(Holocaust) Camps and Ghettos (42,500)

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Researchers have recently identified 42,500 different camps and ghettos, which is really a mind-boggling number. Even for one already familiar with the material, this research takes the study of the Holocaust beyond the familiar name-places like Auschwitz, Dachau, and Treblinka to places whose names, I bet, even seasoned scholars have never heard.

I’m taking this from an article that appeared, along with the maps, in the NYTThe maps the researchers have created to identify the camps and ghettos turn wide sections of wartime Europe into black clusters of death, torture and slavery — centered in Germany and Poland, but reaching in all directions.

The numbers re-introduce with renewed force the problem of scale in Holocaust Studies an Holocaust memory. It is easier for scholars, activists, museum directors, artists, politicians, writers, filmmakers to re-member, to recoup the memory of a relatively limited set of places: Auschwitz, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka –Bergen Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachar, Sachsnehausen — Krakaow, Lodz, Vilna, Warsaw. But this mass of numbers remains harder to integrate.

I can think of two possible effects on Holocaust Studies and Holocaust memory. [1] A push towards Digital Humanities and other graphic, computer based graphic media as a way to come to terms with the sheer amount of raw “data”  such as names, places, and chronologies. [2] New impetus to the old, postmodern discourse about the Holocaust being “unrepresentable,” i.e. unrepresentable in a single set of images, narratives, or representations.

This does not mean that you can’t map out this universe quantitatively. So many places, the big infamous ones next to the small ones, practically anonymous. On the maps, it’s the sheer scale that strikes the eye with such deep and shuddering impact –the mass of ghettos across the breadth of Poland, the Baltics, Belarus and the Ukraine, the mass of SS concentration camps in Germany. The camps and ghettos form not an archipelago as much as a galaxy.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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3 Responses to (Holocaust) Camps and Ghettos (42,500)

  1. Dani Livney says:

    One thought I had was maybe there should be a website or an email sent out that every day describes a different site, with photos and personal memories. But after checking with my calculator, this would take over 116 years!

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