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Holocaust Chair Decision Unlikely Anytime Soon

Goldhagen 'Too Young,' Source Says

By Dafna V. Hochman

Faculty sources close to the search to fill a new professorship in Holocaust studies indicated yesterday that the search committee has deadlocked and is unlikely to issue a recommendation for at least several months.

"They have looked at five [candidates] but they couldn't agree on appointing any of them," said a history professor close to the search.

The five-member search committee--composed of Faculty members from the history, government and Near Eastern languages and civilizations departments--is said to be split over both who to appoint as well as the academic validity of a so-called Holocaust chair itself.

Associate Professor of Government and Social Studies Daniel J. Goldhagen, author of last year's controversial bestselling book, Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, and a prominent contender for the new chair, is unlikely to be picked because of his relative youth and inexperience, another Faculty member familiar with the search said yesterday.

"Danny was thought to be qualified but too young, so I don't think the chair will be filled in the near future and my guess is that there will be another committee set up in a year or two to deal with this," the Faculty member said. Goldhagen is 37.

Reached yesterday, Goldhagen declined to comment on any aspect of the search.

In addition, the committee recently came close to offering the chair to Saul Friedlander, a Holocaust scholar at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), with the expectation that he would serve in an interim capacity, the history professor, who asked not to be named, said.

Friedlander has recently published the first volume of a project called Nazi Germany and the Jews.

"Friedlander is a giant in the field and if he was available he was getting the job," said the history professor.

The history professor and the Faculty member said the offer was not extended to Friedlander because he was too old and because he currently divides his time between California and Israel, where he teaches half the year at the University of Tel Aviv. Friedlander is in his 60s.

Christopher Browning of Pacific Lutheran University, author of Ordinary Men; Omer Bartov of Rutgers University; Dan Diner of the University of Essen in Germany; and Samuel Kassow of Trinity College are other candidates for the position.

The Faculty member familiar with the search said that although Browning, whose work Goldhagen has criticized, is a Holocaust scholar, he is not "Harvard material."

An academic maelstrom has formed around the new Zelaznik professorship for Holocaust and Cognate studies, which was created by a 1995 gift to Harvard by Kenneth Lipper, former deputy mayor of New York City.

Several scholarly voices have complained about the specific creation of a chair in Holocaust studies when the Faculty lacks a specialist in modern Jewish history.

In particular, Ruth R. Wisse, professor of Yiddish literature and comparative literature, is said to be opposed to having a Holocaust chair at all, instead favoring a more general scholar of Jewish history with an interest in the Holocaust.

Wisse told the Chronicle of Higher Education last month that it is crucial that the new professor be fluent in scholarship on Jewish culture.

"Needless to say, not everyone agrees with my definition of things," she told the Chronicle.

Reached yesterday, Wisse declined to add to those comments. She denied that she is a member of the search committee, although one member of the committee and two other Faculty members all said she sits on the committee.

The other committee members are Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies Charles S. Maier, the chair; Professor of Government Michael J. Sandel; Hrushevs' Kyi Professor of Ukrainian History Roman Szporluk; and Mellon Professor of History Edward L. Keenan.

A member of the search committee, commenting on the committee's deliberations, said, "Surely you would expect that people on the same committee would have more than one view."

The search committee member added that "substantial familiarity with the Jewish dimension" was an important factor in the committee's decision.

Goldhagen and the four other leading national Holocaust experts recently gave lectures at Harvard, drawing large crowds.

Stalled in its search, committee members are said to have sought an interim candidate to fill the chair and apparently settled on Friedlander.

"There was discussion whether they wanted to continue trying to find a full time chair and not ruin the momentum or to find some kind of temporary appointment," said the history professor.

"I don't think we're likely to have a full professor in residence by next September," Maier told the Chronicle.

When asked where he would go if he did not receive tenure at Harvard, Goldhagen replied: "Who says I am going anywhere?

A member of the search committee, commenting on the committee's deliberations, said, "Surely you would expect that people on the same committee would have more than one view."

The search committee member added that "substantial familiarity with the Jewish dimension" was an important factor in the committee's decision.

Goldhagen and the four other leading national Holocaust experts recently gave lectures at Harvard, drawing large crowds.

Stalled in its search, committee members are said to have sought an interim candidate to fill the chair and apparently settled on Friedlander.

"There was discussion whether they wanted to continue trying to find a full time chair and not ruin the momentum or to find some kind of temporary appointment," said the history professor.

"I don't think we're likely to have a full professor in residence by next September," Maier told the Chronicle.

When asked where he would go if he did not receive tenure at Harvard, Goldhagen replied: "Who says I am going anywhere?

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