25 Year Anniversary Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History

Holocaust Studies

It is obviously a cliché, but when Holocaust Studies was launched 25 years ago as the British Journal of Holocaust Education we lived in a very different world. The Cold War was ending and for some the very ‘end of history’ was nigh. In terms of Holocaust history and memory, quite literally the landscape was very different too. Some of the institutions that now dominate were not open, or had not even been conceived – such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum or Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial. In Britain, where the journal was very firmly anchored, there was no Holocaust Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, no Holocaust Memorial Day and Britain’s national memorial was tucked out of sight in Hyde Park. In terms of academic work, while some of the broad narratives of Holocaust History had been established this was before the former Soviet archives had been opened to reveal some of the realities of Nazi occupation policies in Eastern Europe. The testimonies of victims and survivors were being taken, but not on the scale they have been now (the Visual History Foundation was in its infancy) and those testimonies were not well used by academics.

Because the Holocaust is such an established part of our collective memory now, it is perhaps difficult to fully appreciate the purpose of the journal at its launch – to provide resources for teachers of Holocaust history where there was none and also as a means to campaign for more heed to be paid to the Holocaust, for us to be more aware of this traumatic past, in all its challenging complexity.

In outline terms of course, that battle has been won, and the status of the Holocaust in global memory seems assured. In Britain, where the journal is still based, remembering the Holocaust is part of our national life – something encapsulated by the construction of the UK Holocaust Memorial outside of the Houses of Parliament, to open in 2021. We were cognisant of the public prominence of the Holocaust when we took the decision to relaunch the journal as Holocaust Studies in 2005 – as editors we were keen to refocus the journal away from its original campaigning mission. But it remains the case that only one part of the journal’s mission has been achieved. The Holocaust may be more prominent, but it is not well understood. If the journal set out to understand the complexity of the Shoah then the simplicity of the narratives that surround us in the public space suggests that we continue to fail and that our purpose, indeed our mission, must remain the same – to try and promote understanding of our shared traumatic past in all of its horrible complexity.

The articles that we have selected for this 25th anniversary volume stand as a tribute to the journal’s development and to the importance of some of the work that we have published. Some are very much located in their time, and speak eloquently to the development of our understanding of the Holocaust. They are in that sense then as much a showcase of the history of the journal as they are an engagement with the historiography of the Holocaust. They represent the variety of disciplines in which we work, and as such articulate the interdisciplinarity at the heart of Holocaust Studies’ identity.

In addition, these essays – which are free to access until 30 June 2018 - stand as a tribute to the editors that came before us– John Fox; Jo Reilly; Colin Richmond; Donald Bloxham; Tony Kushner; Mark Roseman and of course the late David Cesarani.

Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History