Germany to Establish Its First Professorship Dedicated to Holocaust Study

Frankfurt's Goethe University to inaugurate chair in 2017 focused on studying Nazi murder of six million Jews; announcement comes 70 years after fall of Third Reich.

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A 1943 file photo showing Polish Jews being deported by German SS soldiers during the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto.Credit: AP

Goethe University in Frankfurt is to establish a long-term professorship devoted to the study of the Holocaust, the first such academic chair in Germany. While the country has multiple academic programs and researchers focusing on the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people, the new chair will be the "first long-term professorship with a specific focus on the repercussions that have followed the Holocaust through to the present day," reported Deutsche Welle.

According to DW, Goethe University will launch the professorship in 2017, and is currently searching for a suitable candidate, who will also be appointed head of Frankfurt’s Fritz-Bauer Institute, which is devoted to studying the history and impact of the Holocaust. The university has reportedly already secured the necessary funding to finance the chair.

Goethe University spokesman Olaf Kaltenborn  told the DW that the inauguration of the chair marks "a milestone in German Holocaust research." While several such dedicated professorships exist in the U.S. and other European countries, there has been no such chair in  Germany until now.  

Doubly symbolic

Goethe University Vice President Prof. Manfred Schubert-Zsilavecz said in a statement that the new chair "gives us the important impetus to better understand discrimination and oppression in the world by looking at the structure of the domination of Nazi control during the war." He also said that Goethe University is an ideal site for the new professorship, given that the institution, opened in 1914, was established by a citizen's foundation with mainly Jewish founders, reported DW.

A sculpture commemorating the slave labor victims of the IG Farben factory at Auschwitz III and people murdered by Zyklon B gas, outside the former IG Farben Building on Goethe University's Westend Campus. (Photo: Adam Johns, Ph.D./Wikimedia Commons)

The announcement has added significance, given that the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz was marked in January. Over a million people were exterminated by the Nazis in Auschwitz's network of concentration and death camps, around 90% of who were Jewish.

"Seventy years after the end of the Holocaust, this is a long-overdue step," said Hesse state Science Minister Boris Rhein to DW, stressing the  importance of such an initiative in perpetuating people's knowledge of the horrors that were carried out in the "land of the perpetrators."