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Zarin Aschrafi

From Frankfurt to Babylon. A History of Jewish Intellectuals in the Federal Republic of Germany

Working as a Doctoral Candidate at the Dubnow Institute since 2016, Zarin Aschrafi studied History and German Language at the universities of Munich, Freiburg im Breisgau, and Tübingen, and completed her M. A. degree in 2014.

Her dissertation focuses on a circle of young Jewish intellectuals from Frankfurt am Main who founded the so-called “Jüdische Gruppe” (Jewish Group) in the spring of 1980 followed by the journal »Babylon. Beiträge zur jüdischen Gegenwart« (Babylon: Contributions on the Jewish Present) in the fall of 1986. Both events mark manifestations of a specific Jewish experience in the Federal Republic of Germany at that time which this project aims to interpret. Hereto the investigation looks back into the 1950s, a time when a new generation was reaching schooling age and when the inner-Jewish discourse about the shape and future of Judaism and Jewish life in the land of the perpetrators was changing markedly.

Of central importance to this project is the presentation and analysis of individual political and experiential decisions of young Jews from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. This era was characterized for these individuals by their yearning for political participation. However, their desire to contribute to the shaping of contemporary issues in German majority society stood in diametric opposition to the life conceptions of their parents’ generation. This was moreover not the only area of conflict: Participation in Federal German daily life was also not without its contradictions. Through a range of characteristic topics – for example the interpretation of the Palestinian conflict as well as the memory of the Shoah – this project traces the intellectual individual as well as collective processes of seeking and recognition undertaken by the young Jews in Frankfurt. Thereto the reappraisal of Jewish family histories marked by flight, migration, and persecution as well as the generation-specific historical experience in the Federal Republic serve as epistemological approach, which the project seeks to examine.