Six Decades after Hilberg and Five Decades after Trunk: A New Analytical Comparative Framework for the Study of Jewish Councils

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventWorkshop, seminarAcademic


Seminar as part of the bi-annual 'Lessons and Legacies' conference organised by the Holocaust Education Foundation (Northwestern University)

Jewish representative organisations that were instituted at the behest of German occupiers and their allies during the Second World War (Judenräte or Judenvereinigungen) have been a subject of controversy ever since their establishment. Such controversies persist and are abused by some historians and public activists who attempt to cloud the question of responsibility for the execution of the Holocaust. Both during and after the war, Jewish leaders of these organisations have been criticised for their supposed role in the deportation of Jewish communities and alleged cooperation with the Nazi authorities, not least by Hannah Arendt in the early 1960s. Despite (recent) attempts for a more distanced understanding of the nature and function of these bodies, there has not been a conceptual breakthrough in the study of these organisations. This can be explained by the fact that these organisations are, with few exceptions, researched only in their national contexts. Seven decades after the first studies by survivors such as Philip Friedman, six decades after Raul Hilberg’s Destruction of the European Jews, and five decades after Isaiah Trunk’s Judenrat: the Jewish Councils in Eastern Europe under Nazi Occupation, there is a need for new empirical research into the nature of Jewish Councils and similar bodies. Few attempts have been made to compare and contrast these organisations throughout Europe and North Africa. This seminar aims to focus on five specific themes relating to this subject:

The socio-historical nature of the Jewish Councils’ leaders.

The nature of the interactions of the Jewish Councils with the non-Jewish non-German populations, with a specific focus on local authorities.

Relations of Councils with the Jewish communities they represented and administered.

How and when the Council was appointed, its initial sphere of activity and its develop over time.

Relations and connections between Councils in close vicinity and in faraway places.

By comparing and contrasting the Jewish representative bodies throughout Europe and North Africa on these specific themes, we will come to entirely new interpretive paradigms that enhance our understanding of these organisations.
Period12 Nov 202215 Nov 2022
Degree of RecognitionInternational