“Every democracy must be stimulated, challenged and developed – continuously. Democracy lives and thrives through self-critical confrontation with the past – personal and collective – and by scrutinizing the assumptions of earlier generations. Where such reflection does not take place, people adhere rigidly to generationally-transmitted patterns of thinking, feeling and action. Lack of reflection allows far-right and nationalistic forces present outmoded messages of salvation that develop their own dynamics and create new injustice.
By means of dialogue my work, in an interdisciplinary and international fashion, confronts the past to develop tasks for the present so that society can withstand anti-democratic, antisemitic and racist trends and movements in the future.”
Alexandra’s central themes
- Biographical work, life portraits, political analysis
- Intergenerational consequences of the Holocaust, especially for perpetrators’ descendants
- Dialogue between descendants of Holocaust survivors and of Nazi victimizers
- Storytelling and dialogue in intractable conflicts based on the resolution approach of Israeli psychologist Dan Bar-On
- Israel and Palestine: the conflict and the Peace Movement
- Germans vis-a-vis Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East Conflict
- Anti-Semitism, populist hostility to Muslims, antiziganism and racism
Senfft presents and discusses her areas of expertise in Germany and abroad. She lectures, participates in round tables and panels, speaks on radio and TV, features in film documentaries. Outside of Germany, Senfft has presented her work for example at the University College London (UCL), the Leo Baeck College (London), Facultad de Ciencias Sociales (University of Buenos Aires), Ben Gurion University (Israel), Harvard University (Boston), Queens University (Charlotte, North Carolina), in synagogues in Birmingham (Alabama), Savannah and Augusta (Georgia), in Austen Riggs Center (Stockbridge, USA), Goethe Institute, Bratislava (Slovakia) or Heinrich Heine Haus (Paris).
Her book, Silence Hurts: A German Family History («Schweigen tut weh. Eine deutsche Familiengeschichte», Ullstein Buchverlage, Berlin 2007) won the German ‘Best Biography Award’ . The book was translated into Slovakian and published in Bratislava in September 2018.
Alexandra’s book Strange Enemy, so far. Encounters with Palestinians and Israelis («Fremder Feind, so nah. Begegnungen mit Palästinensern und Israelis») was released in 2009, and in 2016 she published The Long Shadow of the Perpetrators. Descendants face their Nazi family history («Der Lange Schatten der Täter. Nachkommen stellen sich ihrer NS-Familiengeschichte»).
She is an active member of the Working Group for Intergenerational Consequences of the Holocaust, PAKH, in the East-West-Forum, as well as a member of Pro Asyl and Reporters without Borders
Deeply ignorant – Pascal Bruckner’s hateful verbal crusade
In his controversial book published in 2020, French author Pascal Bruckner describes anti-Muslim sentiment as a fiction, claiming that the term “Islamophobia” is being used to silence criticism of the religion. Alexandra Senfft responds by highlighting the contradictions in a popular view of Islam and Muslims that leaves little room for nuance
Qantara.de, 17 February 2021
Opponents of Covid-19 restrictions embrace idea of fighting totalitarian German state
Derek Scally, The Irish Times, 23/11/2020
The long and public reckoning that followed the Holocaust shows a path forward for a United States that desperately needs to confront its racist past.
“In her [Senfft’s] estimation, even now, the Nazis have been “othered,” as if the evil hadn’t taken root in Germans’ own families and neighborhoods. Those who did confront the crimes of their ancestors could not have been prepared for what that realization would feel like…
In American textbooks and schools and families, the same phenomenon that Senfft described of Nazism is true.”
By Mattie Khan, Vox.com
Israel: Hundreds of thousands protest against “Crime Minister” Benjamin Netanyahu, by Alexandra Senfft
Kochav Shachar says she is currently a full-time activist. Since June, the 22-year-old Arabic student from Tel Aviv has been taking part in demonstrations against her government, often up to four times a week. On Saturday October 10th, nearly 200,000 people vented their anger. They protested against their “Crime Minister”, against Prime Minister Netanyahu, accused of corruption, indignant at his mismanagement of the Covid 19 crisis. A common slogan is “Lech”, Hebrew for “go”.
“Kochi”, Shachar’s nickname, belongs to the minority of those activists for whom Netanyahu’s demission alone would not mean much progress. They are more concerned with the political and economic forces that keep him in power. Kochi and her fellow campaigners therefore want to link different political issues and encourage discourse about the state of Israel’s democracy. They stand up for human rights and are against the occupation of the Palestinian territories, against racism and structural violence: “We must change the system and practice more solidarity,” Kochi is convinced. “There is lots of hatred here, not only between Israelis and Palestinians, but also between right and left, secular and religious people.” She is committed to campaigning for marginalized groups, especially the Palestinian citizens of Israel, but also the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She also supports the “Culture of Solidarity” movement that works to care for those who are poor, lonely and ill in the pandemic period.
Blaetter fuer deutsche und internationale Politik, Berlin, edition 9/20, September 2020
This article addresses the transgenerational consequences of the Second World War and the Holocaust for the descendants of the Nazi perpetrators and bystanders. Using the example of her own family, the author traces the external obstacles and the psychological difficulties arising from working through a legacy of crime, compounded by the fact that an atmosphere of taboos, silence and denial has persisted within German families – in spite of all the research and enlightenment in the academic and political spheres. The author argues that the patterns of feeling, thinking and action are often passed down when they are not scrutinised. Meaningful dialogues with the survivors and their descendants, as well as authentic remembrance, the author claims, can only take place if descendants of the victimisers break away from those generationally transmitted narratives which continue to evade the entire truth about the crimes committed by the Nazis and their accomplices in Europe.
European Judaism, Volume 53, September 2020
The Israeli government’s annexation plans caused diplomatic waves that the Middle East has not experienced for a long time
Israel: After three indecisive elections Israel has now two rotating Prime Ministers
First published in: Der Freitag, Nr. 21, May 20, 2020
Bibi Netanyahu (Likud) and Benny Gantz (Blue and White) will therefore rotate as prime ministers in the future. But the mood in Israel is sour, the population mostly indifferent. No wonder, after three parliamentary elections and over a year of political tug-of-war, this compromise with the most expensive cabinet in history, 36 ministers and 16 deputies, was a difficult birth. In any case, everything has remained the same–the right wing and ultra-religious keep the say, Netanyahu remains their prime minister for the time being. It sounded correspondingly hollow when his designated successor, Gantz, announced that the greatest political crisis had now been overcome and that it was now the moment to reconcile. Potential opposition leader Yair Lapid immediately sneered: the Israelis deserved better, they “hate politicians and politics” to which there is “no longer any connection” in their “real life”. He thus also accused his former ally Gantz, who broke his election promise not to form a coalition with the indicted Netanyahu.