Q&A with Sebastian Huebel
If your readers take away only one idea from your book, what would you want that idea to be?
Discrimination, oppression, and violence, in Nazi Germany (but not only), often occur in gendered ways; so are/were the reactions by the victims: German-Jewish men experienced Nazi antisemtism in gendered ways and their defiant responses as WWI war veterans, fathers, husbands and breadwinners was highly performative in gendered and other, intersecting ways.
What got you interested in the topic of your book?
My interests lie in the history of my birth country, Germany, especially the history of Nazi Germany, World War II and the holocaust. I study cultural, social and gender history and try to demonstrate how they can all be combined and integrated into an interconnected web of personal live stories that have much to say and teach us.
For those interested in learning more about your topic, what should they turn to next (after having read your book, of course)?
For instructors teaching the history of (Nazi) Germany and the holocaust and who would like to explore gender and masculinity in primary sources, I recommend the published diaries of Willy Cohn and Victor Klemperer, as well as the works by Nechama Tec including Resilience and Courage: Women, Men and the Holocaust.
What work or idea or thinker influenced you the most in the writing of this book?
Marion Kaplan’s Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany (Oxford, 1999), Raewyn Connell’s Masculinities (University of California Press, 1993) and the various cultural gender studies on masculinities by George Mosse were most influential. The first, I consider a seminal work on the social lives of German Jews, especially the chapters on the prewar years. I tried to fill a gap and focus more on Jewish men as gendered beings to include in our dialogue. To do so, I greatly benefited from the more theoretical works by Raewyn Connell and the conceptualizations of hegemonic and marginalized masculinities that helped me position and re-position German Jewish men in the dichotomous matrix of power relations within Nazi Germany, as well as the cultural histories of George Mosse that focus on Germany, Jews and gender.
Books answer questions, but they also raise new questions. What questions does your book raise?
I want my readers to ask themselves why it is paramount to include gender in our discussion of the past and how humans, in the case of my book, German Jews, were shaped by multiple, overlapping and competing identities including ones of gender. I want us to ponder how gender can help humans, under the most adverse circumstances, make sense of their lives, provide them with a sense of guidance and orientation, a sense of stability, as well as trigger resilience and resistance within them against regimes and power structures that themselves acted in highly gendered ways.