Jan Philipp Reemtsma

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Jan Philipp Reemtsma (2014)

Jan Philipp Fürchtegott Reemtsma (born 26 November 1952, Bonn, West Germany) is a German literary scholar and political activist.


The son of Philipp Fürchtegott Reemtsma and Gertrud Reemtsma (née Zülch), he studied German literature and philosophy at the University of Hamburg (PhD), where he has been active as a professor of German literature since 1996.[citation needed]


Reemtsma founded the Arno-Schmidt-Stiftung (1981), the Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung (HIS; 1984) and the Hamburger Stiftung zur Förderung von Wissenschaft und Kultur (1984). With two exhibitions about supposed war crimes of the Wehrmacht[1] (Wehrmachtsausstellung) and a bestselling account of his experiences during a 1996 kidnapping (published in German as Im Keller in 1997, in English as In the Cellar in 1999, in French as Dans la cave in 2000 as well as in many other languages), Reemtsma has become known to a wider public. In the Germany of today, he has become a frequently cited reference in public debates.[citation needed]

The Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung[edit]

Reemtsma has been the director of the Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung (HIS) since he founded it in 1984. The three research units of the HIS are: Theory and History of Violence, The Society of the Federal Republic of Germany, and Nation and Society. Reemtsma also headed the working group that conceptualized the Institute’s 1995 umbrella project In the Light of Our Century: Violence and Destructiveness in the Twentieth Century. Within this framework, two exhibitions were realized:

  • “200 Days and 1 Century” focused on violence in the twentieth century and was presented in Germany, Austria, and in Caen, France.
  • an exhibition on crimes of the German Wehrmacht, the first of two highly publicized exhibitions which drew more than one million visitors at some forty venues in Germany, Austria, and Luxemburg.


Reemtsma advises and supports cultural and scholarly institutions in various positions, for example as a member of the board of trustees of the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States (Kulturstiftung der Länder, 1988-2006).


  • Wieland-Medaille (1984)
  • Copernicus Medal of the University of Kraków (1987)
  • Lessing Preis der Stadt Hamburg (1997)
  • Dr.h.c. Universität Konstanz (1999)
  • Gerhard Mercator Professor der Gerhard Mercator Universität Duisburg (1999)
  • Fine Arts Prize for Literature of Lower Saxony (2001)
  • Leibniz Medal of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences (2002)
  • Heinz Galinski Prize for fostering German-Jewish understanding (2003)
  • Dr.h.c. der Universität Magdeburg (2007)
  • Teddy Kollek Award of the Jerusalem Foundation (ceremony in Israel’s Knesset in October 2007)
  • Johannes Gutenberg Professur der Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz (2008)
  • Ferdinand Tönnies Medalle der Christian Albrechts Universität Kiel (2008)
  • Schiller-Professur der Friedrich Schiller Universität Jena (2008)
  • Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Influence of Sociology on Public Life of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Soziologie (German Sociological Association; 2009) *Jewish Museum Award for Understanding and Tolerance (Berlin; 2010)
  • Mannheim Schiller Preis (2011)
  • Schader Preis der Schader Stiftung, Darmstadt (2011).

Selected publications by Jan Philipp Reemtsma[edit]

In German[edit]

  • with Mauro Basaure, Rasmus Willig (eds.): Erneuerung der Kritik. Axel Honneth im Gespräch [Renewing Critique: A Conversation with Axel Honneth], Frankfurt a.M.: Campus, 2009
  • Vertrauen und Gewalt. Versuch über eine besondere Konstellation der Moderne [Trust and Violence: An Attempt to Understand a Unique Constellation in Modernity], Hamburg 2008
  • Lessing in Hamburg [Lessing in Hamburg], München 2007
  • Über Arno Schmidt: Vermessungen eines poetischen Terrains [About Arno Schmidt: Surveying a Poetic Terrain], Frankfurt/M 2006
  • Das unaufhebbare Nichtbescheidwissen der Mehrheit: Sechs Reden über Literatur und Kunst [The Majority’s Unalterable Lack of Understanding: Six Lectures on Literature and Art] München 2005
  • Folter im Rechtsstaat? [Torture in Constitutional States?], Hamburg 2005
  • Rudi Dutschke Andreas Baader und die RAF [Rudi Dutschke Andreas Baader and the RAF], Hamburg 2005 (with Wolfgang Kraushaar and Karin Wieland)
  • Warum Hagen Jung-Ortlieb erschlug. Unzeitgemäßes über Krieg und Tod [Why Hagen Slew Jung-Ortlieb: Untimely Thoughts on War and Death], München 2003
  • Verbrechensopfer. Gesetz und Gerechtigkeit [Victims of Crime: Law and Justice], München 2002 (with Winfried Hassemer)
  • Die Gewalt spricht nicht. Drei Reden [Violence Does Not Speak: Three Lectures], Stuttgart 2002
  • Wie hätte ich mich verhalten? und andere nicht nur deutsche Fragen [How Would I Have Acted? And Other, Not Only German Questions], München 2001
  • Der Liebe Maskentanz. Aufsätze zum Werk Christoph Martin Wielands [Love’s Masquerade Dance: Essays on the Works of Christoph Martin Wieland], Zürich 1999
  • Das Recht des Opfers auf die Bestrafung des Täters - als Problem [The Victim’s Right to Punishment of the Perpetrator – as a Problem], München 1999
  • Mord am Strand. Allianzen von Zivilisation und Barbarei. Aufsätze und Reden [Murder on the Beach: Alliances of Civilization and Barbarianism: Essays and Lectures], Hamburg 1998
  • Der Vorgang des Ertaubens nach dem Urknall. 10 Reden und Aufsätze [The Process of Turning Deaf after the Big Bang: Ten Lectures and Essays], Zürich 1995
  • Das Buch vom Ich. Christoph Martin Wielands “Aristipp und einige seiner Zeitgenossen”. [The Book of Ego: Christoph Martin Wieland’s “Aristipp and Some of His Contemporaries”], Zürich 1993

In English[edit]

  • “Tolerance: Where Something Is Missing”, in: Alfred Herrhausen Society for International Dialogue (ed.): The End of Tolerance? London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing 2002
  • “The Concept of the War of Annihilation: Clausewitz, Ludendorff, Hitler”, in: Hannes Herr, Klaus Naumann (Eds.) War of Extermination: The German Military in World War II, 1941 – 1944, New York: Berghahn Books 1999
  • In the Cellar, New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1999 (British edition: London: Secker & Warburg 1999)
  • “The German Standpoint concerning Science and Education”, in: Przeglad Lekarski, Vol. 1, 1998
  • More Than a Champion: The Style of Muhammad Ali, New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1998
  • “State Terror”, in: M. Oehmichen (ed.): Maltreatment and Torture, Lübeck: Schmidt-Römhild 1998
  • “Turning Away from Denial: Hitler's Willing Executioners as a Counterforce to ‘Historical Explanation’”, in: Karl D. Bredthauer/Arthur Heinrich (eds.): Aus der Geschichte lernen/How to Learn from History. Verleihung des Blätter-Demokratiepreises 1997, Bonn 1997
  • “R.J.B. Bosworth: Explaining Auschwitz and Hiroshima. History Writing and the Second World War, 1945-1990”, Book Review, in: Journal of Modern History, 69/1, March 1997
  • “Wolfgang Sofsky: Die Ordnung des Terrors. Das Konzentrationslager”, Book Review, in: International Review of Social History, Vol. 40, Part 1, April 1995

In French[edit]

  • Theodor W. Adorno, Mes rêves [Texte imprimé]; édition établie par Christoph Gödde et Henri Lonitz ; (postface de Jan Philipp Reemtsma) Paris 2007
  • Dans la cave, Paris: 2000
  • « 1946 - Le rapatrié de guerre chez Wolfgang Borchert et Arno Schmidt » in: Francine-Dominique Liechtenhan (ed.), Europe 1946. Entre le deuil et l’espoir, Bruxelles: Éditions Complexe 1996, 289-296
  • Confiance et violence. Essai sur une configuration particulière de la modernité, Paris: Editions Gallimard 2011