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The University of Sussex

 28 June 2001 

New study on the plight of Jewish refugees

Dr Barbara Einhorn, Reader in Women's Studies at the University of Sussex, is to undertake research this summer in New Zealand on the experiences of Jewish refugees who fled from Hitler's Germany.

Dr Barbara Einhorn

Dr Barbara Einhorn

"My parents were refugees from Hitler who went to New Zealand in Spring 1939 and stayed there and I've always wanted to do something on my family history," says Einhorn, who will be based at the Stout Research Centre at Victoria University in Wellington.

Einhorn hopes to tie in her own family history with research on German-Jewish Marxist refugees who fled from Hitler but returned to Germany after the war with the aim of building socialism. This research looks specifically at the issue of identity formation in relation to nation, particularly in displaced people, and also at gender differences.

"Germany has changed four times in these people's lifetime," she says. "They grew up in the Weimar Republic, fled from Nazi Germany, returned to build the socialist German Democratic Republic, and ended up in a unified post-Cold War Germany."

"When they returned to Germany after the war it was a huge decision because for many of them, they knew that their relatives had all been murdered in concentration camps and so to go back in the name of this political commitment they had to overcome enormous personal qualms and fears," explains Einhorn.

Another aspect to the research is the relationship of landscape to identity formation. "My mother retains a very close and sentimental relationship to the landscape of Hessen in Germany, where she grew up, and this comes up in interviews with other women as well," she adds.

"Many of them, when asked why they returned, mention the German landscape, especially the forest, even when they didn't come from areas of Germany where there was any forest," she adds. "Combined with the Nazi notion of 'blood and soil' [the idea that it is race rather than place that forms the German identity], this creates a problematic identification with landscape."

Next year Einhorn will expand and add to her life history interviews while based at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Women's Studies at Humboldt University in Berlin on a Leverhulme Study Abroad Fellowship.

 Notes for editors 

A photo of Dr Barbara Einhorn is available, and she can be contacted on

For further information, please contact Peter Simmons (01273 678209, or Alison Field (01273 678609,, University of Sussex, Fax 01273 877456.

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