Jewish Social Studies 11.1 (2004) 25-31
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Hans Rogger as a Second Generation Refugee Historian
Eight years ago, my Göttingen colleague Otto Gerhard Oexle and I were preparing a volume of essays in honor of my predecessor, Rudolf Vierhaus, for his 75th birthday.1 We did not want to produce a medley of heterogeneous topics, so we had chosen a specific theme: essays from friends and colleagues of Vierhaus in which they would explain why, and under what circumstances, they had decided to study history in the late 1940s and early 1950s—why, in short, after experiencing the Third Reich in their teens and World War II as young men, they had decided to become historians.
From the beginning of this project, it was my aim to provide a somewhat wider perspective than Vierhaus's German colleagues would be able to. Therefore I asked Fritz Fellner from Vienna, born in the same year as Vierhaus, to write a piece; the Swiss historian Walther Hofer; and Annelise Thimme, who had spent most of her life as a scholar teaching at Edmonton in Canada. And I also wrote to Hans Rogger. He answered promptly, very friendly, but not positively. He saw nothing special in his own path in becoming a historian, he argued. This was the answer I had feared. As we all know, Rogger was modest, too modest to talk about himself and about his scholarly achievements. But Rogger also added an argument that caused me to pause and ponder that perhaps I had made a grave mistake in asking him; perhaps I [End Page 25] had crossed a line I should have respected. Most of those who were writing for the volume were just not part of his cohort, Rogger argued. In short—and these are my words, not his—Rogger did not want to bridge the fundamental existential gap that existed between those who had fought in the German army as young men, whatever their political position may have been, and those who were forced to leave Germany in the 1930s and fought against the Nazis as members of the Allied forces, by bringing together in one volume their various personal memories.
I had thought that Rogger might feel comfortable contributing to a volume that included pieces by Karl Dietrich Bracher, Karl Otmar Freiherr von Aretin, Walther Hofer, and Fritz Fellner, all of whom had opposed the Nazi regime from the beginning—though some of them, including Fellner, an Austrian, had served in the German army during the war. But obviously I had been mistaken when I asked Rogger, and I was embarrassed that I had not known better.
Which, then, is Rogger's cohort? In the title of this article I call them "Second Generation Refugee Historians." In order to explain what I mean by this term, I must make another detour. In 1987, as I took the first steps toward establishing the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C., I decided that our first scholarly conference should be devoted to the German historians who had been forced to leave Germany after 1933.2 To establish a point of demarcation, my colleague James Sheehan and I decided to include all of those who had completed a doctorate in history before the Nazis came to power. This meant that we were dealing with historians born before 1914, most of whom had received their academic training during the Weimar years. Some of these First Generation Refugee Historians were also much older; they had studied before 1914 and were in their fifties and sixties when they were expelled from Germany.
We were fortunate that, in addition to many of the former students of these refugee historians, some of those who had been forced to emigrate were able to attend the conference, among them Felix Gilbert, Stephen Kuttner, and Peter Olden. Others, such as Hans Baron, Paul Oskar Kristeller, Gerhart Ladner, Golo Mann, and Hans Rosenberg, had been excited when they received my invitation but then decided that the trip to Washington would be too strenuous. I was particularly...