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New Approaches to Research Topics

Between 30 October and 2 November 2014, the biennial conference Lessons & Legacies of the Holocaust took place in Boca Raton, Florida; the conference had been co-organized by the Holocaust Education Foundation of Northwestern University and by the Florida Atlantic University. One conference panel was dedicated to the potential for research based on the documents in the archives of the International Tracing Service (ITS). For this part of the conference, those scholars had been invited, too, who are in charge of the ITS digital collections in England as well as in the United States. The focus lay on an examination of the qualitative value of the information included in ITS archival materials based on the examples of three research projects. Prof. Dr. Rebecca Boehling, as Director of the ITS, chaired this part of the conference.

Three examples: Evaluation of sources from the ITS Archive

At the beginning, Prof. Dr. Rebecca Boehling talked about the history of the ITS, the archival collections and how they were created. She presented research topics that could receive fresh impetus from using documents kept in the archives of the ITS.

Elisabeth Anthony, who is responsible for research in the ITS digital collections at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, and at the same time takes her doctoral degree at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, presented her research results about “Representations of Sexual Violence in ITS Documentation”. She had analyzed incarceration documents, early testimonies of survivors from interrogations by the Allies, and ITS correspondence files for her research on concentration camp brothels as sites of forced and slave labor for female inmates.

Dr. Suzanne Brown-Fleming from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, showed in her lecture “Imagining the Refugee in ITS” how refugees attempted after 1945 to receive DP status and thus improve their chances of material assistance and emigration. Her investigations in the ITS documents enabled her to examine more closely and to problematize how the IRO accorded victim or refugee status.

From her own experience, Dr. Christine Schmidt, who is in charge of the ITS digital collection at the Wiener Library in London, knows that the ITS documents also afford an opportunity to obtain more information about so far neglected aspects of Jewish persecution. In her lecture “Women behind Barbed Wire: Hungarian Jewish Women Slave Laborers in the Nazi Camps”, she presented her investigations relating to the period 1944 to 1945 when more and more new labor sub-camps were established where Jewish inmates had to perform slave labor. Lists of names and survivors’ testimonies helped her identifying and understanding aspects like chances of survival, connections among the female prisoners, family relationships, and priorities of the German administration.

Every two years, international scholars meet at the Lessons & Legacies of the Holocaust Conference in the USA. This primary American Holocaust conference was initiated in 1989 by Auschwitz survivor Theodore Zev Weiss and other Jewish survivors in the United States who had already established the Holocaust Educational Foundation as well.