Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies

Staff projects

Dr Paul Moore

The German People and the Nazi Concentration Camps, 1933 - 1945

To what extent was Nazi Germany a “feel-good dictatorship”, in which ordinary Germans were “proud and pleased” about even the most repressive aspects of the regime, as some historians have argued? My research examines issues relating to popular opinion, propaganda, and the representation of violence in modern Germany by taking the concentration camps, the archetypal tool of Nazi terror, as its focus. I am currently completing my first monograph, on German popular opinion on the Nazi concentration camps in the period 1933-1945, to be published by Oxford University Press in 2019.

To what extent did the German public approve of the camps, and what was the nature and extent of their knowledge of them? Far from being kept secret, the camps were intended to be public knowledge – the opening of Dachau was announced in a press conference, and prominent prisoners were publicly paraded through the streets of their communities on their way to concentration camps. My study examines the wealth of propaganda on the camps alongside the unofficial exchange of information among members of the public as documented in memoirs, diaries and court cases. The concentration camp featured in conversations, rumours, even dreams and jokes, and in ways frequently at variance with the official image of these institutions. For some, the camp was a key part of everyday reality in the local community, while others experience the camps in a more mediated fashion.

With social divisions along lines of class, gender, region and confession to the fore, this study examines popular opinion on the regime in general and its camps in particular across the twelve year lifetime of the Nazi dictatorship, and assesses how changes in the camp system were reflected – or failed to be reflected – in popular attitudes towards extra-legal terror in the "Third Reich".

Dr Svenja Bethke

Clothing, fashion and nation building in the ‘Land of Israel’

How does clothing become fashion? To what extent does a consensual mode of dress emerge within a heterogeneous migrant society? How can clothing become political and to what extent can it express power relations? And which role does visual culture and photography play in communicating and enforcing changing clothing ideals? These questions lie at the core of my new research project, ‘Clothing, fashion and nation building in the Land of Israel’, that has been awarded a Marie Curie Individual Fellowship by the European Commission, to be hosted at the Hebrew University, the Yad Ben Zvi Institute in Jerusalem and the PHRC at De Montfort University from 2019-2021.

Taking the 'Land of Israel' as a case study, I argue that investigating clothing, fashion and aesthetic perceptions brings to the fore the agency of migrant groups and adds a personal dimension to the history of nation building. Focusing on the period from the 1880s – when large-scale migration began – until the foundation of the Israeli state in 1948, I will investigate how Eastern European and German Jewish immigrants expressed social, cultural and political belonging through clothing and to what extent they were able to enforce their ideologies in the course of nation building. I ask to what extent the immigrants influenced each other in developing a specific mode of dress, and how they referenced the socio-cultural and political practices of their countries of origin, as well as the clothing of Arab people and the Ottoman and British occupying authorities.

With an unprecedented focus on gender and visual materials, the project will draw from collections preserved by 15 archives in Israel, Poland and England, and 6 Israeli, German, American and Russian databases. The project will analyse private and public photographs and posters, and contextualise them against an assessment of written material and oral history interviews. I aim to develop a new methodology that will integrate approaches from fashion history and visual culture into the history of nation building to shed light on the processes of negotiation and power struggles on the micro level of a community.

Ghettos as Communities of Coercion

In my doctoral project and the resulting first book, I examined definitions of criminality and legal norms formulated by the Jewish Councils in the ghettos of Warsaw, Łódź and Vilna, set up by force by the Germans during the Second World War. I researched the internal institutions that the Jewish Councils established to persecute newly defined offences as well as the perceptions of ordinary ghetto inhabitants, thus strengthening the everyday life perspective within Holocaust studies. My book Tanz auf Messers Schneide: Kriminalität und Recht in den Ghettos Warschau, Litzmannschaft und Wilna [Dance on the Razor’s Edge: Criminality and Law in the Warsaw, Łódź and Vilna Ghettos] (Hamburg, 2015), has been awarded three international prizes, and is forthcoming in an English translation with Toronto University Press in 2020.

Following this, I became interested in survival strategies, patterns of behaviour and power struggles within these ghetto communities that do not fit into narratives of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviour still prevailing in Holocaust scholarship. In this context, I have been working on the topic of Jewish post-war reflections on criminality and morality in ghettos and on petition writing in ghettos, resulting in a forthcoming chapter in an edited volume, ‘Attempts to Take Action? Petitions to the Jewish Council head in the Łódź ghetto ’, in Wolf Gruner and Thomas Pegelow Kaplan (eds), Petitions Resisting Genocide: Negotiating Self-Determination and Survival in Societies under Oppression (New York and Oxford: Berghahn, 2018).

In my current research on ghettos, I call for an understanding of ghettos as communities of coercion, composed by force by the Germans and comprising highly heterogeneous individuals to integrate ambivalent patters of behaviour into Holocaust historiography. I emphasise that individual and collective strategies of survival and the patterns of behaviour developed under these circumstances were diverse, dynamic and ambiguous. Understanding ghetto communities in their full complexity allows for a comparative approach with other communities of coercion across time and space and to explore human behaviour at the edge of human existence.

Dr Raul Carstocea 

Marginality on the Margins of Europe – The Impact of COVID-19 on Roma Communities in Non-EU Countries in Eastern Europe

  • Funded by Research England, Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), 2020
  • Project partners: European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI), Flensburg, Germany

Research completed in 2020, I am currently working together with the German partner institution on co-editing a special issue of the Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe based on the project findings.

The project seeks to identify the impact of COVID-19 on Roma communities in ODA-eligible countries in Eastern Europe: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Ukraine. We argue that due to their widespread discrimination and endemic poverty, Roma communities are particularly vulnerable to the ongoing pandemic and in need of special assistance mitigating these vulnerabilities. Based on data collected by local organisations representing or working with Roma communities in the countries under consideration, our research seeks to test this hypothesis. In doing so, it proposes a mapping of the impact of the pandemic on Roma communities, identifying both commonalities and differences related to local contexts, varying with the sizes of the communities, their living conditions, the levels of racism, and respectively, the types of responses to COVID-19 taken by the state authorities in the ODA countries in question. 

Roma communities are among the most discriminated minority groups in present-day Europe. As communities living mostly in rural or deprived urban areas, having a much higher poverty rate than the majority population, and often experiencing very poor housing conditions, including overcrowding and limited access to clean water, the Roma are much more vulnerable to the ongoing pandemic. This is compounded by the pervasive racism Roma are exposed to, including allegations about poor hygiene, lack of compliance with social distancing rules, and their resulting scapegoating as spreaders of disease. In ODA countries in Eastern Europe, where state capacity for providing economic relief to mitigate the impact of prevention measures taken against COVID-19 is limited, Roma communities might be even more at risk. 

To date, only sparse anecdotal evidence exists in the form of news reports and accounts of local NGOs as to the disproportionately negative impact of the pandemic on Roma communities. The project thus aims at an evidence-based understanding of this impact, with a view to informing policies designed to mitigate it. This research will benefit the Roma communities in question, state and non-state stakeholders involved in policies regarding the Roma, while presenting potential lessons for other marginalised minority groups elsewhere in Europe.

Eastern Europe’s Minorities in a Century of Change 

  • Funded by Institute of Historical Research (IHR), ‘Our Century’: Thinking Back, Looking Forward Centenary Events Programme 
  • Project partner: British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES)

A series of eight podcasts to be released through the website of the BASEES Study Group for Minority History and other online platforms every two weeks from 13 September to 20 December 2021. 

This series of recorded interviews aims to reflect on the history of minorities and minority experiences in Central and Eastern Europe during the 20th century with each conversation focusing on a particular area, country, or historical period. Taken as a whole, the series intends to reflect on the role and place of minorities in national and local politics, as well as the international relations, of a region that encompassed the Soviet republics, the Baltics, Central Europe and the Balkans. Interviewees will be invited to discuss a wide range of questions based on their particular area of expertise (regional, thematic or chronological), while also being encouraged to reflect on the future of minority histories as an academic discipline and in mainstream educational practice. Each episode (up to 40 minutes in length) will be pre-recorded at the experts’ convenience and released every two weeks from 13 September.

Project aims

  • promote more inclusive and engaged approach to studying historical diversity in Eastern and Central Europe
  • broaden existing historical knowledge and practices in the study of the region and its different peoples and cultures
  • provide a voice for lesser-known or historically marginalised minority communities in the region
  • build on current and evolving transnational understandings of European history
  • engage the broader public in the ongoing conversations on minority experiences and history

Confirmed participants and expertise

  • Professor Orlando Figes (Birkbeck, University of London): Imperial Russian and Soviet history
  • Professor Cathie Carmichael (University of East Anglia): national identity, borders and violence in the Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean
  • Dr Mark Levene (University of Southampton): Jewish history and pattern of genocide in contemporary history
  • Dr Matthew Frank (University of Leeds): refugees and the history of international population transfers
  • Dr Raul Carstocea (University of Leicester): Romanian fascism and the history of interwar Romania
  • Dr Tomasz Kamusella (University of St Andrews): identity construction in Poland and the Baltics
  • Professor Molly Green (Princeton University): modern Greek, Ottoman and Mediterranean history
  • Professor Andrii Portnov (European University Viadrina): entangled history of Ukraine and its neighbours

Conference: Ethnicising Europe. Hate and Violence in Post-Versailles Europe

  • Funded by: Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies 
  • Project partner: Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies, Vienna, Austria 
  • Conference 6-8 July 2021, followed by publication of edited volume 

The collapse of the Central, Eastern, and South-Eastern European empires and the ensuing peace treaties following the First World War produced more than just new borders and new nation states. They also marked a new world order based on the principles of nationhood: The peacemakers of Paris placed the focus on territoriality and citizenship, while insisting on clinging to their overseas territories, denying the populations there the same rights. The impacts of these treaties are still disputed in historiography. Some view the treaties as a failure, as they were unable to ensure reconciliation, their shift from territorial to population policies having paved the way for forced population transfers, ethnic cleansing, and genocide; others highlight the opportunities these treaties provided.Some of the latest historiographical approaches see the First World War as part of a series of conflicts that did not come to an end until the late 1920s. It was only in the course of these civil wars and especially after the ensuing peace that the ‘nation’ became the dominant form of state organisation. Yet this transformation was neither swift nor seamless; in fact, the process was conflicted and nationhood as the most important body of loyalty remained deeply contested for decades. The peace can also be seen as an attempt to bring about an order corresponding to the new realities of nationhood. However, the experience of the new realities often involved forced choices. Whether the peace led to new conflicts or not, the belief in the regime of ethnicity went hand in hand with the legal creation of minorities and majorities, nations and nationalities, inclusion and exclusion. Forging a clear ethnic or national identity allowed no shades of grey.

Even after the implementation of the peace treaties was concluded, the new states remained fragile, their political stability was destroyed mostly from within, while the new borders continued to be highly disputed. Amidst all this uncertainty, many reflected on the recent catastrophe, trying to make sense of the war experience and the promoted future.

Dr Fransiska Louwagie

Dr Fransiska Louwagie is Associate Professor of French Studies in the School of Arts. Her work focuses on literary Holocaust testimony, on the memory and representation of the Holocaust in contemporary Francophone fiction and bande dessinée, and on broader issues of conflict, migration, bilingualism and self-translation.  She is the author of Témoignage et littérature d'après Auschwitz (Brill, 2020) and co-editor of several volumes, including, with Manu Braganca (eds.), Ego-histories of France and the Second World War: Writing Vichy (Palgrave, 2018) and with Anny Dayan Rosenman, Un ciel de sang et de cendres. Piotr Rawicz et la solitude du témoin (Kimé, 2013). 

She is currently the PI of ‘Covid in cartoons’, an AHRC-funded project partnered by Dr Di Levine (LIAS), Shout Out UK and Cartooning for Peace (352,054 at 100% FEC and £296,928 at 80% FEC, 2021-22). She also leads a GCRF IRDF ODA Block Grant project on ‘Political Cartooning and Peace-Building in Conflict and Post-Conflict Contexts’ (£9,676, 2020-21), which has commissioned international seed-projects led by university and community partners in South Africa, Kenya and Ivory Coast, again in collaboration with Dr Di Levine. Alongside Dr Alex Korb, she is a partner on a SSHRC interdisciplinary research project entitled ‘Narrative Art and Visual Storytelling in Holocaust and Human Rights Education’ (2019-22), which fosters collaborations in the fields of arts, human rights, and education. With Dr Imogen Wiltshire from History of Art, she co-organised the interdisciplinary symposium ‘Migration, Memory and the Visual Arts: Second-Generation (Jewish) Artists’ (May 2021), which will be published as a thematic issue of European Judaism (recordings can be found here). With Simon Lambert from Wallonia-Brussels international, she co-organised a recent symposium on ‘Tradition and Innovation in Franco-Belgian bande dessinée’ (March 2020), currently being prepared for publication as a thematic issue of European Comic Art.

Previous projects include, amongst others, a British Academy Small Grant project with Dr Manu Bragança, entitled ‘France, Vichy and Me’ (co-I, £6266.30 funded to QUB, with £6265 further grants and support from SSFH, the SFS, the ASMCF, the Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, the School of Modern Languages at the University of Leicester, the Centre for Collaborative Research in the Humanities at Queen’s University Belfast, and the QUB Research Initiative Fund, 2014-2016), an interdisciplinary public seminar series on the Rwandan genocide (co-I, CSSAH RDF, £2500, 2014) and a Toni Schiff Memorial Fund grant (PI, £9132.90, 2015-16) for a drama and research project on genocide and memory education in schools, conducted in collaboration with Leicester-based drama company CCM Theatre.

Dr Luca Fenoglio (Leverhulme Fellow)

Fascist violence against non-military enemies across the Mediterranean between 1940 and 1943

The book that I am currently writing results from the intersection of these research interests. The book stems from my PhD thesis and investigates Fascist Italy’s treatment of Jews in the territories of south-eastern France that the Italian Army occupied during the Second World War. This case study aims to provide new insights into Fascist Italy’s rationale for refusing to hand over Jews to the Nazis for extermination between 1940 and 1943, despite persecuting Jews domestically and being Nazi Germany’s chief ally.

My second research (and book) project is a ramification of his doctoral research and looks at Fascist violence against non-military enemies across the Mediterranean between 1940 and 1943. The book will explore the interaction of ideology and local circumstances in shaping the Italian use of violence against perceived non-military enemies in different conflict zones across the Mediterranean. In so doing, this research seeks to shed new light on how the Fascist leaders envisioned their New Order.

Finally, I am working on a journal article that investigates Jewish rescue strategies in Axis-occupied France. The article explores, in particular, the rescue efforts of the Nice-based Jewish committee of boulevard Dubouchage and reflects on the committee’s participation in carrying out the anti-Jewish measures of the Italian occupation authorities as a way to rescue Jews from Nazi extermination.

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