“Space in Holocaust Research” is the first conference in Germany devoted to the issue of space and the Holocaust. The aim of the organizers is to make a contribution to the establishment of interdisciplinary Holocaust research. The international four-day conference will take place in Hamburg. It is a co-operation between the German Historical Institute Warsaw and the Institute for the History of the German Jews in Hamburg. The programme comprises talks, walking tours on the relation of (urban) space, history, and memory as well as a field trip to the Sandbostel memorial site. Conference languages will be English and German.

The conference combines inter- and transdisciplinary discussions of a spatial turn in the humanities with recent research on the Holocaust and its legacy. Integrating various disciplines will enable a critical analysis of terms as well as theoretical and methodological approaches. The paradigm of space will allow for cross-disciplinary discussions on central issues of Holocaust research. Such a synthesis is still lacking.

While references to space, place and sites have become an integral part in works dealing with the history of the Holocaust and its legacy, a metaphorical way of speaking has predominated thus far. In contradistinction to this, the conference seeks to analyze the production and construction of space (material, immaterial, historical, current or imagined). Space is understood as a process and perceived in relational terms, as something that is socially produced and socially effective. The various panels will be interdisciplinary and devoted to key themes.

Contributions shall include methodological and theoretical reflections on the issue of how the category of space is applied in the respective study. The following key themes are considered particularly fruitful for such an analysis:

Historiography of the Spatial and the Spatialities of Historiography

The history of the spatial turn in Holocaust research comprises at least four aspects: the issue of space in research on National Socialism before the spatial turn; the significance of space-related science during National Socialism; the development of the geography of Holocaust research after 1989; the physical places of research, i.e. archives, museums as well as the sites of the crime, the events, and of memory.

New Methods and Approaches in Holocaust Research after the Spatial Turn

Using space as an approach to the history of the Holocaust might entail the use of other categories, which are to be conceptualized in terms of space and which have been referred to as turns. Cases in point are the ‘material turn’ and the ‘forensic turn’. New approaches in Holocaust research related to body culture studies and the anthropology of the body will also to be taken into consideration. What impact does the analytical category of space have on the development of new research methods? What specific contribution do new disciplines bring to the field of Holocaust studies? It may also be worth exploring methods beyond the established academic disciplines.

Spatial Practices

The Holocaust is characterized by a large number of spatial practices. When it comes to the perpetrators, the production of space is an essential practice. It needs to be taken into consideration that plans can never be converted exactly into a (material) reality as originally envisaged by the planners. As far as those persecuted by the Germans and their collaborators are concerned, the (forced) use and appropriation of spaces can be considered a specific practice. In addition to this, the victims produced their own real and imagined spaces. Spatial practices of members of the non-Jewish majority societies also need to be examined.

The distinction between intention and realization can also be useful for the analysis of spatial strategies of memorial sites, museums, monuments and other works of art. 

Landscape as a Central Configuration of the Spatial

The term landscape is used in many studies concerning the Holocaust. It connects the historical event with a place and points to the lasting impact up to the present day. However, it often remains opaque whether the term is understood as a metaphor or a category of analysis. A critical reflection on landscape as a cultural construct provides a deeper understanding of its heuristic potential.

Spatial Representations – Representations of Space

The relation of representation and space can be examined from at least three perspectives: 1. The issue of how spatial aspects of the Holocaust are represented in various media and forms. 2. The issue of spatial forms of representation such as monuments. 3. The conference seeks to stimulate a discussion focusing on the question of how research findings are presented visually. Graphics, diagrams or maps ensure a particular form of spatializing.


Studies making use of the perspective of microhistory seem particularly apt for an analysis of space. They enable a detailed engagement with specific constellations in one particular space, for example in a village, a city or in a camp. What are the sites and places connected with the Holocaust, where are they situated and how were/are they perceived? A microhistorical perspective also permits insights into the daily lives of victims, perpetrators and the non-Jewish majority societies.

Space in a Text

The issue of space and the spatial can stimulate a re-reading of various oral and written testimonies: accounts of survivors, files of criminal proceedings, documents produced by the perpetrators, texts on memorial plaques. Thus, literary but also academic texts can be read and studied anew. Furthermore, the widespread use of spatial metaphors such as Spurensuche (search for traces), Zeitschichten (layers of time), unearthing and digging can be examined.

Applicants are requested to submit a proposal in the form of an abstract as well as a short biographical note (two pages maximum). The presentation should not exceed 20 minutes. One conference section will consist of a one-hour walking tours. You can also submit suggestions for a tour in Hamburg.

Please send your proposal to [email protected] by 31 July 2019. We encourage doctoral students to apply. The conference programme will be published in August. We kindly ask all speakers to attend the entire conference.

We are currently applying for funding to cover the costs of the conference as well as the accommodation and travel costs. Childcare will be provided if necessary. The conference room is wheelchair accessible. Following the conference, we intend to publish a selection of the papers presented.

For further information on the analytical and conceptual framework see herehttp://igdj-hh.de/news-leser-152/konzeptpapier-interdisziplinaere-konfer...

The following speakers have confirmed their participation:

Prof. Dr. Tim Cole (University of Bristol), Dr. Zuzanna Dziuban (Universiteit van Amsterdam), Dr. Anna Hájková (University of Warwick), Dr. Elżbieta Janicka (Institute of Slavic Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw), Dr. Ulrike Jureit (Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung), Prof. Dr. Dr. Judith Kasper (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt), Prof. Dr. Konrad Kwiet (Sydney Jewish Museum), Dr. des. Gintarė Malinauskaitė (German Historical Institute Warsaw, branch office Vilnius), Dr. Hannah Pollin-Galay (Tel Aviv University).

Organizers: Janine Fubel (Berlin), Alexandra Klei (Hamburg/Berlin), Katrin Stoll (Warsaw), Annika Wienert (Warsaw)