Stanford University
Holocaust Geographies Collaborative
The Holocaust Geography Collaborative argues for how the key geographic concepts of location, scale, resolution, territoriality and the space/place dichotomy are fundamental to an expanded understanding of the genocide. Central to all of these terms and to the original case studies of our collaborative were also the question of time and place. When something happened was just as crucial as where something occurred. The very nature of the geographic focus of our projects require either an emphasis on dynamic mapping that shows change over time or a focus on the relationship of the individual’s experience of movement through a particular space. The temporal scales involved in dynamic mapping or the movement of peoples (as we believe it to have occurred) can be described but not captured easily in a print format. The dynamic digital environment and the use of GIScience allow for visualizations of these spatial concerns in more robust and innovative ways. 

Space, geography, concentration, movement, place: these are the terms of the Holocaust as they are reflected in the ever-changing plans of the perpetrators but also the often spatially fluid experiences of the victims and bystanders. The very language we use to describe the Holocaust marks it as a profoundly spatial phenomenon, one that our printed volume, Geographies of the Holocaust (Indiana University Press, 2014), considered for the first time from a geographical point of view. Plazas, buildings, walls, transportation networks and other material environments appear repeatedly in both the testimony of survivors as well as the administrative documentation of the perpetrators. We explored these factors through six case studies: the participation of Wehrmacht soldiers in killings at the front, the SS camp system as a whole, the built environment and geography of Auschwitz, the arrest and transport of Italian Jews, the ghettoization of the Hungarian Jews, and the death marches from the Auschwitz camp system. People’s experiences of space and mobility in a Nazi-defined landscape of control and domination became crucial components of the process of physical and cultural genocide, a feature noted by scholars but not systematically analyzed until our work. 

Narratives of changing events and conditions are central to all of our studies. We emphasize the ways that Holocaust spaces and places changed over time, seeing those shifts in geography as potential avenues for exploring shifting motivation or casting a new light on material experiences. A strong sense of chronology pervades all of our projects, and in many cases is a key structuring device. Within the shifting landscapes of the Holocaust, we seek to uncover the often fast-changing experiences of the victims. Geovisualization and dynamic cartography have been crucial tools as we explore the making and unmaking of place and space as dynamic processes and states of becoming. Further work on these topics (including the exploration of a qualitative GIS) promises to model new ways of understanding the Holocaust as well as other intricate historical problems of witnessing the destruction of people, landscapes, and environment, and highlights the complexities and vast untapped potential of geovisualization.
Former Research Assistants:
Michael De Groot, Sophia Paliza-Carre, Toral Patel

Building the New Order: 1938-1945
Mapping Mobility in the Budapest Ghetto
Arrests of Italian Jews, 1943-1945
The Evolution of the SS Concentration Camp System, 1933-1945

Spatial History