After examining thousands of letters written between 1940 and 1944 by Polish Jews in ghettos on the verge of starvation, the author approached a visual artist to assist with processing the emotional aspect of the letters. The goal was to reflect the voices of their senders and addressees. Between October 2008 and spring 2010, two sample letters, reproduced from originals in the archive, were sent together with an explanatory letter to 3,000 randomly selected Varsovians. The Hunger Letters Project, the ‘letter in a bottle’, had repercussions that exceeded all expectations. Finally, the specific understanding of this public intervention is elaborated upon in the context of its ethnographic results.
S:I.M.O.N. is an e-journal of the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI). It appears twice a year in English and German language. S:I.M.O.N. aims at both a transnational and comparative history of the Holocaust and Jewish Studies in Central and Eastern Europe within the broader contexts of the European history of the 20th and 21st century, including its prehistory, consequences and legacies as well as the history of memory.
S:I.M.O.N. serves as a forum for discussion of various methodological approaches. The journal especially wishes to strengthen the exchange between researchers from different scientific communities and to integrate both the Jewish history and the history of the Holocaust into the different “national” narratives. It also lays a special emphasis on memory studies and the analysis of politics of memory. S:I.M.O.N. uses a double-blind review system, which means that both the reviewer’s and the author’s identities are concealed from each other hroughout the review process.
Shoah: The journal deals with the history of the Shoah from multidisciplinary, transnational and comparative perspectives. It seeks to integrate studies on Jews as well as on other groups of victims of the Holocaust, especially on Roma, and of so far less researched regions of (East) Central and (South) Eastern Europe.
Intervention. The journal reports on research projects and their transmission into public events. It also informs about current educational and remembrance programs.
Methods. The journal serves as a forum for the discussion of methodological approaches as, for instance, the everyday history, oral history, gender history, the history of violence, anti-Semitism and racism and the theory of memory and memory politics.
DocumentatiON. The journal contributes to critical approaches on using and interpreting archival materials in the 21st century.
Download the current issue S:I.M.O.N. 2016/2.
This essay proposes that transformation violence be considered a particular form of violence that marked the transition to the post-war period towards the end of the Second World War. While a series of violent acts can be classified as wartime violence, transformation violence is a useful concept that can be applied in particular to three interlocked scenarios: settlement violence, meaning violent acts that aimed to destroy the former enemy in war and civil war; acts of war that constituted a continuation of ethnic and political civil wars from the occupation era and which were particularly hard to put to an end as long as the fighters familiar with the territory and the population were not given a convincing exit scenario (these might be described as gang wars if the term “gangs” did not carry such a strong ideological connotation); lastly, ethnic cleansing that aimed at a rapid political, demographic and social transformation of the state and the nation. These forms of violence all also had the purpose of arranging the population by new measures and to draw them into the new political system while at the same time creating loaded target groups who were to be excluded from the new political system. Finally, the article raises the question whether the export of violence into colonial territories aided the peacemaking efforts on the continent. It describes the scenario of violent re-colonialisation of territories like Algeria, which had been occupied by members of the axis powers during the Second World War.
Until the end of 2007, the International Tracing Service (ITS) was the largest collection of inaccessible records anywhere in the world that shed light on the fates of people from across Europe – Jews as well as members of virtually every other nation or nationality – who were arrested, deported, sent to concentration camps, and even murdered by the Nazis; who were put to forced labour, calculated in many places to result in death; and who were displaced from their homes and families, and unable to return home at the war’s end. These were documents that Allied forces collected as they liberated camps and forced labour sites across Europe in the last months of the war and during their post-war occupation and administration of Germany and Austria.
The archives of the ITS in Bad Arolsen, Germany, contains over fifty million documents produced in the Second World War era relating to the fates and destinies of over 17.5 million people. Using samples and case studies, the author, who led the campaign to open the archives, provides a view of the effort to open the collections for research and discuss the importance of this recent event for Holocaust survivors, victims of National Socialism, and scholars.
This text is the penultimate chapter of Zoltán Halasi's book Út az üres éghez (Road to an Empty Sky). With this work, which was first published in Hungarian, the author created a singular memorial to Polish-Jewish culture and its destruction. Setting out from the Yiddish Holocaust poem Dos lid funm ojsgehargetn jidischen folk by Itzhak Katzenelson, Halasi records what was lost in the Shoah in the course of nineteen compelling chapters. He takes on the grab of an art historian, a literary critic and a travel guide when he reports about a wooden synagogue and the Jewish quarter in Warsaw. In the role of a German banker, he illuminates the aims of the Nazi monetary policies, as a writer of SS brochures he highlights the absurdity of racism. Depicting a Selektion in the Warsaw ghetto, he shows the grim logic of compulsive acts in catastrophic situations, draws an image of the running of the extermination camp Treblinka. The cynical words of two German policemen provide an insight into the rituals of mass executions and introduce us to the craft of murder. The final chapter is an interplay of slithers of narrative by Jewish children on the run and by those who helped and hid them that borders on the unbearable.
The chapter reproduced on the following pages has three parts: Part one is a Treblinka railway station master's report to the Polish Home Army. In the second part, a former Jewish detainee who managed to escape from the extermination camp Treblinka gives a literary treatment of his arrival at the camp. The final part consists of an inner monologue by the Treblinka extermination camp's director of administration.
The book will shortly be published in Polish at the Nisza publishing company in Warsaw. The German-speaking public was first presented with the work on December 1, 2015 at the Simon Wiesenthal Conference 2015. The German translation by Éva Zádor and Heinrich Eisterer is in progress.
Joanna Tokarska-Bakir: The Hunger Letters. Between the Lack and Excess of Memory