Spitzer, Leo

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SPITZER, LEO (1939– ), scholar and author. Born in Bolivia to Austrian Jewish parents fleeing Nazi persecution, Spitzer moved to the United States with his family in 1950. He was educated at Brandeis University, where he received a B.A. in Spanish literature (1961), and at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned a master's degree in Latin American history (1963) and a Ph.D. in African history (1969). He joined the faculty of Dartmouth College in 1967 as an instructor, becoming an assistant professor in 1969 and an associate professor in 1974. He became the Kathe Tappe Vernon Professor of History at Dartmouth.

A multilingual scholar who speaks Spanish, German, Portuguese, and Krio, and reads French and Xhosa, Spitzer published widely on African culture and responses to colonialism and racism. From 1963 to 1965 he was the recipient of a Ford Foundation Foreign Area Training Fellowship for research in England and Sierra Leone, and in 1972 he received a Social Science Research Council fellowship for a comparative study of the intellectual reactions to Western culture of Afro-Brazilian freedmen and the Sierra Leone Creoles. In 1974 and 1975 he was awarded grants from the comparative world history program of the University of Wisconsin. His works include The Creoles of Sierra Leone: Responses to Colonialism (1974); Lives in Between: Assimilation and Marginality in Austria, Brazil, West Africa, 17801945 (1989); and Acts of Memory: Cultural Recall in the Present (as editor, with Mieke Bal and Jonathan Crewe, 1999).

Spitzer perhaps received the most attention for his 1998 work, Hotel Bolivia: The Culture of Memory in a Refuge from Nazism, which was widely and favorably reviewed as a significant contribution to Holocaust studies. The work is part memoir, part ethnographic study of the Jews who fled to "Hotel Bolivia," as they called the country that most regarded as a temporary haven. It includes letters, family photographs, and interviews with surviving refugees, and the work explores the issues of displacement, grief, and nostalgia for an obliterated past.

Spitzer has been the recipient of several honors. He was the Lucius Littauer Fellow at the National Humanities Center in 1992 and 1993. From 1996 to 1998 he was a National Humanities Center Distinguished Lecturer. His latest work is a collaboration with Marianne Hirsch on a study of Jewish families from Czernowitz before, during, and after the Holocaust.

[Dorothy Bauhoff (2nd ed.)]