of the texas book festival in austin. it will take place around the city's inner harbor. for more information about upcoming book fairs and festivals into watch our previous festival coverage click the book fairs tab on our website. >> couple things to mention. this is a free book festival and to keep it free and to keep it going, everyone is encouraged at whatever level you are comfortable with. to consider making a donation to the festival. you can do that online or in various spots around the festival. you will see the nation stations. after the talk today, she is taking questions.if you like
to ask a question because we after susan's talk today she is taking questions and if you like to ask a question you are asked to line up at the microphone here. she will speak for about half an hour. please don't ask your question from your seat but from your microphone. as someone who has written about civil rights in the south and my next book takes place in 1936 in nazi germany at the olympics. i cannot could not be more excited about being here in nashville with susan to hear about her new book. she's one of the leading philosophers of the time. this is such an important book for these times. she studied at harvard. she's taught at yale and tel aviv university. she is now the director of the einstein forum outside of
berlin. she's been in the u.s. on her book tour for about five weeks. i know she's looking forward to getting back home after a long book tour. please join me in welcoming susan neiman to nashville. thank you so much for coming. [applause] >> thank you. i am delighted to be here. and i want to start by saying a little bit about my own biography. the stuff that doesn't come in on the internet necessarily. because there's a sense i've been writing this book most of my life. i was born in atlanta in 1955 but my parent were yankee jews who moved to atlanta before i was born. you can imagine, we weren't really considered southerners be to make it worse or better,
my mother got involved in the campaign to desegregate the public schools in atlanta. so i spent a lot of my childhood dreaming of leaving atlanta for europe. which i knew about from the metal line books. - - matta --madeline books. [laughter] but looking back, your life starts to have a shape when you get to be a certain age. i'm glad i grew up in the south at a time where they were clear ideas of right and wrong innocence of progress. that's what probably led me to study philosophy although i probably wouldn't have admitted at the time and moral philosophy. i was working on a dissertation on - - for which it was easy to get a fellowship to spend a year studying in berlin in
1982. it was a time when very few americans and even fewer jewish americans set foot in the place. in fact, my mother told me, what will i tell my friends? [laughter] spending a whole year in germany. what i said at the time, now it's trendy to say they're doing their berlin year. at the time it wasn't cool. isn't it just as racist, 40 years after the war to blame the entire german nation for what happened during the war as it was for the germans to blame one or another group of people? it wasn't just the jews they didn't like, there were a bunch of others. i will forget all that and concentrate on - -. i was pretty surprised when i got there because it turned out
everybody i met in berlin, of course i was meeting a certain kind of person. people in their 20s and 30s. people who were usually pretty educated. usually, writers or artists or musicians. all they wanted to talk about was the war. and i was struck even then by the difference between what they were doing. with their history. and what americans were doing with our history. which was basically nothing. and i was already beginning to ask those questions at the tim . so there's a sense i've been writing this book for 40 years. 35, something like that. but there was and immediate
impetus to writing this book. i was watching president obama give the eulogy for the nine churchgoers murdered in charleston. and i was in tears. as i'm sure many of you were. but i also felt hopeful as it seemed as if president obama was carrying the country with him. you saw nikki haley take down the confederate flag. you saw walmart saying they were going to sell confederate memorabilia anymore. i said wow, america really is starting to reckon with its history. at the same time, two months later, the german people welcomed 1 million refugees. when i say welcome, i mean literally standing on train stations. thousands of people with open arms and signs saying welcome. you probably have heard there's been a backlash and there has
been but it is still the case that there are more people actively engaged in refugee integration then voted for our right wing party. when i say actively engaged, i mean people spending their time to teach the refugees german. to help them with bureaucracy. to play music and soccer with their kids. i know people have taken strangers into their homes. when my son and i try to buy as many groceries. as we could carry. we had a hard time finding a place that needed them. that was how active and engaged the citizens of germany were. and you have to think, is america would have done something comparable, we would have welcomed within two months, 5 million refugees.
[applause] >> on a fraction of the geographical space. so i decided to write this book and i thought, this is something i knew something about. and if america is going in the right direction, maybe they're ready to hear some lessons from somewhere else. before i thought i would give lessons to america, i thought, actually, i better find more about what americans now are doing with our history. so i went to spend half the year at oxford, mississippi at - - for racial reconciliation. i learned more about what's going on in the south. if i focus on the sound, it's by no means because i think it's only a problem in the south.
it is not. but the south is kind of a magnifying glass. those good and evil in the story. that's why the book is divided into three parts. one part talks about germany. one part talks about the south and the last part takes general lessons we can learn about questions like monuments, reparations, things that i know we have been thinking about. i want to go on, i guess i've already started. show you some images. you may have seen a picture of the holocaust monument in berlin. what's not entirely clear from the pictures is that it's in the center. this would be as if you would put a monument to slavery in the middle of the washington mall. this is the double is not just
a symbol of berlin. it is the symbol of the country now. it's not my favorite monument. though it's the most famous one. this is the largest and one of my favorites. the monument to the 13 million red army soldiers who died fighting fascism. we often - - i was just at the national world war ii museum. they know it was not just one at normandy. - - won at normandy. there were a lot of other things going. it's a moving monument. i didn't show the slide did you walk in, you see a whole huge statue of a woman in morning. then you go to this gateway to soldiers kneeling in honor of their fallen comrades. you walk down this park.it is gigantic. i urge you to see if you go to
berlin. there are 7000 red army soldiers buried here. - - died in the last battle days of berlin. you see this huge statue. when it was built, it was the largest statue in the world. i will show you where i would be. that would be me. and in one hand, he holds a child who he's rescued from the ruins. and then the other hand he holds a sword with which he smashed a swastika. another one of my favorite monuments, sometimes people say, nonviolence worked in america or with gandhi because they were civilized. but it wouldn't work against
totalitarian regimes. well, actually, it did. at least once that we know of. the - - passed in 1936 forbade jews and non-jews to marry. but they couldn't absolutely force those who were married before then to divorce. although they put a lot of pressure on them. they usually lost their jobs. some people stayed faithful to their jewish browsers. in 1943, in february, one of the darkest hours of the war. they decided to see if they could do a trial run and round up and deport 400 jewish men who were married to non-jewish german women. up until then, they'd been safe from being deported. so they rounded up these men and they put them in a holding
space that has now been destroyed. the women, most of whom didn't know each other, came down to the place where there were being held and said give us back our husbands. the gustaf and trained their guns on them. they said you can shoot us but were not leaving until you give us our amendment. and then they backed down and release the men. all of those people survived the war. this sculpture, which is another very moving sculpture. this sculpture was made by a daughter of one of those marriages. this is a monument to the book burning which take place in april 1933 before they actually started killing people. they burned books.
it's quite striking monument. you can see the scale on the left. it is a hole in the ground with empty bookshelves. because the nazis built - - burnt some of the great works of german literature. what's important to know, because we tend to think that the nazis were you know, ignorance. mob. people who didn't know any better. in the back on the left is the - - university. the biggest university in berlin. the highest proportion of nazi party members were educated. had college educations. it was students and professors who walked out of that university and brought those books right on that square.
now, there are for 23 monuments in berlin alone. i'm not going to show you all of them but i will show you one. these are called the stumbling stones. they were started by this artist on the right. about a four inch square brass plaque that are put in front of houses where mostly jews but other prisoners lived and were deported. eachplaque has a name , date of birth and date of death if known. people are required, if they want a stumbling stone. they're required to do some research. they cost about $125, which is not beyond the means of most people if they want to do it. they also to research the lives of the person being commemorated. they have to get permission
from city planning. thousands of people have done this. so it's scattered all over the city. to stumble over when you're on your way to the dentist or the grocery store or wherever you're going. to remind you that this terror took place in the middle of ordinary life. i particularly wanted to show you this one because brian stevenson told me he was inspired by that when he went to germany. that it was an important inspiration for his monuments but if you haven't seen it, go down next chance you get the i have read about it and send pictures but when i interviewed him in 2017, the monument was still under construction. so i was finally able to see it yesterday and i have never seen a finer memorial to anything.
what's interesting and where the stumbling stones inspired him, those of you for nodding and have seen it probably saw outside, there are parallel markers to the ones hanging up. the idea is for each county where the ej i has researched and found a lynching, each county should take back there are and change the iconography of the south. so that wherever, if you drive two miles, a plaque for another confederate battle. in addition to this, brian stevenson wants to have those memories as well. now, this is berlin right after the war. the question is, why did germany do all this work when
we are just beginning? since i don't suppose you think they are better people than we are, you might think they are worse. and you might think since not too many people know very much about the nazis. they have an image of their mind - - in their mind of cattle cars and gas chambers. and that's absolute evil and anything that doesn't rise to that level is not something we think about. we don't think about how it began. we don't know much about how it ended. so the view is, the minute before was over, the german people realize, oh my god. what have we done. and they fell on their knees and asked for forgiveness. well, it wasn't like that at all. here are in some places, allied
troops made germans walk through gas chambers. - - sorry, not gas chambers but concentration camps. you can see them smiling. and the view was that the germans were the worst victims of the war. it's quite funny. when it first came to germany in 82, i had a lot of friends who would tell me their parents have been not sees and they were ashamed and estranged from their families when they decided not to have children of their own. but nobody actually would tell me, my parents were nazis and they thought they were the worst victims. it took me a long time to realize that that was the general view. and they would say, we lost 7 million of our best and brightest. our country was divided. we lost a lot of territory. our cities were destroyed.
we were hungry. just barely alive. i hope you get the reference. and on top of that, these boger yankees want to say it was all our fault. who does that sound like? this was not just a view right after the war. in 1995, there was a very famous exhibit. - - exhibit which showed the - - committed war crimes on a systematic basis. up until then, many people in germany could say, it was the ss. a few bad apples. but the - - which had a few million men. if you weren't, you were doing something worse like guarding a concentration camp. the idea was the - - was clean, gallant.
and when this exhibit ran through germany from 1995-1999, you have thousands of people demonstrating against it. that science is our grandfathers were heroes. and the other says similar things. i'm standing with my grandfather. some of you caught the reference. but they did sound just like the defenders of the lost cause. why is this good news? i decided this is good news. and the good news is one of the most important things we can learn from the germans is that facing up to your shameful history is really hard. nobody wants to do it. we prefer to remember the good stuff. even at a personal level, i
forget a lot of stuff that's happened in my life that i choose to dwell on the nicer parts. my kids remind me, did you really forget about that? yeah i did. why dwell on it? but, as i like to say, a nations relationship to its history is like a grown-ups relationship to her parents. when you're a kid, you believe everything they say. when you're a teenager, maybe the opposite. but, if you're going to grow up and be a reasonably healthy human being, you need to sort through the things you got from your parents. and be able to say, you know, this is what i'm proud of. and i'd like to pass it onto my children. i'm glad my parents have those values. and on this one, i'm not so sure.
i just assumed do without it. seeing that even the germans had a really hard time going through that process. should make us feel okay, it's not surprising. the - - is the 1619 project. of course newt gingrich will get upset and push back. even the nazis pushed back. this is hard to do. and nevertheless, we are beginning to do it. these are germans pushing back at the demonstrators. saying, fascism is not an opinion. it's a crime. up above are people looking at all the pictures in the - - exhibit.
so, the germans have a large compound word for this process. words for a lot of things. i'll pronounce it for you but you won't get it right unless you spent a long time. - - [laughter]. sorry. and it means working off your past. okay. and this is a big process. it involves questions of justice. in west germany by the way, most of the criminals after - - did not get tried and did not get sent to jail. anymore than edgar ray who murdered the three civil-rights heroes in mississippi. took them 40 years to bring him
to trial. as we know, there are other people who need to be brought to trial. or let's say, convicted. but i am getting hopeful because i do think, and i'm not going to mince any words here. maybe in the last couple weeks, i don't have to. i think our current administration has forced white americans to be conscious of just how deep racism runs in this country. and there's not a blip, in an otherwise glorious history. we all knew there was slavery but then we fought a civil war. there was segregation but then we had the civil rights movement. i'm not one of those people that thought president obama's election would create a
post-racial future. but i did like many people think the ark of the - - of the moral arc was bending in the right direction. until this presidency. and i think the racism we have seen coming from that direction has forced americans to say wait a second, actually, the period between the end of the civil war and the beginning of the montgomery bus boycott is kind of a blank. for most white americans. myself very much included before i did this research. it's funny, i have been saying this for a few weeks when people - - i'm a silver lining kind of a person. but believe me, i've been in as much despair as anybody these past few years. but i have been seeing change with the new times published an article just this morning saying, confirming this is exactly what's happening. we see things like henry louis
gates tv series in his book on reconstruction. things like the 1619 project. which is not just a commemoration of slavery, but an attempt to look at american history from the perspective of slavery. not just as this unfortunate, unpleasant blip. but to talk about just how much america, for good and for bad. good in the sense that it was a source of a great deal of our wealth. and for bad, affected and drove the history of this country.i was asked by someone, if i thought - - i don't think she read the book. if i thought americans should treat confederate sites or tree
plantations the way germans treat not see sites? i started thinking, not the sites? the only not see - - not - - nazi sites are concentration camps.the idea of someone holding a party or a wedding at a concentration camp is just off the table. i know aoc got in trouble when she called the border concentration camps. that's because americans tend to confuse concentration camps and death camps. people did die in concentration chance but the main death camps were in poland. germany had hundreds of thousands of slave laborers worked and died. what was a plantation, for black people? i mean.
when i wrote - - i saved the question of reparations for the next to last chapter of my book because i wasn't sure what i thought about it.there are arguments for and against. i was particularly struck by the arguments of two african-american thinkers who i think very highly of. cornell west and - - will argue what the country needs is not reparations but democratic socialism. i live in a country that we have a conservative government. but bernie sanders is way to the right of angela merkel. believe it or not. [laughter] because germany considers healthcare, education, parental leave, months paid vacation, workers rights, those are rights.
those are called benefits. those are human rights. [applause] >> one call them rights instead of benefits, your head turns around. it's a completely different way of viewing them. i'm all in favor for having those things considered rights. but i started thinking, if a holocaust survivor in germany got the same rights as her fellow citizens, wouldn't we think she was owed something more as well for the pain and suffering? it's going to be a long conversation. but i must say when i finished that chapter last august but i said in my putting myself out on a limb? there's me and - - and i could never have guessed you would have five presidential candidates raising the question
six months later. hearings in the house of representatives. i do think for all that else is going on, we are moving in the right direction. i'm just about to be done and take questions. but i want to close this presentation with a plea. because working through our history is going to be crucial. i don't think we would have had this administration if we had been aware of how deep this history runs. but we have a more immediate task that combines remembering our history and doing something right now. one of the things that brian stephenson said to me when i
interviewed him two years ago was, we don't just need monuments marking lynchings. we need to remember our heroes too.there were white people in the south who were against slavery. and against lynching. and you don't know their names. and it is crucial that we know their names. there are three names i know because they were my heroes when i was growing up in the south. i was too young to be part of freedom summer. but i am hoping that enough if you know what freedom summer was. the older people in the audience will, especially those from the south. i've been shot that 40-year-old harvard graduates are going, what? my plea right now is for everyone and particularly young people to remember that james chaney, andrew goodman and michael swain are dyed for the right to vote. and there is nothing more important in the coming year then remembering those men and making sure that everyone you
know is registered to vote and get out to vote. doesn't matter what state you live in. that's the task ahead. thank you very much. [applause] >> if you have a question, please line up at the microphone to the left. we have 15 minutes for questions. just like many of you, susan is excited to see our next speaker. so she's going to remain here for that talk. her signing at the tent will take place in an hour after we are done here. as opposed to right after her talk. let's start with the questions. >> so, i was at a session yesterday afternoon. a black historian was on the panel and said that slavery was not america's original sin.
white supremacy is america's original sin. and it's a sin still very much alive. which makes sense to me because white supremacy explains all of our national sins. but i'm wondering, you pointed out there's good news. good things happening. what is your vision, what will it take whether you call it atonement or truth and reconciliation. what would that be in this country? what would atonement and truth and reconciliation - - how would you see that? what would that entail? what would that involve?>> i think part of it, this is the
good news. i bet you would not have used the word white supremacy two years ago. that was something you would have heard in departments of postcolonial studies at some university. the very fact it's become a mainstream term, seems to me to be good news. not to say, i think some of his work is already being done. things like the lost cause. what's the lost cause? when do the statues go up? aren't they just somebody to heritage? we are becoming informed. there is great stuff out there that is written for a general audience. i'm not talking about academic history. there is great stuff out there. those things need to be read, discussed, groups. there are any number of groups engaging in processes of racial reconciliation. truth and reconciliation. i think it's really important
that people of different races meet and speak face-to-face about race.i know a young black mississippian studying in new york who said everyone wants to be woke but they don't have the hard conversations. so that needs to be done. every county in the country needs to take back their lynching memorials from montgomery. but also to research who were the heroes? we don't just make memorials to anything in history. we make memorials to values. so what are the values that we want to have represented in our communities? other things need to be done. we need to work on the criminal justice system. and i think we need to have a serious investigation of what reparations - - i do think it's
a matter of justice that reparations are owed. i don't think anybody's got it worked out yet but i think that would be part of the process. but once again, we've all got to vote before that happens. >> thank you. i appreciate all of your efforts. and your books and such. your reading and your talking today. my daughter should be the one asking the question because she's a northwestern grad and also has spent a lot of time in poland. and married a german guy. who was a wonderful fellow. he's an outstanding human being. >> i can say that about many germans. >> i wanted to ask, what do you
see - - one of the things my daughter has brought home to us is how the polls have been victimized. by certain elements, particularly in germany. who hold themselves up to beholder than now. - - holier than thou. how do you see americans being able to walk this tight rope? >> i am a jewish-american but one of the things i have to emphasize is that the nazis were not just about the jews. first they went to the communist. then they went to the social democrats. then they went for jews, and
also gay people. and the slaavs in poland probably formed the largest number of not see victims. as horrible as the holocaust was, i say as a jew, we need to remember the other victims as well. >> so we don't see the jews of being a special segment of the population that were selected by the nazis? >> i think it's really complicated. it was different. but, you know, death is death and murder is murder. if you round up people and one polish or russian town and mowed them down in a ditch. and in another, you do the same
thing and one group was jewish and one was slavic, historians debate a lot to what extent the holocaust was unique. there was, he passed away - - >>. [indiscernible] >> the laws were quite complicated you know, there is a bulgarian french critic who said something that i try to follow as a maxim. he said the germans should talk about the uniqueness of the holocaust and the jews should talk about its universality. that's where i am. >> that's good. [applause] >> and i've got to say, a shout out to my mother who is no longer with us.
she wasn't a theologian or intellectual, but she raised me to believe if we say once a year, our ancestors were slaves in the land of egypt. then our place is to stand by the people whose ancestors were slaves in the land of georgia. >> good afternoon. i'm a two-time graduate of the university of mississippi so i'm acutely aware of things going on campus right now. as far as their confederate monuments and marches the students are getting involved in.my question is how did you enjoy your time or maybe not at the william winter institute and what did you find that was the most interesting? >> to my great surprise, and i'm somebody who's a little nervous crossing the mississippi state line. i said okay, nobody's going to bother you and the first thing that occurs to me is andrew good me and mickey schroeder. i made love to mississippi.
and i was just back there giving a reading from this book. and there is, like i say, - - of course oxford isn't representative. i spent time in the delta as well. talking to people who were related emmett till's trial and murder. mississippi somehow seems to have both the best and worst of this country. and of course i was based at the institute so i was meeting a lot of social justice activists. wonderful people. both adults and students. but also people, all of them were people who said that they had plenty of chances to go
elsewhere. and they chose to stay there and practice - - susan glisson quotes - - and she says, chuck said mississippi is the broadway of the movement and you don't leave broadway. so that was my thing. there's a lot of cognitive dissidents. people are so nice. and then you think wait a sec, if you know what the history of this country is. are they just being nice to me because i'm white and i can sound the ãatlanta of course is not considered the south but it's better than new york. but a lot of african-americans i met there said exactly the same thing. in fact, james meredith wife
died. - - was a professor at jackson state told me she came down from chicago. she never imagined living in mississippi. and there she is now. they have a very progressive mayor. african-american mayor. in mississippi. so it's a strange but fascinating place. i'd be happy to go back to work. >> if the democrats support unpopular policies based on principles like justice. including medicare for all that takes away private health insurance and reparations. are you concerned that divide to the electorate and helps reelect the opposition? >> it's a great question. i'm not a prophet. i got the last election wrong. [laughter]
>> but, that was the question. if you remember in the democratic primary of 2016. and i've got to say i supported bernie sanders. i voted for hillary when she became the nominee. but, i supported bernie sanders for a couple reasons. one is, i do live in a social democratic country that is far to the left of where he is. some of these things just seem self-evident to me. but the other thing is, i saw how excited my kids got which is really quite interesting to see a bunch of 20-year-olds saying, he's just telling the truth. this is what needs to happen. i haven't made a decision on who to support yet which is actually lovely that there's more than one candidate i'd be happy to support. i'd be happy to support virtually anyone.
there's more than one good candidate.so i'm not making a decision yet. but i think turnout and excitement is going to be at least as an poor and as anything else. by just having a sense of the heads nodding in this room. i bet a lot of people can remember how important turnout was in 2008. i knocked on doors for barack obama. i'm sure a lot of you did as well. we can't forget that we need to get out the vote of people who think it doesn't matter. >> i was wondering if you could discuss the reemergence of anti-semitism in the united states and globally. seems to me when these events occur, and we see this reemergence of jew hating an ask of violence against jews.
seems like an obvious harbinger of dividing lines in society. anti-semitism to me is also sort of aware of expressing hatred for outsiders. i know it's kind of a deep question but i was wondering if you could address that issue? >> i'm told i have five more minutes. let me try to address it briefly. i agree with you sir. i think it's actually something to worry about. and it is about being afraid of outsiders. there's something about living in a globalized world which is very different from living in an international world. the harbingers of internationalism are now apple and amazon. its global commerce rather than anything like international values.
which is why i think so many people are turning to nationalism and being afraid of outsiders. that's a general statement. i am worried about the rise of anti-semitism. and i am worried about something else which is that, although 75 percent of american jews oppose the current policy of benjamin netanyahu. often people on the left have swallowed benjamin netanyahu's lie that he represents the jews of the world. a lot of people on the left, progressive people opposed to the way the palestinians are being treated kind of stopped speaking against anti-semitism. so it is up to jews to stand up and say, look, first of all, we do not support racist policies in israel.
it's not even just racist against palestinians. it's racist against ethiopians. we don't support that. please remember, don't let anti-semitism cloud your vision about that. short answer to a long question. yes sir. >> i'm grateful for your talk. you've inspired me today. one of the monuments in berlin that really moved me and forgive me i can't remember the name. but it's the overturned chair by the table. it's in a courtyard and it looks like a family has been having dinner and some of knocked the door and they literally had to flee in that moment. the name escapes me. >> i've lived in berlin for 25 years and i'm not sure which one you're talking about. >> but there are 423 monuments. >> i will find it on my phone. it brought up for me the idea that sometimes things can change in a moments notice. and there can be a double or
something that just suddenly. world just watching trump and some things being said and then suddenly there's something outside the door and you have to flee. i wondered if you can talk about the tenor of the times and this idea with berlin, when things can change overnight. and are we really still asleep in some way to the potential of totalitarianism in that way? >> you are absolutely right. things can change. not in a minute but in a very short space of time. the hardest thing about writing this book is i began it in a different era. although it was only late 2015. i finished it last summer. three years later. and you know, the world changed. so we are living in the middle of that. we are also living at a moment
where certain people living in the white house and certain organizations like fox news want to keep it that way. want to keep the signals coming so fast that it's very hard for us to focus on the underlying stream. we are in danger of slipping into a fascist program. somebody who's been writing almost ceaselessly. - - who writes for salon.com and scott a podcast. there are people have been warning from the very beginning and trying to interview other people saying, these are the signs. none of us know what's going to happen right now. especially in the past couple weeks, you know. whether republicans will step
up finally to the plate or leave the sinking ship. i don't want to make any predictions. but i thank you for the reminder that it all goes way faster than you think. somebody asked you at oxford when i was talking, did i think - - they were trying to understand trump voters. did i think that hitler's base responded to him the way trump voters respond to him? i had to say, i hate to say this. i really hate to say this. but the first few years of hitler's administration. they were terrible if you are communist or a social democrat. but many of them went into exile. they weren't all that bad if
you were a jew. not until 1936, did you have the - - laws. so the first three years, it would have been reasonable for people to say, this is going to blow over. this is a horrible government. but, i'm a german citizen but i'm staying here which is how a lot of people lost their lives. very few people left before 1936. so the rest of the population, you have this horrible inflation and unemployment. so he actually kept some of his promises to his base. unlike other people i hate naming. so, that is worth remembering as well. that hitler did not start with gas chambers. he didn't even start with laws banning jews from marrying or go to school. you always start small.