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Accepted Paper:

The importance of trust. Persecution and loyalty among ethnologists during the Nazi era  
Katja Geisenhainer (University of Vienna and Frobenius Institute Frankfurt)

Paper short abstract:

This contribution deals with issues of trust and violence in the history of ethnology as a discipline. Focusing on ethnologists who were persecuted during the Nazi era, it discusses how we can determine which relation of trust existed at a personal level when trust in the state was completely lost.

Paper long abstract:

This contribution approaches issues of trust and violence in the history of anthropology as a discipline at a time when surveillance, arbitrary measures, denunciations, and violent attacks were the order of the day and trust in the state was completely lost. Focusing on ethnologists who were persecuted during the Nazi era and drawing from extensive archival research, the paper discusses how trust at the personal level became enormously important, asking how we can methodologically identify and determine relations of trust between colleagues during the Nazi era. During this time, trust emerged partly as a function of collective identities: while belonging to a persecuted group (as defined by the Nazis) provided a relatively secure basis of initial trust for interactions, the trustworthiness of outsiders to these groups first had to be proven. In professional relations a shared academic approach was often a basis for relatively close connections and personal support in this time of crisis. Yet in emigration, respective theoretical or methodological orientations lost their significance for contacts between the refugees. Instead, common fate, personal sensitivities and mutual support became more relevant.

This paper examines these connections and concludes with a look at the post-war period in West Germany, where not only the experiences of the past years, but also the hesitant and partly vague way in which state and population addressed the Nazi era as well as the process of denazification continued to influence mutual trust between colleagues who had emigrated and those who had stayed.

Panel P115a
Trust and Violence in Times of Political Transformation I
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -