CfP: Publication: Space and Holocaust Research: A Transdisciplinary Reader, ed. by Janine Fubel, Alexandra Klei, Annika Wienert

Following the spatial turn, the category of space has received increasing attention in recent years, especially in English-language research on the Holocaust and its aftermath. The publication aims to trace this development, to discuss it critically, and to point out perspectives for further research. In doing so, it is particularly important to highlight the interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary potential of the approaches and to draw greater attention to them in the German-speaking research landscape. The publication will be divided into two parts: The first part assembles contributions that provide orientation on the studies available so far and present central theoretical-methodological problems. The second part consists of previously unpublished case studies. They are intended to exemplify insights gathered from questions concerning the category of space.

Proposals can now be submitted for the second part: We are looking for case studies in which questions about spaces and spatiality are related to concrete aspects of the Holocaust and its aftermath. The contributions may be dedicated to different media, sources, events, and (geographical) locations, and they may adopt or combine different disciplinary perspectives. The editors’ central concern is that the use of the concept of space not be limited to replacing terms such as place, camp, memorial site, or ghetto with “space.” Rather, the idea is to demonstrate which specific new insights are gained by dealing with “space” in the respective analysis. Young scholars are strongly encouraged to submit contributions.

In the publication, the contributions are assigned to a systematic outline that defines certain spatial configurations as clusters. This is intended to emphasize the transdisciplinary potential of spatial thinking in Holocaust research. In the course of the editorial process, we will refine the clusters‘ definitions and eventually decide on the assignment of the texts. The editorial phase is conceived as collaboration between the editors and the authors. We therefore expect the willingness to read and comment on contributions from other authors. For this purpose, a workshop will be held in November 2021 (either in person or online, depending on the pandemic situation).

We are soliciting proposals for case studies that can be assigned to one of the following topic clusters (please find more detailed explanations below):

  • “Nature” spaces of the Holocaust
  • Fleeting spaces: Spaces in motion – movement in space
  • Spatial relations: Overlapping, overwriting
  • The staging spaces of the Holocaust
  • Institutionalized spaces of the Holocaust

We are open to further topics. Proposals can be submitted in German or English to


Deadline for applications (abstract + CV, max. 2 pages in total): August 1, 2021

Notification: Beginning of September 2021

Workshop: November 2021 (details tba, depending on the pandemic situation and in consultation with the participants).

Submission of contributions: May 2022

Character count of finished articles: 30,000 to 40,000 characters

“Nature” Spaces of the Holocaust

Many National Socialist acts of violence took place in spaces (supposedly) undefined culturally and materially. Topographical features such as depressions or hills, wooded areas or clearings were used by the perpetrators to carry out murderous acts. They also played a role in covering the tracks. On the other hand, people on the run managed to use landscape conditions for hiding and partisans for fighting. Moreover, “landscape” has become a multifaceted topos for the history of the Holocaust and, above all, for the commemoration of it.

We are looking for contributions that conceive nature and the concept of landscape in particular not as an opposition to (historical) action, but as a specific cultural framing. The studies may deal with the interaction of different protagonists, the role of topography, flora, fauna, and climate in the implementation as well as in the commemoration of the Holocaust, or critically reflect on nature-related or landscape-related terms and metaphors.

Fleeting Spaces: Spaces in Motion – Movement in Space

Various places of the Holocaust and its commemoration can be understood as time-spaces of transition or transit. First, they were spaces that the perpetrators created in order to assemble Jews, to (continue to) imprison them, and to deport them. This included, for example, so-called Jews’ houses (Judenhäuser), transit camps as well as “collecting points” (Umschlagplätze). These holding areas were not always location-based: Trains and other means of transportation as temporal spaces in motion were a central element in the execution of the Holocaust.

Secondly, this involves spaces that emerged spontaneously – without or contrary to the perpetrators’ planning – and were usually of short duration; for example, when Jews went into hiding or into the “underground” to escape persecution. Thirdly, in the course of war and evacuation, spaces were set in motion or rendered mobile, as was the case with the death marches of concentration camp inmates in 1944/45. Finally, in the present, the dissemination of historical information creates movement in space in the context of trips to memorial sites or other historical places, but also with thematic tours of cities and memorial sites or audio walks.

Spatial Relations: Overlapping, Overwriting

To investigate spatial relations means to put at least two spaces in relation to each other, inquiring into boundaries, overlaps, designations, and visual connections. Material, symbolic, social, or linguistically produced spaces may be included, spaces that (ought to) enable a relationship between two places, spaces that exist simultaneously or at different historical points in time.

In the context of the Holocaust, spatial relationships play an important role with regard to spaces of deportation, flight, and exile: These always stand in relation to two or more places. Secondly, the Nazis created spaces for carrying out their murderous program in very few cases on a tabula rasa, but rather often deliberately strove toward “overwriting” and superimposition of, for example, Jewish spaces.

Third, one can mention the relationship between sites of events and sites of commemoration, where very different historical spaces overlap. Above all, this raises issues regarding the visibility of events and places in their respective present. A fourth aspect of spatial relations is the linguistic description and overwriting of spaces: The perpetrators used language to conceal the crimes; however, concealing language use can also be found in the context of remembrance culture, in which knowledge of concrete places and/or crimes is often left out.

The Staging Spaces of the Holocaust

A central component of the Holocaust was the public orchestration of anti-Jewish violence. Starting in 1933, the first aim was to shame and exclude Jews from German society, which henceforth functioned as a “[German] national community” (Volksgemeinschaft). In the course of radicalizing and expanding the persecution of Jews to other European countries, the staging of acts of violence served, among other things, to establish and maintain segregating spaces such as ghettos and camps.

This public violence can be described as staging. Violence is interpreted as a means of communication. Conceived as a performative act, violent action requires addressees who witness it. This in turn requires a reception space in which perpetrators, (potential) victims, and the audience are present simultaneously or asynchronously. Examples range from public executions in urban spaces to beatings carried out in the roll call areas of the camps and all the way to private photographs, some of which circulated widely and still do so today.

At the same time, the staging of violence was accompanied by the hiding of violence – just as in the theater, most of the activities remain invisible to the audience. The banishment of violence “behind the scenes” took place by means of linguistic, spatial, and pictorial practices.

Institutionalized Spaces of the Holocaust

Institutionalized spaces of the Holocaust are understood as those that were produced by the perpetrators juridically, administratively, and/or in physical structures/materially. These constituted, for example, already existing individual buildings or urban or village spaces that – in the course of conversion, designation, and demarcation – were given new functions as so-called Jews’ houses (Judenhäuser), ghettos, or camps. However, newly constructed complexes, primarily concentration and extermination camps, require mentioning in this context as well.

With a view to the present, institutionalized spaces of memory, exhibition, and collection may also be included, spaces that are dedicated to commemorating the persecution and murder of Jews. Possible perspectives on institutionalized spaces include studies on the history of their construction and use, on legal prerequisites and administrative decisions, on the contribution of language in the production of these spaces, and on institutions that played a role in their establishment and use.

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