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Virtual PhD and a Cup of Tea: Post War Categorization(s): Humanitarian Aid Organizations and Displaced Persons (1945-1951)

May 1 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Helen Bamber (1925 – 2014) was a British psychotherapist and human rights activist who worked for the Jewish Relief Unit in post-war Germany

Part of our new seminar series: Humanitarianism, Refugees and the Holocaust.

Upon arrival in post-war Germany, humanitarian aid organizations had to take over the care of millions Displaced Persons from military authorities. It became obvious, that the categorization “Displaced Person” was too broad to describe and handle the diverse group of DPs. The legal term did neither take into consideration the different aspects of vulnerability nor their agency in planning their future after what they had been through.

The humanitarian aid organizations – from UNRRA to smaller groups – took part in multiple re-classifications of DPs in subcategories, such as Jewish DPs or Hard-Core DPs, which eventually resulted in the term refugee. In her dissertation Christina Wirth analyzes the different agents and practices that took part in categorizing people in transit between 1945 and 1951, including the individual’s agency and self-classification.

In her presentation Christina Wirth will introduce the categorization practices with a case study about the small village Kaunitz in Westphalia, Germany, where approximately 800 Jewish women were liberated from a death march and placed in German civilian

homes by the liberating American army forces. After the Americans left, the Jewish Relief Unit as well as the officials of the British Occupation Zone of Germany and the German major were responsible to take care of the DPs in Kaunitz. It will become apparent how the different agents tried to influence the categorization of these 800 women and how categorizations matter, since they are key for attesting political rights and influence to people in transit.

About the Speaker

Christina Wirth is a Ph.D. student at the Collaborative Research Centre (CRC) 1482 “Studies in Human Differentiation” Mainz, Germany, academic staff at the Leibniz Institute for European History, and is currently the USC Shoah Foundation’s first Robert J. Katz Research Fellow in Antisemitism Studies. She studied history and German philology as well as educational studies at Georg-August-University Goettingen and at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Virtual seminar guidelines:

  1. The Library will send you a Zoom link and joining instructions via email prior to the event. Please check your junk email folders.
  2. Please try and join 5 minutes before the event start time and we will let you into the room (do try and bear with us if this takes a few minutes).
  3. If you would like to ask a question during the event, the chair may invite you to raise your hand or type your question into the chat function, and we will endeavour to answer as many questions as possible during the Q&A.
  4. This event will not be recorded. The seminar series is generally not recorded because the topics presented are works in progress.

This event is free, although registration via the link below is required. Please note that our free events are run by staff volunteers. Thank you for your patience should we have any technical or audio difficulties. We will do our best to correct them but this is not always possible.


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