Thomas Pekar is Professor of German Language, Literature and Culture at the Gakushuin University in Tokyo, Japan. He received his Habilitation in German literature at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, a Ph.D. in German literature and an M.A. equivalent in German, philosophy, politics and pedagogics from the University of Freiburg. For his Charles H. Revson Foundation Fellowship Professor Pekar conducted research on “Japan and the Jewish Emigration (1933-1945).”
Professor Pekar is the author of several publications, including “Experiences of Delocalization and Katabasis in the Literature of Exile and the Early Postwar Period in Germany,” in ed. Alexander Stephan’s Exile and Otherness: New Approaches to the Experience of the Nazi Refugees (Peter Lang Publishing, 2005) and Der Japan-Diskurs im westlichen Kulturkontext (Munich: Iudicium, 2003). He is the recipient of many awards, including a Research Scholarship of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science at Gakushuin University; the 2005 David Baumgardt Fellowship Award of the Leo Baeck Institute New York; a Research Grant from the Rikkyo University in Tokyo; a Research Grant from the state of Baden Württemberg; the Reintegration Grant from the German Academic Exchange Service; and the Gerhard-Wachsmann-Award from Oldenburg University Society. In addition to English he is fluent in German and proficient in French and Japanese.
During his tenure at the Center, Professor Pekar researched Japan’s role as Nazi Germany’s ally but also as a place of refuge from 1933 to 1945. He studied Japan as a transit land for thousands of Jewish immigrants fleeing Nazi-dominated Europe; the prominent Jewish immigrants who fled to Japan; and the Japanese control of Shanghai and the establishment of a ghetto there in 1943. Through his research, Professor Pekar showed how Japan’s historical images of Jews and Japan’s relationship with Nazi Germany influenced its “Jewish policies.” He used the Museum’s archival collections—namely oral histories, military records, and FBI files—to complete his research.
Professor Pekar was in residence at the Mandel Center from July 1 to September 30, 2008.