Lorena De Vita Moshe Zimmermann (Chair of the panel)

The “Special Relationship” Reconsidered: New Approaches and Findings in the History of German-Israeli Affairs


The rapprochement between Germany and Israel in the aftermath of the Holocaust is one of the most striking political developments of the twentieth century. German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently referred to it as a ‘miracle’. But how did this ‘miracle’ come about? This Podiumdiskussion draws together leading and emerging scholars from the United States, the Middle East and Europe to reflect on the contradictions and dilemmas that shaped the making of German-Israeli relations and the conflicting interpretations thereof that continue to characterize the rich historiography on the subject to this day.
 As such, this Podiumdiskussion will:
 – Challenge and nuance the view of the evolution of the ‘special relationship’ between the Federal Republic of Germany and Israel by reflecting on both East and West German policies towards the Jewish State during the Cold War years;
 – Reflect upon the different methodologies and multinational sources employed to date to assess the conflicting interpretations  of policy priorities and values within the German-Israeli relationship;
 – Offer a fresh perspective on the key phases and actors within German-Israeli relations by employing a broad thematic focus, ranging from the examination of mutual perceptions among civil society through to the examination of diplomatic and security issues.
 This academic conversation will both aim to take stock of the latest developments in the literature as well as map the direction in which the field is moving. Combined, the contributions to this Podiumdiskussion rely upon findings that are based on oral history and multi-archival research using recently declassified sources from countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain and of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The result will be a chronologically, thematically, and methodologically wide-ranging examination of seven decades of history and historiography of the German-Israeli relationship.

David Witzthum (Jerusalem) Hubert Leber (Marburg/Haifa) Jeffrey Herf (Washington, D.C.)