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CfP - Workshops
Survivors’ Toil: The First Decade of Documenting and Studying the Holocaust

from Thursday, 3. February 2022 -  08:00
to Thursday, 31. March 2022 - 23:59


International workshop organized by the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) together with the University of Florida, November 2-4, 2022

In December 1945, in the introduction to the first edition of his monograph The Destruction of the Jews of Lwow, Philip Friedman expressed his sense of urgency for Holocaust scholarship – an urgency due in part to the growing number of trials of war criminals. As a trained historian and Holocaust survivor, Friedman hoped that every new publication addressing the crimes against the Jews would fight fascism “putting a nail in the coffin of this religion of hatred and ideology of genocide.” During his time as director of the Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland, his understanding of the importance of Holocaust scholarship was shared by other survivor scholars throughout Europe. Working in diverse political frameworks and relying on communal support, these men and women helped build the foundations of documentation and research centers, developed methodologies, examined primary sources, and reflected on some of the challenges of the emerging field.

This workshop seeks to open a discussion about the crucial first decade of institution building, methodological experimentation, and political negotiations around the study of the hurban as European Jewish catastrophe. It will follow up on recent research that surveys pioneering scholars, collective projects, institutions, and publications. The workshop will focus on the historical contexts of survivors’ initiatives, their entanglements, their modes of communication within the Jewish community and beyond, their search for an appropriate language and methodology, and their efforts to preserve and create historical sources and their exploring of different disciplinary approaches. It is the aim of the workshop to reformulate these questions in an extended and comparative perspective of the European aftermath of the Second World War.

In particular, this workship builds on the 2012 Simon Wiesenthal International Conference Before the Holocaust Had Its Name: Early Confrontations of the Nazi Mass Murder of the Jews, which brought together scholars working to uncover networks and practices in early Holocaust scholarship. Also in 2012 Laura Jockusch’s compelling study Collect and Record! Jewish Holocaust Documentation in Early Postwar Europe was published, which examined the efforts of a diverse community of Holocaust scholars working in the Jewish historical commissions. Now, ten years later, this workshop will provide an opportunity to revisit, sharpen and broaden these findings.

With this in mind, we seek papers that address some of the following questions:

  • What were the early initiatives as intellectual, political and cultural constellations in which survivor scholars operated and in which they envisioned institutional frameworks?
  • Who were the “lonely heroes/heroines” and their networks and who helped build new institutions of documentation?
  • How did survivor scholars envision and address the Jewish versus non-Jewish audiences for their work?
  • How was their work shaped by censorship and self-censorship, and what topics remained unspeakable while others took centre stage?
  • What was the early understanding of academic objectivity and trauma with regard to Holocaust studies?
  • What lenses did the survivor scholars apply when studying victims and perpetrators?
  • How did this scholarship deal with the perspective of gender and how did gender effect early Holocaust research institutions and initiatives?
  • What was the intergenerational context of Holocaust research, of material and questions that were rediscovered, often without linking them to the work of the pioneer scholars?
  • How can Holocaust studies today build on these early initiatives – especially through their plurality of methodologies and transdisciplinary approaches?

The keynote address will be given by Laura Jockusch.

Concept and organisation: Natalia Aleksiun (University of Florida), Éva Kovács (VWI)

The workshop languages will be German and English. The costs for accommodation will be covered by the organizers. The organizers' ability to cover travel costs also is subject to current efforts to raise separate funding.

Please submit your applications in German or in English (including an abstract of the topic of your contribution of at most 3,500 characters as well as a short biography) under the subject line "Workshop 2022" by March 31, 2022 to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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


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