Friedländer, Saul

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Nationality: Israeli: grew up in hiding in France; lived in Israel after World War II; studied in Europe. Born: Pavel Friedländer, 11 October, 1932, Prague, Czechoslovakia. Education: Institut d'études Politiques, Paris, graduated 1955; Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, Switzerland, Ph.D. in history, 1963. Military Service: Israeli Defense Forces, 1951-53. Family: Married Meiry Hagith in 1959; three children. Career: Secretary to the president, World Zionist Organization, 1958-60; head of scientific department, Israeli Ministry of Defense, 1960-61; associate professor and professor of contemporary history, Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, 1964-88; professor and chairman of department of international relations, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1969-75; since 1975 Maxwell Cummings Chair of European History, Tel Aviv University; 1939 Club chair in Holocaust Studies, University of California, Los Angeles. Founder and editor-in-chief, History & Memory.Awards: Israel Prize for history, 1983; John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowship, 1999. Address: University of California, Department of History, 6265 Bunche Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1473, U.S.A.



Quand vient le souvenir. 1978; as When Memory Comes, 1979.


Le Role du facteur americain dans la politique etrangere et militaire de l'Allemagne: Septembre 1939-Decembre 1941. 1963.

Hitler et les Etats-Unis, 1938-1941. 1963; as Prelude to Downfall: Hitler and the United States, 1939-1941, 1967.

Pie XII et le IIIe Reich Documents. 1964; as Pius XII and the Third Reich: A Documentation, 1966.

Kurt Gerstein ou l'Ambiguite du bien. 1967; as Kurt Gerstein: The Ambiguity of Good, 1969; as Counterfeit Nazi: The Ambiguity of Good, 1969.

Reflexions sur l'avenir d'Israel. 1969.

L'Antisemitisme nazi: Histoire d'une psychose collective. 1971.

Arabes et Israeliens, with Mahmoud Hussein. Translated asArabs and Israelis: A Dialogue, 1975.

Histoire et psychoanalyse: Essai sur les possibilites et les limites de la psychohistoire. 1975; as History and Psychoanalysis: An Inquiry into the Possibilities and Limits of Psychohistory, 1978.

Some Aspects of the Historical Significance of the Holocaust. 1977.

A Conflict of Memories?: The New German Debates about the "Final Solution." 1987.

Reflections on Nazism: An Essay on Death and Kitsch. 1993.

Memory, History, and the Extermination of the Jews of Europe. 1993.

The Jews in European History: Seven Lectures, with ChristMeier, Amos Funkenstein, and Eberhard Jackel, edited by Wolfgang Beck. 1994.

Nazi Germany and the Jews: Volume 1, The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939. 1997.

Editor, with others, Visions of Apocalypse: End or Rebirth? 1984.

Editor, Probing the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the "Final Solution." 1992.


Critical Studies:

Fictions in Autobiography: Studies in the Art of Self-Invention by Paul John Eakin, 1985; "Holocaust and Autobiography: Wiesel, Friedlander, Pisar" by Joseph Sungolowsky, in Reflections of the Holocaust in Art and Literature, 1990; "Heinrich Böll, Primo Levi, and Saul Friedlander: Protrayals of Self and History" by Kathy Rugoff, in Connecticut Review, 13(1), Spring 1991, pp. 41-49; "Cultural Multiplicity in Two Modern Autobiographies: Friedlander's When Memory Comes and Dinesen's Out of Africa " by John Burt Foster, Jr., in Southern Humanities Review, 29(3), Summer 1995, pp. 205-18; "Forming the Holocaust" by Irene Tucker, in Poetics Today, 17(2), Summer 1996, pp. 241-52; Passing into History: Nazism and the Holocaust beyond Memory: In Honor of Saul Friedländer on His Sixty-Fifth Birthday, edited by Gulie Ne'eman Arad, 1997; " Nazi Germany and the Jews: Reflections on a Beginning, a Middle, and an Open End" by Gulie Ne'eman Arad, in History & Memory: Studies in Representations of the Past, 9(1-2), Fall 1997, pp. 409-33; "Towards the Final Solution" by Gordon Alexander Craig, in his Politics and Culture in Modern Germany, 1999; Rethinking the Holocaust by Yehuda Bauer, 2001.

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Saul Friedländer is one of the most significant historians of the Holocaust. He has written some of the major works on the Holocaust, including Nazi Germany and the Jews: Vol. 1, The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939 (1997); Prelude to Downfall: Hitler and the United States 1939-1941 (1967); and Pius XII and the Third Reich (1966). But more than this he has also been one of the most significant thinkers about the Holocaust, meditating on issues such as the relationship between memory and history (in Memory, History, and the Extermination of the Jews of Europe [1993]); representation and Holocaust (see Probing the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the "Final Solution" [1992], which he edited); and the "logic" and presentation of Nazism (Reflections of Nazism: An Essay on Kitsch and Death [1993]). There is almost no area of Holocaust scholarship in which Friedänder has not made a significant intervention. A good overview of his work can be found in a special double issue of the journal History and Memory that was dedicated to him in 1997.

One of Friedländer's many intellectual strengths is his ability to see and to make connections and to refuse the clean distinctions that others are happy to accept unquestioningly. For example, rather than accepting a simple distinction or opposition between history and memory, he argues that the memory, both private and public, and historiography are "intertwinned and interrelated." Thus, his work shuttles between memory and history. On the one hand he argues for the "most rigorous requirements of scholarship"; on the other—and at the same time—he is aware of the "inadequacy of traditional historiographical representation." This is the inexorable bind that dealing with "the unmasterable past" of the Holocaust creates.

In his Reflections on Nazism he follows this line of argument. He suggests that any analysis of Nazism based on solely "political, economic and social" factors is not enough and that it is the "re-evocation and reinterpretation" of the past in art, literature, and film, for example, that "helps us better to understand the past itself." Following this line of analysis he suggests that the phenomenon of kitsch—the "pinnacle of good taste in the absence of taste"—illuminates Nazism as "the anti-modern face of modernity." Nazism is the contradictory combination of the way in which the "kitsch vision reinforces the aesthetic criteria of a submissive mass" and, opposed to this, the "unfathomable world of myths"—it sums up both the fear of transgression of the law and the aspiration for total power, the ultimate transgression of the law.

Friedländer's position on the difficulties and dangers of representing the Holocaust reflects this, too. On the one hand, in an extremely interesting and powerful exchange of letters with the German historian Martin Brozat after the Historikerstreit , Friedlander argues against the "normalisation" of Holocaust history; on the other hand, he argues that while historical representations are not enough, because of the obligation to bear witness (and the Nazi attempt to prevent such bearing witness), the "record should not be distorted or banalised by grossly inadequate representations." What is needed, he writes in an influential article ("Trauma, Transference and 'Working Through"), is a "simultaneous acceptance of two contradictory moves: the search for ever-closer historical linkages and the avoidance of a naïve historical positivism leading to simplistic and self-assured historical narrations." In his memoir he began to develop these ideas in a literary way.

—Robert Eaglestone

See the essay on When Memory Comes.

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Friedländer, Saul

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