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Success Stories

​February 23, 2021 

Gilad Hirschberger (IDC Herzliya), Katja Hanke (GESIS, Mannheim), and Roland Imhoff (University of Mainz):

"Seventy Years Later: Historical Representations of the Holocaust and their effects on German-Israeli Relations​"


Hirschberger_Hanke_Imhoff.jpgFollowing a 2010 visit to Berlin, and some Holocaust research on Israelis, Gilad Hirschberger​ became interested in understanding how Germans and Israelis make sense of the Holocaust. In 2013, he contacted Katja Hanke and Roland Imhoff two German social psychologists that he hoped would provide some insight on this question. Katja had just published some relevant research on historical closure in East Asia, and Roland had done some Holocaust-related research especially on the desire among many Germans to move on and never look back at the past – Schlussstrich in German. After a few e-mail exchanges, writing a GIF proposal was the natural thing to do. The basic idea behind the proposal was that there is much variation in lay perceptions of history, and that both members of the victim group and perpetrator group attribute the collective trauma to different causes. In our research, we were interested in understanding a question that really has no sensible answer, but may nevertheless be psychologically significant: how Germans and Israelis explain the inexplicable – why did the Holocaust happen? Before posing this question to Israelis and Germans we decided to come up with our own causes based on psychological theory and research. We suggested that people may attribute the Holocaust to internal causes such as the belief that there was some inner evil in German society, or they may believe that Germans are obedient by nature and blindly follow orders. Others may attribute the Holocaust to external causes: they may believe that the Nazis used coercion and that ordinary Germans were forced to comply with Nazi policies against their will, and yet others may place blame on the social and economic conditions following WWI and the Versailles Agreement. We worked diligently to study top-down (theory-driven) and bottom-up (data-driven) attributions for the Holocaust, and eased the heavy atmosphere during our intensive meetings with nighttime fun. Our first meeting in Bremen included planning the first studies and enjoying the beautiful city. The second visit in Herzliya was dedicated to a labor-intensive process of studying the lay attributions people provided when we asked them why they thought the Holocaust happened. Plenty of work went into response coding and understanding the structure of these attributions. There was also no shortage of hummous, whisky, and Tel Aviv nightlife when the day ended. Our third visit was to Cologne where we worked on manuscripts and learned to drink Kölsch, the local beer. We also visited former Gestapo headquarters at the center of town and saw another perspective on how Germans today remember and understand the Nazi era. These meetings would not be the same without our amazing students and post-docs. Dr. Dennis Kahn, a Swedish Jew who immigrated to Israel, could not have imagined that this research would reveal buried treasures of his own family history. Mario Messer, a German graduate student served as a backbone for study implementation. Pia Lamberty, a German graduate student substituting during Mario’s paternal leave, became enamored with the Negev, and Slieman Halabi, an Israeli Druze, is now a graduate student at a German university. This project, generously funded by GIF, has not only produced several high-quality publications, but has taught all of us that collective trauma influences the descendants of both victim and perpetrator groups. Importantly, it showed that events that happened over 75 years ago continue to affect social and political attitudes today. Our findings resonate with William Faulkner's proclamation that "the past is never dead, it's not even past."​ ​ 

 


 

Ja​n​uary 14, 2021
 

Bruno Schelhaas (Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Leipzig) and Haim Goren (Tel-Hai Academic College): Mapping the Holy Land

 

Schelhaas_Goren1.JPGThis is the story of Bruno and Haim, scientific partners, colleagues and (what is most important) friends since many years. It is also a story of a connection between two persons coming from different generations and with different cultural and personal backgrounds.
It was in 2009 or 2010 when we both developed the idea for a joint research project, and certainly, it was an advantage that we already knew each other since several years. Up to the Covid-19 pandemic, in every year Haim visited Leipzig at least once, and he is a well-known guest in the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography for many, many years, too. Furthermore, Bruno and Haim met regularly at international conferences, especially with the Commission History of Geography of the International Geographical Union, sometimes with joint paper presentations.
Haim’s German experiences, both familial and scientific, and Bruno’s expertise within history of geography and cartography with an archivist’s background, were a key reason for the following successful collaboration. The decision of the GIF board to fund our project Robinson, van de Velde, and German Holy Land Cartography in the mid19th Century (GIF Grant No: G 1057124.4/2009) was a great surprise for us. We are still happy and thankful about the approval; it was an acknowledgement of our scientific work and a great honor for both of us. In January 2011, we started officially the project work at TelHai College and at Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography. It was also a start of an intensive period of discussing and learning. After finishing the project, we both have a much deeper understanding of the German and Israeli scientific system and the varieties of international cooperation. Between 2011 and 2015, we realized several meetings, a total number of 15 visits, most of them in Leipzig, Berlin and Gotha, and especially three joint project workshops in Leipzig (May 2011), TelHai College (May 2012) and in Gotha (September 2013). Besides business and scientific discussions, these meetings mostly offered opportunities for archival work, for field trips, for encounters with experts and for social events, too. The two major project outputs reached a large public: the Gotha Map Week (2013), including the exhibition Das Heilige Land in Gotha, and the main publication Mapping the Holy Land. The Foundation of a Scientific Cartography of Palestine. (London / New York: I.B. Tauris 2017).
It is remarkable, that after finishing the GIF project two follow-up projects were designed, approved and successfully implemented. Haim Goren realized the ISF project Robinson and Smith, Generators of Change in Holy Land Scientific Study: New Considerations, documented in the volume “The loss of a minute, is just so much loss of life”. Edward Robinson and Eli Smith in the Holy Land (Turnhout: Brepols 2020). Jutta Faehndrich is still conducting the single DFG project Narrative, Aesthetic, and Cartographic Space around 1850. The Three Palestines of Charles William Meredith van de Velde (DFG 2016–2021), documented in the volume Als Künstler und Kartograph im Heiligen Land. Die drei Palästina des C. W. M. van de Velde. (Reimer: Berlin 2021). Both projects are based on the experiences, findings and results of the GIF project.
Scientific cooperation, friendship and visits in Germany and Israel, meetings at international conferences never stand still, now only interrupted by Covid-19 pandemic. The last meeting between Bruno and his family with Haim was in October 2019 in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, with so much emotional and amicable moments. We look forward to meet personally again in safer and more pleasant environment.
 
Haim Goren and Bruno Schelhaas
 
Schelhaas_Goren2.JPG Schelhaas_Goren3.JPG



 

 December 17, 2020

 

GIF Grantees in Corona related research.

A recent activity report by GIF Grantees Professor Cyrille Cohen (Bar-Ilan University) and Professor Dr. Dietmar Zehn (Technical University of Munich)

Zehn_Cohen UT.JPG

The ongoing corona pandemic reveals the major challenge we are facing in preventing and treating viral infections. 

It also emphasizes the strong need to better understand i) how our immune system protects us against the majority of viruses we become exposed to, ii) why it fails in protecting us against certain pathogens, and iii) why the protective capacity typically declines with age. 

GIF Grantees Prof. Cyrille Cohen (Bar-Ilan University) and Prof. Dietmar Zehn (Technical University of Munich) investigate the biology of T lymphocytes - the main immune cell population that eliminates viral infection.

Within their joint GIF Grant, Prof. Cohen and Prof. Zehn are exploring mechanisms leading to failed immune-protection in chronic infection and malignant tumors.
Over the last years they have made several important contributions to understand cellular and molecular mechanisms that drive pathological immune responses (Utzschneider et al., Nature Immunology 2013, Immunity 2016, JEM 2016, PNAS 2019).
This included the identification of a key transcription factor (TOX) that attenuates T lymphocyte-mediated immunity (Alfei et al., Nature 2019). Meanwhile, there is preliminary evidence that this factor could also play a role in severe cases of COVID-19. Presently, they are planning studies to sustain these observations.

During the SARS-pandemic they were approached by oncologists, who operate a large outpatient clinic network (Prof. D. Hempel, Donauwörth). Together they systematically analyzed the prevalence of COVID-19 in the outpatient cohort, and found that, surprisingly, the rate of asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 carriers among oncology outpatients was low compared to COVID-19 positive health individuals. Their findings in outpatients contrast reports of severe COVID-19 infections among clinal oncology patients. Thus, COVID-19 poses a challenge to a fraction of oncology patients while the cohort appeared resistant.
Since the decision on whether to start, continue or discontinue a tumor therapy has vital consequences for patients, Prof. Cohen and Prof. Zehn are designing a research project to find rational criteria for when oncology therapies can continue or have to be changed.
Moreover, the German-Israeli team is very interested in identifying the mechanisms that mediated the COVID-19 resistance in their cohort. They anticipate that this will reveal significant new insights to better understand the pathogenesis of COVID-19 and to rationally design vaccine strategies against the virus, and hope to gain funding support to explore these critical issues. 

In addition, Prof. Cyrille Cohen has been active on the "regulatory front" of the pandemics: He was appointed as member of the advisory committee of clinical trials for corona virus vaccines at the Israel Ministry of Health. As part of his duties in this committee as an immunologist, he has been helping with the national effort to evaluate and recommend the implementation of clinical trials to determine the safety and efficacy of novel Covid19 vaccines.​​​ ​​​​​​​

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