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Due to the new regulations, the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies will be closed until 2 May 2021.

This concerns the archive, library and museum.

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.

Maayan Armelin

Junior Fellow (10/2020 – 3/2021)


Leadership Styles and Social Relations in the SS-Einsatzgruppen


Web ArmelinThis doctoral dissertation studies the SS-Einsatzgruppen, mobile squads who murdered over a million and a half Jewish and non-Jewish civilians in the Nazi-occupied Soviet Union. The project explores officers’ leadership styles and particular social relations within the units and how these affected members’ apparent willingness to perpetrate mass murder. The research draws on historical literature discussing cohesion and comradeship in military and paramilitary units during the Second World War and traces the operating structures, cultures, and social relations of various institutions under the Nazi regime. Combining social psychological concepts such as social identity theory, inter-group relations, leadership, and conformity, the project analyses testimonies of former Einsatzgruppen members given in postwar Germany and Austria. It explains how crucial patterns of leadership and peer relations encouraged individual Einsatzgruppen members to engage in mass violence.


Maayan Armelin is a PhD candidate at the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University. She holds a BA in History and Psychology and an MA in Social Psychology from the University of Haifa. She has received fellowships from the Claims Conference (2014–2019) and EHRI (2017–2018) and previously worked at the Strochlitz Institute for Holocaust Research at the University of Haifa and on the editorial board of the Journal of Holocaust Research.

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