Wandering Artefacts: The Materialistic History of German-Jewish Archives. The Correspondence of Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, and Margarete Susman
The aim of this project is to explore the interconnectedness of materiality, displacement, and identity-building by means of a deep and thorough materialistic analysis of the exchange of documents between Franz Rosenzweig (Kassel 1886 – Frankfurt 1929), Martin Buber (Vienna 1878 – Jerusalem 1965), and Margarete Susman (Hamburg 1872 – Zurich 1966), as well as the archival traces which are found in their respective estates. The project intends to reveal the archival community of this generation of German-Jewish scholars and to examine its far-reaching implications for post-Holocaust identity building. We wish to develop a comprehensive study which offers a materialistic analysis of German-Jewish archives, and which can bridge the existing gap between theoretical research on archiving and the study of the particular case of German-Jewish thinkers, opening new research perspectives. In order to fulfil this goal, we will examine the autobiographical remarks and correspondence between Franz Rosenzweig, Margarete Susman, and Martin Buber as unique forms of manuscripts. On the one hand, the diaries and autobiographical notes in the archives of Rosenzweig, Buber and Susman attest to a need for archival input and to the urge to construct a coherent and meaningful story of their lives; on the other hand, their letters mostly function as bridges between different archives and an amalgam of other elements, since each collection contains correspondence belonging to other persons (displaced documents and items) or, as in the cases of Rosenzweig and Susman, written by a third person. The absence of many letters as well as the constant discovery of others in different estates point to the “perforated nature” of the archive itself, which is not a unicum, but is rather in dialogue with many others. The constant exchanges between this generation of German-Jewish thinkers also shaped a multilingual “community of archives” which had a particular political meaning in the framework of twentieth-century Jewish history where archives played a pivotal role as both testimonies to the violence of destruction and monuments to the material supports of Jewish culture.