2021 Balzan Prize for Holocaust and Genocide Studies
Bio-bibliography + Videoclip (English + French)
Saul Friedländer has Israeli and American nationality. He was born as Pavel in 1932 in Prague to a family of German-speaking Jews. In the Friedländer family everyone felt German. Religion was totally absent from family life, but his mother showed a certain interest in Zionism. When the Germans occupied Prague in March 1939, Pavel’s parents decided to leave Czechoslovakia for France, but did not explain to their son that they were doing so because they were Jews. During the Second World War, his parents hid him in a Catholic boarding school in Montluçon, not far from Vichy, while they themselves hoped to find refuge in Switzerland, a neutral country; but the Swiss customs officers turned them away, because at that time (in 1942) Switzerland only accepted Jewish refugees with small children or including pregnant women. Sent back to France, they were soon deported to Auschwitz. Saul Friedländer discovered much later that couples with children under the age of 10 could pass, and that the others were turned away. His parents had not taken him with them, thinking it was too dangerous. If he had been there, all would have been saved.
In the Catholic institution that hid him, he was, with the agreement of his parents, baptized Paul-Henri; later, a Catholic by conviction, he felt for some time a vocation as a priest. Without news of his parents for several years, Saul Friedländer learned in February 1946 that his parents who had disappeared during the war had been murdered after deportation. Reflecting on these events, he explained that “for the first time, I felt Jewish.”
He became a Zionist in 1946 and emigrated in June 1948 to Israel. When he arrived there on the ship Altalena, he was asked if he had a Hebrew first name. He then chose Saul as his first name.
Saul Friedländer has been moving around the world ever since: from 1953 to 1955 he studied Political Science in Paris, in 1963 he received a PhD from the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva. Until 1988 he taught at this institute, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at Tel Aviv University. In 1988 he became Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles. At present he is emeritus Professor of History at UCLA. Despite his advanced age he is still very active: in 2019 he addressed the Bundestag on Remembrance Day for the Victims of National Socialism; in 2020 he published a book on Proust.
A selection of his published works include:
Pius XII and the Third Reich: A Documentation, New York: Knopf, 1966. Translated from the original Pie XII et le IIIe Reich. Documents, Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1964, réédité et augmenté en 2010 Pie XII et l’Holocauste : un réexamen. German translation: Pius XII und das Dritte Reich, dt. Ausg. R. Specht/E. Jäckel, Reinbek b Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1965. Italian translation: Pio XII e il Terzo Reich, Milan: Feltrinelli, 1965.
Prelude to downfall: Hitler and the United States 1939-1941, London: Chatto & Windus, 1967.
Kurt Gerstein: The Ambiguity of Good, New York: Knopf, 1969.
Reflexions sur l’Avenir d’Israel, Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1969.
L’Antisémitisme nazi : histoire d’une psychose collective, Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1974.
Some aspects of the historical significance of the Holocaust, Jerusalem: Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1977.
History and Psychoanalysis: An Inquiry into the Possibilities and Limits of Psychohistory, New York: Holmes & Meier, 1978.
When Memory Comes, New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1979 (Noonday Press, Reissue edition 1991, ISBN 0-374-52272-3). German translation: Wenn die Erinnerung kommt, Munich: DVA, 1979; Munich: Beck Verlag 2007. French translation: Quand vient le souvenir, Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1998.
Reflections of Nazism: An Essay on Kitsch and Death, New York: Harper & Row, 1984.
Memory, History, and the Extermination of the Jews of Europe, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.
Nazi Germany and the Jews: The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939, vol.1, New York: HarperCollins, 1997. The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945, vol. 2, New York: HarperCollins, 2007. Italian edition (Milan: Garzanti): Vol. 1 Gli anni della persecuzione. La Germania nazista e gli ebrei (1933-1939); Vol. 2 Gli anni dello sterminio. La Germania nazista e gli ebrei (1939-1945). French edition (Paris: Editions du Seuil): 1. Les années de persécution : L’Allemagne nazie et les juifs 1933-1939; 2. Les années d’extermination: L’Allemagne nazie et les Juifs (1939-1945). German edition (Munich: Beck Verlag): Das Dritte Reich und die Juden: Die Jahre der Verfolgung 1933-1939. Die Jahre der Vernichtung 1939-1945.
Nachdenken über den Holocaust, Munich: Beck, 2007.
Den Holocaust beschreiben, Gottingen: Wallstein, 2007.
Franz Kafka: Poet of Shame and Guilt, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.
Reflexions sur le Nazisme. Entretiens avec Stéphane Bou, Paris: Editions du Seuil, 2016.
Where Memory Leads. My Life, New York: Other Press, 2016. German translation: Wohin die Erinnerung führt: Mein Leben, Munich: Beck Verlag, 2016. French translation: Où mène le souvenir. Ma vie, Paris: Editions du Seuil, 2016.
Proustian Uncertainties. On Reading and Rereading in Search of Lost Time, New York: Free Press, 2020.