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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.

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

 

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