Between June 1938 and his deportation to Theresienstadt in January 1943, Dr. Benjamin Murmelstein acted as the right hand man of Dr. Josef Löwenherz, the head of the Jewish Community in Vienna. Both Murmelstein as a person and the manner in which he executed his office were regarded with some controversy during this time. Murmelstein's bad reputation even remained with him in Theresienstadt; it also affected post-war writings, including those of highly respected researchers. The negative assessment of the two Viennese officials essentially applies to the actions of the Jewish Councils in general. Research into the situation in which Murmelstein and Löwenherz had to execute their offices, into the choices that were available to them even in the darkness of ideologically determined hatred of the Jews and into what they were able to achieve in the interests of the Jews despite the indomitable pressure upon them reveal a different picture of Murmelstein and Löwenherz: their bad reputation is shown to be a distortion.
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.
The paper focuses on the fundamental aspects of my dissertation project: triggers of pogroms, dynamics of violence and the role of the respective emerging statehood as well as the perpetrators’ self-perception. In both reference periods, pogrom violence referred closely to the establishment of Polish statehood, even though this happened under divergent circumstances. Both phases involved exceptionally large numbers of pogroms. In both cases profound socio-political ruptures and paradigm shifts took place, where the need to create enemies was tremendous. An examination of the perpetrators’ verbal utterances and actions during and after the pogrom allows to identify their symbolic reference points, which express antisemitic stereotypes and show how the pogromists defined their relations towards state authorities. The project will offer insights about prejudices during transitional phases, the dynamics of pogroms and how narratives of violence are preserved. The pogroms are reconstructed by means of eyewitness accounts, military records and court files.
The network of camps that eventually covered almost all of Europe under the management of the SS was a firm component of the national socialist system of terror and defined the Nazi regime in its essence. From the British channel island Alderney to the Soviet Union and from the Baltic to Greece, there was hardly a place in the Nazi sphere of power without one form or another of such a camp. The names of the large concentration and extermination camps have today become synonyms for Nazi state terror, and are perfect metaphors of terror, dehumanisation and racist mass murder. Paradoxically, however, this development at the same time saw the erasure of the traces of those countless small camps in the system: the network that made the terror possible in the first place down to its last branch. They have been lost from Europe's cultural memory.
Wolfgang Benz provides a systematic presentation of this knowledge, making it accessible again on the basis of the nine volume standard oeuvre on the history of Nazi concentration camps which he published together with Barbara Distel.
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.
Leonard Ehrlich: Geschätzt und gescholten. Benjamin Murmelstein in Wien 1938 –1943