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New Insights into the Universe of Nazi Camps

May 13, 2010

Panel Discussion at the GHI, in collaboration with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Speakers: Geoffrey Megargee (USHMM) and Susanne Heim (Institut für Zeitgeschichte)

Event Report

Over the last decades, historical scholarship on the Holocaust has developed a variety of conceptual and methodological approaches. The publication of the Encylopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945 provided a welcome occasion to talk about the opportunities and challenges of such efforts and to discuss their relevance for historical scholarship on the Holocaust in the 21st century. It was also an opportunity to renew and strengthen cooperation between the German Historical Institute (GHI) and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), as Hartmut Berghoff, the GHI's director, noted in his introduction. In a similar vein, Paul Shapiro, director of the USHMM's Center for Advanced Holocaust Research, who will be awarded the Federal Republic of Germany's Order of Merit later this month, emphasized the importance of the ties between the United States and Germany, between American and German research in trying to understand the Shoa and keeping the knowledge about it alive for future generations.

The encyclopedia's editor-in-chief, Geoffrey Megargee (USHMM), presented the first volume of the encyclopedia. The project is a truly ambitious one: Its goal is to "provide both scholars and a broader audience with a fundamental reference work that provides basic information on the history of the camps and ghettos, and that facilitates further research in the field". To do so, it aims to assemble the camps and ghettos established during World War II as comprehensively as possible in a total of seven volumes. While all of the relatively well-known large concentration camps like Auschwitz, Dachau, and Treblinka, are included, the encyclopedia stands out for its interest in lesser, or formerly widely unknown, camps. Those include prisoners-of-war camps, camps and ghettos established by Germany's allies, detention facilities and euthanasia sites, "Germanization" camps for Polish children, and many others. It is in turning scholarly and public attention to those often small, but nonetheless horrendous sites of persecution and brutality that makes the encyclopedia, in addition to being an impressive scholarly achievement, a book of rememberance, one that honors the long-forgotten and often marginalized victims.

Susanne Heim (Institut für Zeitgeschichte, München/Berlin), co-editor and coordinator of the Edition zur Verfolgung und Ermordung der europäischen Juden durch das nationalsozialistische Deutschland (1933-1945), offered a comment on Megargee's presentation. In it, she provided an overview of the history of reports on camps and ghettos, the earliest of which were survivors' accounts dating from the 1930s. Heim then contextualized the encyclopedia project in historical scholarship about the Holocaust and compared it with similar projects underway. She emphasized the lack of knowledge about a large number of questions concerning the persecution and annihilation of the European Jews and praised the encyclopedia for providing a much-needed basis for future research to fill those gaps.

A general discussion followed. The large number of questions from the audience suggested that interest in Holocaust studies continues to be strong, and that future cooperative projects between the GHI and the USHMM would be very welcome.

For more information on the encyclopedia click here.

For more information on the edition click here.



Thousands of Sites, Millions of Fates: New Insights into the Universe of Nazi Camps

May 13, 2010

Panel Discussion at the GHI, in collaboration with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Speakers: Geoffrey Megargee (USHMM) and Susanne Heim (Institut für Zeitgeschichte)

Over the last decades, historical scholarship on the Holocaust has developed a variety of conceptual and methodological approaches. Recent years have seen increased efforts to produce encyclopedias to assemble findings and to provide the scholarly community with source material as a basis for future research. The publication of the USHMM's Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945 provides a welcome occasion to talk about the opportunities and challenges of such efforts and to discuss their relevance for historical scholarship on the Holocaust in the 21st century.

The encyclopedia's editor-in-chief, Geoffrey Megargee (USHMM), will present the first volume of the encyclopedia at a joint event by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the German Historical Institute Washington. Susanne Heim (Institut für Zeitgeschichte), co-editor and coordinator of the Edition zur Verfolgung und Ermordung der europäischen Juden durch das nationalsozialistische Deutschland (1933-1945), will comment. A general discussion will follow.

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