Shattered Spaces: Encountering Jewish Ruins in Postwar Germany and Poland

Shattered Spaces by Michael Meng

2013 Prize in History & the Social Sciences

Author: by Michael Meng
Publisher: Harvard University Press (2011)

Jury Statement

Michael Meng’s compellingly written and moving study demonstrates how the development of “Europe” as a whole interfaced with the problems of dealing with the physical remnants of Central European Jewish civilization. His work examines the fate of Jewish ruins and remains in Poland and in Germany—East, West, and reunited—from the end of the Second World War until the present. With inventive and original research on the history of Jewish buildings and religious sites in five cities—Warsaw, Wroclaw, Berlin, Potsdam, and Essen—Meng is able to trace the arguments and plans of the decision-makers who determined whether synagogues, community centers, cemeteries, and housing blocks, would be demolished, allowed to disintegrate, or refurbished for other functions. Meng analyzes the important transformation of memory culture in the 1970s and then again after 1989, when, under the influence of what he calls “redemptive cosmopolitanism,” Jewish sites were preserved and have been built anew, to the point where we have beautiful synagogues and impressive historical museums and memorials in both Poland and Germany. In Shattered Spaces, Meng offers important and illuminating insights into why these crucial shifts happened. He brings to this task a broad-ranging understanding of architectural history, urban planning, and postwar European issues of memory and forgetting.

About the Author

Michael Meng is Assistant Professor of Modern German History, Clemson University. In 2001, he received his B.A. in history from Boston College (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa), and he earned his Ph.D. in history in 2008 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; his dissertation won the Linda Dykstra Distinguished Dissertation Prize in the Humanities and Fine Arts from UNC-Chapel Hill and the Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize from the Friends of the German Historical Institute in Washington. Meng has received grants and fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Council on Germany, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Fulbright, the German Marshall Fund, the German Academic Exchange Service, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, among others. He is currently co-editing with Erica Lehrer a volume on Jewish space in post-Communist Poland, working on a new book project, The Frankfurt Judengasse: A Cultural History since 1796, and is writing several essays on immigration debates in postwar Europe, Jewish emotions and travel after the Holocaust, and montage as a narrative device in the discipline of history. He serves on the Graduate and Early Career Committee of the American Historical Association, and he is one of the coordinators of the Urban Studies Network of the German Studies Association.

2013 Jury

Paolo Carozza
Professor of Law
Director of the Kellogg Institute for International Studies
University of Notre Dame

Harold James
Claude and Lore Kelly Professor in European Studies
Director, Program in Contemporary European Politics and Society
Princeton University

Jytte Klausen
Lawrence A. Wien Professor of International Cooperation
Brandeis University

Norman M. Naimark
Robert and Florence McDonnell Professor of Eastern European Studies
Director of the Division of International, Comparative, and Area Studies
Stanford University

Thomas F. X. Noble
Professor of History
University of Notre Dame