23rd Workshop on the History and Memory of National Socialist Camps and Extermination Sites
Between Absence and Affirmation
Thessaloniki, Greece, 16th-22nd March 2019
History and concept of the workshop
Since 1994, the Workshop on the History and Memory of National Socialist Camps and Extermination Sites has been annually organized by and for university graduates from various disciplines who work on related topics. The workshop aims at addressing young scholars interested in presenting their research projects in an atmosphere of low hierarchy as well as in connecting and sharing ideas with others. It provides space for academic discussions, for raising questions, addressing problems and giving advices for respective research projects. The workshop more generally intends to support international and interdisciplinary research by promoting a dialogue between researchers of different origins. A distinctive feature, by which it tries to do so, is the principle of self-organization. Students and graduates normally take part in the workshops in three different forms: as speakers, as participants or as members of the organizing team.
Location of the 23rd workshop
Every year the workshop takes place at a different location related to National Socialist camps and mass extermination sites. This year Thessaloniki will be the location due to the complex history of its Jewish population and its relevance to the emphasis of the next workshop: "Between absence and affirmation" as will be illustrated further below.
Before the Second World War Thessaloniki had the largest Jewish community in Greece, more than 50.000 Jewish inhabitants in 1941, at the time of the German occupation. After the invasion, the Germans arrested the Jewish leadership, they plundered cultural and artistic properties from Jewish institutions and private homes. In July 1942 Jewish males were registered for forced labour. The next year, in February 1943 German authorities concentrated local Jews in two ghettos. Between March and August more than 45.000 of them were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, most of whom were gassed on arrival.
The second major concentration and transit camp in Greece, Pavlos Melas was set up in Thessaloniki. Between 1941 and 1944 thousands of people who had been arrested by the Wehrmacht and German authorities were interned here. Imprisoned and executed inmates included Greeks and foreigners, resistance fighters and Thessaloniki residents captured as retaliation for attacks on Nazi forces. Around 800 people were executed and approximately 5.000 were imprisoned.
From the pre-war Jewish community less than 2.000 survived the Holocaust. The previous presence of the Jews and their tragedy practically lacked memorialization for over 70 years; the historical site of Pavlos Melas was not preserved: today it is a meeting place for young people. Despite the significant impact the Holocaust played in the history of this part of Greece, it is mostly forgotten and hardly represented, both in Greece itself as well as international studies.
In 2017 Thessaloniki seems to be finally coming to terms with its Jewish history as the plans of a Holocaust Memorial Museum gained political backing and permits. The museum, which will serve as a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust and which will be devoted to the culture and history of the Jewish community of the city, is supposed to be completed by 2020.
The absence of memorialization and the tremendous loss of the Jewish community, as well as the recent interest in commemoration, which serves as affirmation for the identity of the Jewish inhabitants of Thessaloniki, connect the location to the topic of the workshop.
We invite MA and PhD students to apply. Possible themes include (but are not restricted to) the following:
- Mass graves, material culture, new materialism, forensic turn and their impact on the social practices of memory
- Absence of memory, silenced memory
- Forgotten places, sites of non-memory
- Neglected/marginalized victim groups, forms of victimisation
- Politics of commemoration, commemoration practices, ownership of memory
- Trials and law, and their role in commemoration and identity formation
- Wars of memory, contemporary victimhood, competing victimhood
- Contemporary social and cultural activism, and artistic practices connected to (forgotten) sites
- The effect of nationalism and populism on the shaping of memory and identity
- New approaches to filling gaps in memory (literature, theatre, film), media advancements, technology developments at memorial sites, new dimensions of testimony and digital archives
- Parallels and contradictions of memory related to camps and extermination sites on local, national and international level
- Holocaust denial and revisionism
- Torn identities: coping with the past, embedding sites and events in individual identities, conflicting identities
- The formation of collective Jewish identity: the place of camps, extermination sites and (lack of) commemoration in group identity
All topics submitted to this workshop should be connected to a camp or an extermination site.
Applicants (MA- and PhD-candidates) are requested to send in a short CV and an abstract of their proposed paper (approx. 300 words). Applications should be sent to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org by the 30th April 2018. We welcome university graduates from a variety of disciplines (history, sociology, philosophy, literature, theology, art etc.) as well as other professionals working on the topic to apply. The presentations and discussions will be held in English. The presentations should not exceed 20 minutes. After the presentations there will be time for a 40-minute discussion on the topic of the paper.
The organization team will send out acceptances by the end of June 2018.
We are currently applying for funding to cover the costs of the conference, as well as the costs of accommodation and travel expenses.
Organizing team: Sandra Franz (University of Düsseldorf/Villa Merländer, Krefeld, Germany), Jozef Hyrja (Hochschule für Jüdische Studien Heidelberg, Germany), Alexios Ntetorakis-Exarchou (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece), Sylwia Papier (Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland) Hannah Wilson (Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom) Nick Warmuth (Central European University, Hungary)
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