FRIEDLAENDER, SAUL

FRIEDLAENDER, SAUL (1932– ), Israeli historian of the Third Reich and Holocaust. Born in Prague, Friedlaender fled with his family to France in 1939, where he was hidden in a Catholic boarding school following the German invasion of 1940. While in hiding, he developed a keen interest in Catholicism and even considered the priesthood. But when he was informed by one of his Catholic teachers about the Nazi genocide at the war's end, Friedlaender decided to reembrace his Jewish roots and moved to Israel in 1948, where he eventually embarked on a career as a historian. Friedlaender long split his time as a historian between Europe, Israel, and the United States. From 1964 to 1987, he taught at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Internationales in Geneva, at first as a senior lecturer and after 1967 as professor. In that same year, he accepted a visiting professorship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and in 1969 was appointed professor of history and international relations. Friedlander remained in Jerusalem until 1975 at which point he moved to Tel Aviv University, where he was named Maxwell Cummings Chair of European History. In 1987 Friedlander was appointed to the 1939 Club Chair in Holocaust Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles, a position that he shared with his Tel Aviv post until retiring from the latter in 2000. Friedlaender applied innovative methodologies to the study and writing of history. He began his academic career as a diplomatic historian, producing two incisive works in the mid-1960s: Hitler et les Etats-Unis 1939–41 (1963; Prelude to Downfall: Hitler and the United States, 1967. and Pie XII et le IIIe Reich (1964; Pius XII and the Third Reich, 1966). The first study examined the diplomatic relations between Nazi Germany and the administration of franklin d. roosevelt , while the second critically analyzed Pope pius xii 's response to the Holocaust. Friedlaender then turned towards psychology. His book Kurt Gerstein, l'ambiguité du bien (1967; Kurt Gerstein; the Ambiguity of Good, 1969), examined the complex motivations of a German SS officer who was involved in the Nazi Final Solution but later turned against it by attempting to inform neutral and Church figures of the gassing of Jews. His study L'Histoire et psychoanalyse (1975; History and Psychoanalysis, 1978) directly explored the virtues and limitations of psychoanalysis for historical inquiry. Friedlaender's interest in psychology naturally led him to the study of historical memory. Friedlaender investigated the dynamics of remembrance at the individual level in his powerful autobiographical work, Quand vient le souvenir (1978; When Memory Comes, 1979), which focused on his own traumatic childhood in German-occupied France. Thereafter, he turned his attention to the study of cultural memory in Reflets du nazisme (1982; Reflections of Nazism: A Study of Kitsch and Death, 1984), which examined the lingering psychological appeal of Nazi imagery in works of contemporary European film and literature. Friedlaender expressed the concern that the memory of the Third Reich was becoming normalized within western consciousness and defined less by moral outrage than lurid fascination. By the late 1980s, he voiced these fears in a famous debate with the German historian, Martin Broszat over the "historicization" of the Nazi era. At a time in which conservative German historians were attempting to relativize the Nazis' crimes in an effort to create a normal sense of German national identity (the "Historians' Debate"), Friedlaender insisted that the singular nature of the Nazis' genocidal crimes against the Jews should prevent historians from viewing the 12 years of the Third Reich as they would any other era of German history. In the 1990s, Friedlaender continued to explore theoretical issues while simultaneously returning to the empirically grounded and narrative-centered history of his early career. His 1992 volume Probing the Limits of Representation (based on a 1990 conference held at UCLA) explored the relevance of postmodern thought for the representation of the Final Solution. Sparked in part by American historian Hayden White's relativistic observations about the truth claims of all historical writing, Friedlander became deeply interested in the question of whether all methods of portraying the Holocaust were equally valid. His ensuing work of historical synthesis, published in 1997, Nazi Germany and the Jews, Volume I: The Years of Persecution, 1933–1939, examined the origins of the Final Solution from the interwoven perspective of the Nazi perpetrators as well as their Jewish victims, a pathbreaking approach that brought together narrative vantage points that had been kept apart by most previous historians. From the end of the 1990s, Friedlaender was busy completing the final volume of his two-volume study. Friedlaender was involved in numerous other historical enterprises. Early in his career he worked closely with nahum goldmann of the World Jewish Congress and with shimon peres . He helped found the influential journal History   & Memory in 1989. He served on the commission that examined the activities of the Bertelsmann publishing concern during the Third Reich and chaired the Independent Experts Commission that in 1999 issued a highly critical report on the policies of the Swiss government towards Jewish refugees during World War II. He was involved in Israeli-Palestinian dialogues and with leading Palestinian intellectuals such as Edward Said. For his outstanding scholarly achievements, Friedlaender was honored with the Israel Prize for history in 1983, the Geschwister-Scholl-Prize from the city of Munich in 1998, and a Mac Arthur Foundation "genius" Award in 1999. (Gavriel Rosenfeld (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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