Recent Projects and Submissions
Witnessing the Witness After 1945: War Crimes, Mass Murder, and Genocide
the hebrew university of jerusalem, Israel
December 18, 2019
An earlier version of this paper received the “Best PhD Student Paper Award” at the 10th Annual Northern Illinois University History Graduate Student Conference, DeKalb, Illinois, November 2017.
Locating Testimonies, Acknowledging Survivors, and Expanding Historical Research
During its eleven months of operation Nazi authorities murdered as many as 925,000 people at Treblinka. The August 2, 1943 revolt by Jewish prisoners at this extermination camp enabled the escape of roughly 300 individuals. It is currently understood that some 68 of these people survived the rest of the war, constituting the broadly accepted number of Treblinka survivors.
A comparative lack of scholarship on Treblinka in general and limited historical exploration of existence inside the camp largely result from the belief that too few witnesses exist for further research. As such, work that expands the known total of Treblinka survivors recovers voices crucial to furthering exploration of daily life for prisoners and their long-term resistance plans.
Holocaust survivor, historian, and publisher Alexander Donat first compiled the existing list for his 1979 book The Death Camp Treblinka. The Treblinka museum continues to use Donat’s list with some recent amendment. After forty years of worldwide oral history recordings, memoir publications, and other source creation endeavors, new research enables much more extensive revision of Donat’s attempt to locate survivors. A process he admitted at the time was “anything but complete.”
The existence of an accepted list further requires that any work seeking to update current understandings grapple with what qualifies an individual for inclusion. The purpose of my research is not to dispute the names already included by Donat and museum staff, but rather to expand their accounting while noting criteria previously used to define individuals as Treblinka survivors. My results produce a new working enumeration of Treblinka survivors and a categorized view of how each individual emerged alive. This work has potential to stimulate inquiry into the history of Treblinka by highlighting the availability of testimonies by as yet unrecognized witnesses and the existence of a substantial source base for future research.
the Journal of contemporary archival studies
Vol. 5, Article 14.
An earlier version of this paper received the Carrol Award Honorable Mention for Best Graduate Student Paper from the Society for Military History at the 61st Annual Missouri Valley History Conference.
Lessons from The Treblinka Archive: Transnational Collections and their Implications for historical Research
In work for his 1979 book The Death Camp Treblinka, Alexander Donat began the process of locating survivors of the camp and recording their histories. In a telling testament to the lethality of this place, he could identify only sixty-eight survivors. Analysis of Donat’s early findings—emerging six years prior to the publication of any major academic monograph on the subject—offers a window into the difficulties of conducting research on this Nazi extermination camp and its widely-scattered witnesses.
Treblinka’s disembarkation ramp was effectively the eye of a transnational needle through which so many passed and so few emerged. Victims of this camp arrived from at least ten European states, while its survivors fled or immigrated to at least as many countries during and after the war. The origins of these people, their later movements, and the international justice process in the years after World War II created a paper trail that forms the nucleus of the Treblinka archive. From the late-1970s until the death of Treblinka’s last known survivor, Samuel Willenberg, in 2016, historians, museum professionals, and others have conducted interviews and drafted works that added to this body of sources.
As a tragedy of human criminality that disregarded international borders, Treblinka requires wide-ranging research to reconstruct its history. This paper enters ongoing discussions about the difficulties and importance of transnational historical research as it highlights the birth of the far-flung Treblinka archive and poses questions about the skills, resources, and tools required to do such work. The commentary and suggestions presented here have meaning not only for the history of Treblinka, but also for the process of doing cross-border historical research more generally.
Paul J. Schrag Prize in German Jewish History
Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Musicology, Holocaust Historiography, and Treblinka:
Toward an Interdisciplinary Discourse on Music as Torture, Perseverance, and Resistance
The Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison selected my paper “Musicology, Holocaust History, and Treblinka: Toward an Interdisciplinary Discourse on Music as Torture, Perseverance, and Resistance” for the 2018-2019 Paul J. Schrag Prize in German Jewish History. I thank the committee for their selection of my work and look forward to continuing this project.