Family histories are reshaping the historiography of the Holocaust in terms of integrated history as well as microhistory, and this research sits within a wave of microhistories of the Holocaust published in the past decade. It will evaluate for the first time the place of family history within these, as well as reflect critically on their place in the drive to find an answer to what happens when the last Holocaust survivors are no longer with us. By working with stakeholders in the field of Holocaust history and its dissemination, I will analyse the impact and potential for engagement of second- and third-generation authors and their stories and apply my findings to my own family history.
My project will show that academic history has a lot to gain from family history sources. The ‘Jewish’ family Ganz and the ‘Aryan’ family Brenzinger from Mainz and Freiburg, Germany, were related through marriage and were ascribed different identities as ‘Jews’ (assimilated and baptised), ‘Mischlinge 1. Grades’, ‘Mischlinge 2. Grades’, and ‘Aryans’ during the years 1933-45. Even though their ambitions and achievements as members of the economic elite with links to Reich Minister of Economics, Dr Hjalmar Schacht and eugenicist Eugen Fischer, amongst others, were very similar, they found themselves in the disparate positions of ‘victims’ and ‘perpetrators’. Their letters to each other can shed light on questions of official and private definitions of identity; their reports and experiences allow us to examine individual v. collective narratives around the issue of assimilation and its reversal by the Nazi regime. Gender and class will be important categories to consider alongside religious, social and political networks. As all of these are still shaping the discourses about the Holocaust, my findings will have a direct impact on the current academic debate.