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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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The Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) is funded by:


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