores the extent to which individuals used personal recommendations as cultural and social capital, the ways in which recommendations helped shape social relationships in the personal, business and societal spheres, and the effect of relevant historical conditions and settings on their form, content and style. Drawing on sources from universities and banks in Germany, Israel and the US, the research seeks to contextualise its subject within the recently intensified historical interest in the areas of core and extended family relationships, friendship, trust and rationality.

Anna Schiff MA

The Known and the Unknown: A History of Knowledge About Female Adolescent Sexuality (1922 - 1973)

Research on the history of female adolescence has shown, on the one hand, that conceptions of female youth changed thoughout the 20th century. On the other hand, attempts to control and regulate girl’s sexuality are deemed to be an ongoing issue throughout European history in the 20th century. Are these persistent attempts to control and regulate girls‘ sexuality based on the same concept of girl’s sexuality? Where there any developments, transformations or changes?

This doctoral research project explores female adolescent sexuality in Germany in the 20th-century from the perspective of the history of knowledge. The project aims to to be a contribution to the history of knowledge, the history of female adolescence, the history of the human body and the history of sexuality.
The project analyzes – with reference to Franz X. Eders‘ definiton of sexuality – changes to the knowledge and understanding of sexual or sexually-interpreted actions, behaviours, and desires of girls. The project aims to raise questions about a possible conection between knowledge about girls‘ sexuality on the one hand and attempts to regulate or liberate girls‘ sexuality on the other hand.

This dissertation also attempts to show how girls‘ sexuality provided a surface onto which to project nationalism, racism and antisemitism – especially in times of war.

The study is based on sources from scientific magazines, adolescent psychiatry, sexology, commerical girls‘ magazines, and documents from adolescent psychiatric institutions.

Fidel Amoussou-Moderan MA

“In the Shadow and at the Risk of our Lives”: Global War, Blackness, and The Transnational Resistance against the Axis in West-Africa

African agency in the fight against Fascist and National Socialist forces is still underexplored in the historiography. Leaving out this part of history is neither an innocent mistake nor a coincidence but rather an act of actively banning African agency from our collective memory and remembrance culture. In my dissertation project, I study “forgotten” Black resisters who have been subjected to arrest warrants, prison and/or death sentences, as well as victims of the colonial and fascist policies of Vichy in the Military Tribunal of Dakar.

By studying the resistance of African dissidents in French Western Africa between 1940 and 1942, I will delineate the discordant and complex history of the Black “Transnational Resistance” in wartime. This thesis also goes beyond the year 1942 and it will analyse the transfer of narrations, including its functions and its evolutions from the post-war period to the present time. While many historians focus mostly on white French and white British actors in Africa, the approach taken in this thesis both sheds new light on “forgotten Black narratives” and discusses how the narrative of resistance is saved and transferred through family archives. Furthermore, I will examine the various ways Black secret agents are remembered within the African diaspora and in family memory.