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Suzanne Swartz
Junior Fellow (10/2014 - 08/2015)

Hidden Encounters: Interactions among Jewish and Christian Children in Nazi-Occupied Warsaw


Swartz webThis project examines the illegal, clandestine, and chance interactions among Jewish and Christian children in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Encounters most frequently came about through some form of resistance to Nazi authority. Contact took place within spaces that children created for themselves, such as smuggling or peddling rings, and within spaces or circumstances constructed or controlled by adults, such as orphanages, convents, or private homes where families hid Jews. Children’s interactions in dangerous situations were often complex combinations of both peaceful and combative, and motivations for assisting each other moved within gray areas of altruism and self-survival. This study examines children’s encounters in wartime spaces and across boundaries, to demonstrate how children moved within and pushed against limitations of Nazi oppression.


Suzanne Swartz is a History PhD candidate at Stony Brook University in New York, where she received her M.A. in 2013. B.A.: Colby College, 2007. Past program participation: German Historical Institute's Archival Seminar, Auschwitz Jewish Center Fellows Program. In 2012 she was a Lipper Intern for Holocaust Education at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Research interests: children's resistance, Polish-Jewish relations, memory, Holocaust education.

Sari J. Siegel

Junior Fellow (03/2015 - 08/2015)


Between Coercion and Resistance. Jewish Prisoner-Physicians in Nazi-Camps


Siegel webThe research examines an important yet widely overlooked group in Holocaust history—Jewish inmates who utilized their medical knowledge in Nazi camps. Focusing on the labour, concentration, and extermination camp systems in the Reich between 1938 and 1945, it draws particular attention to the dynamic natures of camp conditions and the prisoner-physicians’ strategies to save their own lives as they attempted to treat fellow inmates and uphold their Hippocratic promise to ‚do no harm.‘ The work combines survivor testimonies and legal documents with contemporary government and organisational records for insight into how contextual variables and individual traits shaped the actions of these doctors in the camps. Since the prisoner-physicians’ medical activities placed them within survivor and memoirist Primo Levi’s ‚gray zone‘, analysis of their behavioral shifts allows to illuminate a new aspect of this morally ambiguous realm.


Sari Siegel is a doctoral student supervised by Prof. Wolf Gruner at the Univ. of Southern California. Born and raised in New York, she received her BA with Distinction in History from Yale Univ. She is the American recipient of the 2014 IfZ-USHMM Exchange of Scholars Award and a 2014-15 Kagan Fellow. She has presented her research at several international conferences, and her article Treating Dr. Maximilian Samuel: A Case Study of an Auschwitz Prisoner-Doctor will appear in a forthcoming issue of Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

Justyna Majewska
Junior Fellow (11/2018–05/2019)


Visions of the Social Changes in the Warsaw Ghetto between 1940 and 1942


MAJEWSKAAnalysing social changes that emerged in the Jewish community when trapped in the Warsaw Ghetto, my doctoral dissertation explores these shifts through the lenses of Jews, Nazi Germans, and Poles.
Drawing on social studies theories, I examine the Warsaw Ghetto as an area of various, rapid, and traumatic social changes. Originating in terror, plunder, and separation, these led to the pauperisation and degradation of social structures. My analysis is fixed between 1940 and 1942, when the isolated Jewish community was most susceptible to changes in social structure. Nevertheless, I show that various social and political processes had their origins in the 1930s and beyond.


First, I analyse the process behind the establishment of the Warsaw Ghetto. Starting from the Nazi understanding of the term ghetto before the war, I scrutinise the process of establishing the Warsaw Ghetto in comparison to other ghettos in occupied Poland and in the context of the “Nisko” and “Madagaskar” resettlement plans.


Fears and predictions regarding life in the ghetto were core elements of the Jewish perspective. Responses to the imposed reality were rooted in personal experiences as well as the history of the persecution of Jews across Europe. Although the Nazis saw the Jewish community in the ghetto as homogeneous, it was a complex group. In the imposed ghetto reality, various political circles remained active. Zionists, Socialists, and Bundists, acculturated and religious Jews pondered not only how to survive the present but also their future. Intense debates focussed on the expected social structure of Jewry, the language Jews would speak, education, and the professions the post-war generation would pursue.


Finally, my dissertation addresses the issue of the Polish perspective on the ghetto phenomenon. Starting from Polish ideas of dealing with national minorities proposed by Polish right-wing politicians and intellectuals in 1930s, I aim to examine the extent to which Poles, especially the intelligentsia, were able to change their pre-war negative attitude towards Jews.
In the dissertation, I will use documents from the Underground Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto (Ringelblum Archive) as well as other wartime and post-war documents from the Jewish Historical Institute at Yad Vashem and the USHMM. I will also use documents of German authorities and draw from the Polish press and diaries of intelligentsia.


Justyna Majewska is a PhD candidate at the Graduate School for Social Research at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw. She works in the Research Department of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. She is also a member of the editorial board of the Polish scholarly journal Zagłada Żydów. Studia i materiały (Holocaust Studies and Materials).


She received her MA in Cultural Studies from the Maria Curie-Sklodowska University in Lublin and completed a postgraduate certificate course in Exhibiting Contemporary History at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena. She was an EHRI fellow at the Yad Vashem Institute. She is an editor of the Kalisz letters published by the Jewish Historical Institute in a series of scholarly editions of documents from the Ringelblum Archive. She has published in Zagłada Żydów. Studia i materiały and East European Jewish Affairs.

Jonathan Kaplan

Junior Fellow (10/2018–06/2019)


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the German Democratic Republic and the National Socialist Past


KAPLANThis project deals with different perspectives on the post-war confrontation with the National Socialist past in the East German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. First, I analyse biographies of former members of the National Socialist Party and of other Nazi organisations who after 1945 developed a diplomatic career in the GDR. I then turn to the story of East German Jewish diplomats and politicians and portray their significant role in designing GDR foreign policy. The political attitude of these Jewish diplomats towards Israel, Zionism, and the Jewish world had a central place in their diplomatic activities. An example of confronting historical issues in actual foreign policies will be given by concentrating on the GDR’s international campaigns against former Nazi criminals in the Federal Republic. These efforts were followed by publishing incriminating material on former Nazis and by reaching out to and co-operating with international Jewish organisations. The confrontation of “the first Socialist state of workers and farmers on German soil” with its own past, despite its initial denial of this past, paints a fascinating picture of post-war German society that affects Germany to this very day.


Jonathan Kaplan is a PhD candidate in History at the Free University of Berlin. He holds a BA in Political Science and History and an MA in History from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His MA thesis was entitled ‘The German Question’ in the East-German Historiography, 1945–1961. Culture, Territory and Enemies. From 2009 to 2012, he was a fellow at the Richard Koebner Minerva Center for German History.

Benedetta Carnaghi

Junior Fellow (09/2018–02/2019)


Feeding the Concentrationary Universe. How Nazi Spies Contributed to Deportation in the Second World War


CARNAGHIBenedetta Carnaghi’s dissertation compares the activity of spies in the Italian Fascist secret police, called OVRA (Organizzazione per la Vigilanza e la Repressione dell'Antifascismo), and its Nazi counterpart, the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei), from 1927 (the genesis of the OVRA) to 1945.


Her plan is to shift the focus from institutional stories of the police to a detailed analysis of the police informers’ profiles and motives, while using history as a tool for actively engaging in current debates about surveillance. The specific goal of her stay at the VWI is to lay the groundwork for a chapter of her dissertation that will investigate the connection between spying and deportation.


She aims to look at the scale and chain of command of the Nazi terror system from the bottom up: The last wheels of this system were spies, who pretended to be allies of the antifascist resistance members, but constantly worked to feed their names to the Nazi regime. Who were these spies? What motivated them to orchestrate the arrest and deportation of resistance members, Allied soldiers, and Jews?


Benedetta Carnaghi is a PhD candidate in History at Cornell University. She has been the recipient of numerous fellowships, most recently from the Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, the Chateaubriand Fellowship Program, the Lemmermann Foundation, and Trinity College’s Cesare Barbieri Endowment.
Her most recent article Three Layers of Ambiguity. Homosexual Spies and International Intrigue in Fascist Italy was published in the 2017 special issue of The Space Between. Literature and Culture 1914–1945.

Kathryn L. Brackney

Junior Fellow (10/2018–06/2019)


Phantom Geographies: An Alternative History of Holocaust Consciousness


BRACKNEYMy dissertation poses two major questions: Why have realism, fragmentation, and minimalism become the primary aesthetic conventions of Holocaust memory in Western Europe, North America and Israel? Before these conventions predominated, how did writers and artists describe the destruction of Europe’s Jewish communities? The sources in this project speak to the wide range of imaginative strategies used by figures such as Avrom Sutzkever, Anna Langfus and Claude Lanzmann to work through the past, and reveal an interplay between an under-studied surreal tradition of representation and more canonical modes of remembering the Holocaust. With a particular focus on spatial configurations of memory, I show how portrayals of victims and survivors have moved over time from an otherworldly “Planet Auschwitz” to the intimate domestic spaces of documentary testimony.


Kathryn L. Brackney is a PhD candidate in the field of modern European intellectual and cultural history at Yale University. Her research has been supported by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the USC Shoah Foundation, DAAD, and the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism.

Pavel Baloun

Junior Fellow (10/2017–07/2018)


“Slaughter them all!” Collective Violence and the Dynamic of Anti-Gypsy Measures in Czechoslovakia Between 1918 and 1942


BALOUNThis project examines the processes of creation and implementation of anti-Gypsy measures in interwar Czechoslovakia and after the Nazi occupation of Czech lands in 1939. The analysis focusses on the ways in which various state authorities such as gendarmerie, municipalities, district offices, courts etc. dealt with the population labelled as Gypsies and conflicted over their status, while simultaneously exploring their agency and defensive strategies. Another intention is to trace the demands for a ‘solution of the Gypsy question’ in the 1930s in order to explore the dynamic of anti-Gypsy measures at the beginning of the Second World War in Czechoslovakia and the Nazi-occupied Czech lands along with their violent consequences.


Pavel Baloun is a Ph.D. candidate in Historical Anthropology at the Faculty of Humanities, Charles University in Prague. He is currently collaborating with the Terezín Initiative Institute on the project Database of the Roma Holocaust Victims in Czech Lands.

Elisabeth Weber

Junior Fellow (10/2017–07/2018)


The First World War and the Emancipation of Romanian Jews


WEBERRomania only decreed the full equality of its Jewish population immediately after the end of the First World War. There had been hefty conflicts over whether and how Romania’s Jews were to be emancipated since the middle of the nineteenth century, with the topic being considered by governments and Jewish organisations in Romania as well as in Western Europe and the USA. This project examines the debate surrounding the emancipation of Romania’s Jews during the First World War. The point of departure for this analysis is the Uniunea Evreilor Pământeni (Union of Indigenous Jews), founded in 1910, and its efforts towards the emancipation of the Romanian Jews and against antisemitism in Romanian society. As the activities of the union were always related to the actions and positions of the Romanian government, the great powers, and western Jewish organisations, these perspectives will – following Michael Werner and Bénédicte Zimmermann’s notion of histoire croisée – be examined in all their manifold interconnections. This will allow for the logic of the various agents to be examined against the background of the lines of conflict manifesting themselves during the war on the international, national, regional, and inner-Jewish levels.


Elisabeth Weber is a Ph.D. candidate in the research group The First World War and the Conflicts of the European Postwar Order (1914–1923) or: The Radicalisation of Antisemitism in Europe at the Centre for Research on Antisemitism at the Technical University in Berlin. From 2009 to 2013, she worked on various exhibitions at the Deutsches Historische Museum in Berlin. Since 2016, she has been involved in various book and exhibition projects among others for the Berlin City Museum.

Alicja Podbielska

Junior Fellow (10/2017–05/2018)


The Memory of Holocaust Rescue in Poland


PODBIELSKAWhen, how, and why did Polish rescuers become official national heroes? They constituted a minority, threatened with denunciation by their fellow countrymen. After the war, fearful of their neighbours’ reactions, they kept their actions secret. Concomitantly, a narrative about widespread and community-supported assistance emerged in official discourse. In Polish collective memory today, the rescuers represent the entire nation’s heroism and provide an alibi against any allegations of antisemitism. Examining aid to Jews in present-day Polish public discourse and culture, I explore how the focus on rescue became the preferred, indeed the only acceptable, mode of Holocaust memory. Prolific commemoration of rescuers, I argue, does not complement but overshadows remembrance of the victims.


Alicja Podbielska is a Ph.D. candidate at the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University. She has worked at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and received fellowships from EHRI, Yad Vashem, and the USHMM in Washington, D.C.

Franziska A. Karpinski

Junior Fellow (02/2018–06/2018)


In Defence of ‘Honour’ and ‘Masculinity’. Social Pressure, Violence, and Punishment within the Nazi Elite 1933–1945


KARPINSKIThis project examines how the concepts of collective and individual honour and masculinity were defined, negotiated, and practised within the SS, as well as how these concepts fuelled violent peer interaction. Rooted in Holocaust perpetrator research, I explore perpetrator peer dynamics within the SS, based on a close reading of archival material such as SS directives, SS court documents, private letters, and internal correspondence amongst the SS leadership. This analysis will be embedded into a discussion of socio-political conditions of the Third Reich. Honour and masculinity became state-sanctioned entities, interwoven with the fabric of National Socialism, its judicial, social, and political institutions, as well as concepts used in daily interactions. Within this framework, specific ‘SS-worthy’, i.e. honourable behaviour and unconditional loyalty was especially demanded within the SS, which conceived of itself as an elite order of political soldiers in the service of Nazism. Particularly, I examine what was considered ‘SS-worthy’: What ‘virtues’ and ‘ideals’ did the SS leadership prescribe for SS members? How were masculinity and honour appropriated by the SS and woven into mandatory SS directives? Why, how, and with what consequences did this appropriation happen? What implementation mechanisms were to translate masculinity and honour into entities informing SS peer interaction? Mechanisms of implementation towards the dishonourable were punitive and shaming in nature and included SS court-ordered dismissals, expulsions, incarcerations, disciplinary measures, and social ostracism. I will also highlight how shame and shaming within the framework of the SS functioned as a tool of social control and punishment. An analysis of honour, masculinity, and emotional dynamics within the SS can help understand its processes of radicalisation and both its immensely violent and self-destructive nature.


Franziska A. Karpinski, B.A. in North American Studies at the Free University in Berlin (2011), M.A. in Holocaust and Genocide Studies (with Distinction) at the University of Amsterdam (2012), has been a Ph.D. candidate at Loughborough University since 2014. She has been the recipient of an EHRI Fellowship at the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich and at the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen. Her latest publication is Sexual Violence in the Nazi Genocide – Law, Gender and Ideology, in: Uğur Ümit Üngör, Genocide. New Perspectives on its Causes, Courses and Consequences. Amsterdam 2016.

Junior Fellowships 2017/2018 at the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI)


The Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) invites applications for its junior fellowships for the academic year 2017/2018.

The VWI is an academic institution dedicated to the study and documentation of antisemitism, racism and the Holocaust. Conceived and established during Simon Wiesenthal’s lifetime, the VWI receives funding from the Austrian Ministry of Science, Research and Economy as well as the City of Vienna. Research at the institute focuses on the Holocaust in its European context, including its antecedents and its aftermath.

Ph.D. candidates from anywhere in the world are eligible to apply for a junior fellowship. Junior fellows will be able to work on a research project of their choice in the field of Holocaust studies at the institute. Beyond the research work itself, the stay at the institute is intended to encourage communication and scientific exchange among the fellows at the institute. Junior fellows will receive support and advice from the VWI as well as its senior and research fellows. Junior fellows are expected to regularly attend the VWI and take on an active role in the institute’s research activities.

Research projects are to focus on a topic relevant to the research interests of the VWI. Within this parameter, applicants are free to choose their own topic, approach and methodology. Fellows will have access to the archives of the institute. It is expected that fellows will make use of relevant resources from the collection in their research projects. Research results will be the subject of formal fellows' discussions and will be presented to the wider public at regular intervals. At the end of their stay, fellows are required to submit a short research paper which will be peer-reviewed and published in VWI‘s e-journal S:I.M.O.N. – Shoah: Intervention. Methods. Documentation.

Junior fellowships are awarded for a duration of between six and eleven months. Junior fellows will have a work station at the VWI with computer and internet access and will receive a monthly stipend of € 1,200. In addition, junior fellows who are not Vienna residents will receive accommodation funding of € 340 per month. VWI will also cover the costs of a round-trip to and from Vienna (coach class airfare or 2nd class train fare). There is an additional one-off payment of € 500 available for research conducted outside of Vienna or photocopying costs outside of the institute, where applicable.

Junior fellows will be selected by the International Academic Advisory Board of the VWI.

Applications may be submitted in English or German and must include the following documents:


  • completed application form,
  • a detailed description of the research project, including the research objectives, an overview of existing research on the topic and methodology (12,000 character max.)
  • two letters of recommendation (please indicate when sent separately),
  • list of publications (if applicable),
  • a CV (optional: with picture).


Please send your application in electronic format (if possible in one integral *.pdf-file) with the subject header "VWI Junior Fellowships 2017/2018" by 29 January, 2018 to:


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

If you do not get confirmation that we have received your proposal, please contact us.

Future junior fellows are advised to endeavour to finance a part of their fellowship via a stipend from the Stipendienstiftung der Republik Österreich  and to submit an application to this end after they have received notification of being awarded their fellowship.

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