CfP: 125 Jahre Centralverein_eng

English version

CfP: Conference "Ein Jubiläum ohne Jubilar - 125 Jahre Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens", November, 12.-14., 2018

Place: University of Potsdam
Organized by Tilmann Gempp-Friedrich (Vereinigung für Jüdische Studien e. V.,, Rebekka Denz (Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg, und Prof. Dr. Thomas Brechenmacher (Universität Potsdam)
A cooperation between the Universität Potsdam, Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg, Vereinigung für Jüdische Studien e. V. and

When the internal legal advisor of the Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens (Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith), Ludwig Hollander, wrote the entry about the C. V. for the famous "Jewish Lexicon" in 1927, he quoted the first paragraph of the association's bylaws: "The C.-V. aims to protect the German citizens of Jewish faith without regard to their religious beliefs or political commitments in order to strengthen them in the energetic preservation of their civil and social equality, as well as in the unflinching care of German patriotism." At this time, the C. V had just celebrated its ten-year and twenty-fifth year jubilee committed. Unfortunately, the jubilarian could no longer celebrate his fiftieth anniversary, as the largest Jewish organization in Germany was forcibly dissolved in 1938.

The Centralverein was one of the most important protagonists in Jewish life before the Shoah due to its rapidly increasing membership, its nationwide expansion and its contemporary visibility. Through its political work, its cultural commitment and fight against anti-Semitism, it was regarded as an influential voice with broad relevance, demanding the already legally enshrined equal rights of all citizens. Indeed, it represented a self-confident Jewish identity.

It is therefore even more surprising that the Centralverein has so far been underrepresented in (Jewish) historiography, as opposed to research on Zionism. The first works, published after the Shoah, were composed by former members that had emigrated, and are indeed often limited to a descriptive summary of the work of the Centralverein with a clear focus on the fight against anti-Semitism. This may be understandable in view of the increasing Zionist bent of such narratives, but this had led to the fact that further research on the Centralverein had usually only taken place within the context of anti-Semitism research. A clear upswing in research activity was triggered by the rediscovery of the C. V. archive in Moscow in 1990, which was considered lost or destroyed during the war. This discovery was followed by Avraham Barkai's "'Wehr Dich!' Der Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens (C. V.). 1893- 1938" from 2002. In the last few years, some works have been published that explore the Centralverein and its various activities from different perspectives.

To bring together this growing body research and to take account of the burgeoning interest in the Centralverein, - Forschungsnetzwerk zum C.V. was founded in 2017. The online network has set itself the task of stimulating research on the Centralverein, allowing scholars the opprtunity to network, and increasing awareness of its history more in the academic, curatorial and journalistic spheres. The conference should be considered in terms of an additional step towards a more nuanced view of the C. V. as an organization along with its activities.

The intention of the conference is to present, understand and analyze the structures, protagonists and activities of the Centralverein with different methodical and theoretical approaches. For this purpose, it may be useful to look at the C. V. not only historiographically, but also with the methods of a historically operative organizational sociology. Even though the C. V. can be regarded as an association in its name and in its regional groups, it can also be seen as an organization in more wholistic sense. Such an approach allows questions to be posed in a clearer fashion regarding its purpose, membership and hierarchies (Niklas Luhmann) in their external and internal dimensions.This methodological approach is not intended to be limiting in any way, but rather is an intent on complementing other methodological and thematic approaches such as biographical research, women's and gender history, discourse analysis, or cultural studies approaches.

Possible topics:

  • Ideological and political positions of the Centralverein
  • How central was the Centralverein? The role of the C. V. in Jewish and non-Jewish society
  • How centralized was the Centralverein?
  • A history of relationships?: The C. V. and other organizations
  • The C. V. in a comparative European perspective: Jewish self-organization in other states
  • The Centralverein within the country
  • German citizens of Jewish faith: leaders and members
  • Youth work in the C. V.
  • The publication system of the Centralverein
  • Literature and pamphlets: Philo-Verlag and the C. V.
  • The Centralverein's role in emigration
  • Best practices: The current archival situation

Suggestions for presentations in other subject areas are possible.

To participate in the conference, please apply with an abstract of 400 words (maximum) and a short biographical note by November 6, 2017 to the contact address given below. We would also like to invite early career researchers to participate. For each paper, an individual presentation time of 30 minutes is allotted, followed by an open discussion of 15 minutes. A publication comprising of selected papers is planned.
Conference languages are German and English.
Pending to funding, travel and accommodation costs may be covered.
Please send your proposal and any questions to the following e-mail address: