Anika Walke, assistant professor of history, is the joint recipient of a 3-year National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Humanities Advancement Grant of $296,455, along with Anne Knowles (University of Maine, Orono) and Paul Jaskot (Duke University). Knowles is project director, with the grant based at the University of Maine, and Jaskot and Walke serve as co-project directors. The research team also includes geographers and historians at Stanford University, Texas State University, Bristol University and UMaine.
The grant will fund “The Holocaust Ghettos Project: Reintegrating Victims and Perpetrators through Places and Events.” The project, a new undertaking by the Holocaust Geographies Collaborative, is geared toward the creation of a spatial model of Nazi-era ghettos in Eastern Europe.
“Our place-based model of the Holocaust is intended to bridge the long-standing divide in Holocaust studies between victims and perpetrators by locating them together in places targeted by ghettoization," says Knowles, the Colonel James C. McBride Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Maine.
The researchers will create a historical geographic information system (GIS) of 1,400 ghettos by extracting key information from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s (USHMM) Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos. This GIS will enable the first systematic, comparative analysis of Jewish ghettos, forced labor and mass murder in Eastern Europe from 1939 to 1945.
The team will also analyze the many ways that Holocaust victims described the ghettos and their experiences in post-war interviews.
Researchers then will use geovisualization — the display of information that has a geospatial component — to explore spatial patterns and physical characteristics of ghettos, to reconstruct victims' movements, and to connect individual trajectories to the larger events that forced millions from their homes. The project is a unique combination of linguistic analyses of Holocaust testimonies with mapping and other kinds of data visualization and will demonstrate commonalities and particularities of ghettos.
Walke is excited about the project and says that the project will make an important contribution to Holocaust and genocide studies by visualizing the variety of ghettos and other places of constriction that the Nazi regime used: “Scholars still debate whether Nazi policies were developed systematically or on an ad-hoc basis—we can show how local conditions both determined and reflected exploitation and extermination practices that unfolded differently across the German-occupied territories. The project will also allow us to better analyze the Jewish experience of ghettoization, such as opportunities for survival and resistance, in different places and under distinct conditions.”