Jürgen Zimmerer in conversation with Marietta Schwarz

Jürgen Zimmerer was very annoyed by “the honored historian” Götz Aly. (imago / Chris Emil Janßen)

Historian Jürgen Zimmerer accuses his colleague Götz Aly of having attacked postcolonial theory without having a thorough knowledge of it. There is no serious post-colonial researcher who questions the uniqueness of the Holocaust.

Historians are once again discussing comparisons between the Shoah and other genocides and the uniqueness of the Holocaust. This time, however, the background is not historians’ dispute over Ernst Nolte in the 1980s. The significance of the Holocaust is currently being examined from the perspective of post-colonialism: can it be related to other genocides – for example to Herero and Nama? Historian Götz Aly denied this: the uniqueness of the Holocaust cannot be shaken. He also harshly criticizes postcolonial research and evokes the attempt to gain attention.

Götz Aly said of the debate over the uniqueness of the Holocaust:
“I see this as an attempt by people who work on the subject of colonialism, who deal with the Decolonize movement and also conduct public campaigns, to gain prominence and attention – and I definitely consider these attempts to be wrong.
There were crimes that took place during colonial times. The Germans also learned from other colonial powers. But there has been no widespread killing of entire populations, so to speak, without cause. Jews should be exterminated as Jews because they were Jews.
In Africa and in various punitive expeditions, the aim was to suppress resistance. It’s a different situation. It was never about wiping out entire populations simply because they belonged to a particular group, religion or ethnicity. “

Historian and postcolonialist researcher Jürgen Zimmerer of the University of Hamburg received these statements with amazement: “What annoys me most is that I have to watch a revered historian like Mr. Aly dismantle himself in fundamentally without knowledge of the state of research and unconscious. in reality also the post-colonial theory – at the level of the newspaper comments which it apparently received – here disqualifies a theoretical direction. “

Zimmerer accuses Aly of “proseminar level”: “Of course, nothing is Holocaust-compliant. Nothing slavery either.” The postcolonial researcher defends his colleagues against Alys’ accusations: “There is actually no serious postcolonial historian who questions the uniqueness of the Holocaust. Instead, the research emphasizes that similarities and differences must be worked out through comparisons: “Because we can only emphasize specifics through comparison. Otherwise, the singularity is only a postulate. “

Comparative genocide research is based on the idea of ​​learning from history in order to prevent another genocide, the “never again!” Zimmerer says, “That’s why we also have to work out the systematic, because otherwise the statement of ‘Never again! no sense. A single event cannot be repeated at all. “

The Eurocentric bubble

Aly cannot get out of “his Eurocentric bubble” if he does not acknowledge the state of research and the very different approaches to post-colonialist research and treat them objectively, Zimmerer says. Research on postcolonialism is not a political movement. Aly demonizes a scientific approach by suggesting that it is about funding.

(jfr / created)