Holocaust Geographies is a multi-institution collaboration on an NSF-sponsored grant received by geographers Anne Knowles and Alberto Giordano. Across five studies, the project examines spaces and places of the Holocaust.
Anne Knowles, Middlebury College
Alberto Giordano, Texas State University
Waitman Beorn, University of Nebraska-Omaha
Tim Cole, Bristol University, UK
Simone Gigliotti, Victoria University of Wellington, NZ
Anna Holian, Arizona State University
Paul Jaskot, DePaul University
Marc Masurovsky, United States Holocaust Museum
Erik Steiner, Spatial History Project, Stanford
The Holocaust was a profoundly geographical event that caused mass displacement and migration, destroyed or fundamentally changed thousands of communities, and created hundreds of new places for the concentration of population, the exploitation of labor, and the mass murder of millions of people. As the Third Reich's ultimate solution to create a racially pure German empire, the Holocaust drove the mobilization of infrastructure and resources on an unprecedented scale. Yet the spatial characteristics and temporal dynamics of the Holocaust have scarcely been studied as explicitly geographical phenomena. Nor have scholars critically considered the complex and varied range of scales at which the events constituting the Holocaust took place, from the scale of the individual body to the continental expanse of Europe.
In August 2007, the researchers involved in this proposal met for the first time to work collaboratively during a two-week workshop on the Geographies of the Holocaust, sponsored by the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies (CAHS) at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the workshop was to bring together Holocaust scholars and experts in GIScience, historical geography, and geovisualization, to discuss how geographical questions and methods might shed new light on the history of the Holocaust. While the workshop was the culmination of several years of preliminary research and discussion among staff at the USHMM Registry of Survivors, geographers, and historians, the results of our two weeks together far exceeded our expectations. The experience of doing intensive, interdisciplinary, collaborative research convinced us all that taking a geographical approach to the Holocaust would not only shed new light on historical questions but could transform scholars' understanding of one of the most important events of the 20th century. We also discovered that the group constituted a team with the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue that vision.
The overarching project intends to apply GIScience models and methods across multiple scales, made possible by our access to exceptionally detailed, individual-level datasets currently being developed by the USHMM and its international research partners.
We are carrying out five overlapping and interlinked case studies on:
(1) the evolution of the spatial system of concentration camps;
(2) an architectural and visibility study of the Auschwitz camp;
(3) a study of victim transports from Italy;
(4) a localized study of forced evacuations from Auschwitz at the end of WWII; and
(5) a detailed study of the Budapest ghetto.
These cases have been chosen for their suitability for GIS modeling and analysis at a variety of scales and because they represent the range of spatial experiences of Holocaust victims (ghettoization, transportation, incarceration in the concentration camp system). Each topic also focuses on key aspects of the genocide in which transportation, physical displacement, and the constriction of movement and personal liberty played a critical role. The creation and dissemination of a fully fledged historical GIS of the Holocaust is beyond the scope of this project, but it is the long-term objective of this group and of the USHMM. Students in the Spatial History Lab at Stanford are collaborating with researchers across several of the projects in doing historical research, GIS data development, analysis, and visualization.
Applied Filters: None
Building the New Order: 1938-1945
Arrests of Italian Jews, 1943-1945
The Evolution of the SS Concentration Camp System, 1933-1945