Cohort VII – Academic year 2014-2015

Aliza Luft, PhD Candidate, Dept. of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Aliza Luft’s research focuses on the decision-making processes underlying individuals’ behaviors in high-risk contexts, particularly in genocides as they decide whether to support or resist violent state regimes. Luft’s dissertation, Defecting from the Episcopate, examines the process by which French bishops during the Holocaust in France deviated from their support for the Vichy to help save Jews, despite the high personal and institutional costs associated with defection. Ms. Luft’s dissertation draws on 12 months of original data collection in 8 diocesan archives throughout France, as well as theoretical insights gleaned from her previous research in Rwanda and on the Armenian genocide.

Aliza Luft has received funding and support from the Chateaubriand Fellowship, the Social Science History Association, and the Wisconsin Center for Jewish Studies, among others. She has also spoken at a variety of conferences and been invited to give guest lectures at various universities, including, most recently, the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School in honor of Yom HaShoah. The first chapter of her dissertation, which explains why French bishops originally elected to support the Vichy’s anti-Semitic policies, was awarded “Best Graduate Paper” in April 2014 from the Association for the Study of Nationalities. From 2013-2014, Luft was a Visiting Research Scholar at CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. Luft will use the Kagan Fellowship to complete her dissertation. You can learn more about her work here.  

Sari Siegel

Sari Siegel, PhD Candidate, History, University of Southern California, USA, SUMMER FELLOW

Ms. Siegel’s dissertation, entitled “Between Coercion and Resistance: Jewish Prisoner-Physicians in Nazi Camps, 1938-1945,” focuses on an important yet widely overlooked group in Holocaust history—Jewish inmates who utilized their medical knowledge in Nazi camps. To gain perspective on individual and general factors that influenced the prisoner-physicians’ conduct, she examines the evolution of their behavioral patterns between 1938 and 1945 in the labor, concentration, and extermination camp systems of the Greater German Reich. She draws particular attention to the dynamic natures of camp conditions and the prisoner-physicians’ strategies to save their own lives while attempting to uphold their Hippocratic promise to “do no harm.” Utilizing her skills in French, German, and Yiddish, she combines survivor testimonies and legal documents with contemporary government and organizational records for insight into how contextual variables and individual traits shaped the actions of these doctors in the camps. Since the prisoner-physicians’ medical activities placed them within survivor memoirist Primo Levi’s “gray zone,” analysis of their behavioral shifts allows Ms. Siegel to illuminate a new aspect of this morally ambiguous realm. She is working under the supervision of Prof. Wolf Gruner.

Ms. Siegel’s article “Treating Dr. Maximilian Samuel: A Case Study of an Auschwitz Prisoner-
Physician” will soon appear in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. She is the American recipient of the 2014 Institut für Zeitgeschichte-USHMM Exchange of Scholars Award, and she will spend six months in Vienna as a Junior Fellow at the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies.

Rowe McCulloch

Maris Rowe-McCulloch, PhD Candidate,  History & Jewish Studies, University of Toronto, Canada, SUMMER FELLOW

Her dissertation examines the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, focusing on the experiences of the city’s Jewish community prior to and throughout the Holocaust. In August 1942, the city was home to the largest massacre of Jews on Russian soil during the Holocaust. Her research examines the effects of repeated wartime German occupations, as the city was captured and lost twice by the invading German army between 1941 and 1943. Ms. Rowe-McCulloch investigates the role of the military—responsible for administering the region during both occupations—in local anti-Jewish violence, as well as the participation of local Soviet citizens, particularly Don Cossack collaborators who joined special brigades within the German army.

Ms. Rowe-McCulloch’s research also explores the expansion and development of Rostov-on-Don’s Jewish community prior to its destruction during the first two decades of the Soviet Union. Focusing in particular on the interwar relationship between Jews and their Cossack neighbors—a group responsible for initiating pogroms during the First World War and the Russian Civil War—she hopes to better understand indigenous Russian anti-Semitism and the effect of Communist policies on Rostov’s Jewish residents. Her supervisor is Dr. Lynne Viola.


Amit Varshizky, Ph.D. Candidate, History, Tel Aviv University, Israel

Amit completed his B.A. in Communications at the Academic College of Emek Izrael and his M.A. (cum laude) at the Department of History at Tel Aviv University. His Master’s thesis examined the philosophy of Alfred Rosenberg, the chief ideologue of the National-Socialist movement. An article on the subject was published in the Journal of Politics, Religion and Ideology, entitled “Alfred Rosenberg: the Nazi Weltanschauung as Modern Gnosis.”

Mr. Varshizky’s research project, entitled “Mind and Soul in the National Socialist Weltanschauung,” deals with the National Socialist approach to the concept of “racial-soul” (Rassenseele), as reflected in the writings of ideologues, anthropologists and theologians in the Third Reich. Thus, it seeks to map the various philosophical and scientific strategies that were used by the Nazis to objectify the concept of Rassenseele as an ontological and metaphysical subject and endeavors to outline its ideological and normative applications within the Third Reich. On a deeper level, it seeks to explore the religious and redemptive qualities underlying National Socialist Racism and anti-Semitism and to reveal the ideological mechanisms that enabled the apotheosis of Race and Volk and the sacralisation of politics in the Third Reich.

Given the increasing influence of Foucault’s bio-politics on current historical discourse and the efflorescence of research dealing with body technology, body imagery and representation in the Third Reich, Mr. Varshizky’s seeks to investigate the National Socialist perception of “soul”. To date, only a few studies have dealt with this topic, and of these, most were devoted mainly to the historiography of psychology in the Third Reich and touched only indirectly, if at all, on questions of faith and metaphysics and the ideological implications thereof. Indeed, at present no comprehensive study of the National Socialist perception of “soul” has been written from the perspective of intellectual history. Mr. Varshizky’s study seeks to redress this imbalance.

Mr. Varshizky intends to spend the next year in Germany and to continue his research in the German archives that house the main pool of documents associated with his research subject. He has English, German and Hebrew language skills. His supervisors are Professor Shulamit Volkov and Professor Shalom Ratzabi.

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Dallas Michelbacher, Ph.D. Candidate, History, Central Michigan University, USA

Dallas received his B.A. in History from Auburn University in 2011. His dissertation is titled “Jewish Forced Labor in Romania under the Antonescu Regime, 1940-1944.” His research focuses on the use of Jewish forced laborers in private enterprises and government offices, labor camps, and labor detachments during the Holocaust in Romania. In his dissertation, he analyzes the ideological background and legal basis for forced labor in Romania, the organization of forced laborers into camps, the eventual re-organization of forced laborers into mobile labor detachments, the dissolution of the forced labor detachments at the end of the war, and the results of forced labor, as well as the experiences of survivors. Dallas will examine questions regarding the balance between economic rationality and racial ideology in the use of forced labor in Romania, the influence of parallel forced labor systems in other countries on the Romanian system, the efficiency of forced labor in Romania, the culture of corruption that permeated the forced labor system, and various forms of Jewish resistance to forced labor. His research has been supported by two Title VIII Language Study Fellowships. In addition to English, Dallas speaks Romanian and German, and he has spent time studying in both Romania, at Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, and Germany, at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena. Dallas has also written a book chapter on the nationalization of Jewish property in Sarajevo under the Ustasha regime, which he contributed to a forthcoming edited volume on the fascist regime in Croatia. His dissertation advisor is Dr. Eric A. Johnson.

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Luca Fenoglio, PhD Candidate, History, University of Edinburgh, UK

Mr. Fenoglio’s doctoral dissertation is provisionally entitled “Resisting the ‘Final Solution?’ Fascist Italy’s Policy Towards the Jews in South Eastern France, November 1942 – September 1943.” Central to his study is the understanding of the reasons for Fascist Italy’s changing responses to the German requests for collaboration in the ‘final solution’ before September 8, 1943 and for the alleged protection of foreign Jewish refugees by the Italian Army.Drawing on a vast range of primary sources, Mr. Fenoglio’s research attempts to move beyond the mono-causal explanations currently prevailing in the scholarship on the topic, to try outlining Fascist Italy’s goals as to the ‘Jewish problem’ in southern France. In so doing, he aims to bridge the rich historiographical debate on the origins of the Holocaust and the motivations of its perpetrators on the one hand and the ongoing reassessment of the Fascist dictatorship on the other.In October 2013, Mr. Fenoglio published the first results of his research in a monograph entitled “Angelo Donati e la «questione ebraica» nella Francia occupata dall’esercito italiano.” (Turin: Zamorani) Mr. Fenoglio received funding from the University of Edinburgh, the EHRI and the Holocaust Educational Foundation. His dissertation is supervised by Prof. Donald Bloxham and Dr. Pertti Ahonen.

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Kimberly Allar, PhD Candidate, Holocaust Studies, Clark University, USA

Kimberly Allar’s dissertation examines the recruitment and training of concentration camp guards in Nazi Germany by analyzing three groups of trainees who differed along gender and ethnic lines: the Totenkopfverbände of Dachau, the Aufseherinnen of Ravensbrück, and the Wachmannschaften of Trawniki. “Training Nazi Camp Guards,” outlines the evolution of the training programs by considering the Nazi expectations and methods for molding guards and by recovering the actual experiences of individuals participating in the program. This study elucidates not only how regimes were able to procure and prime the human resources to carry out genocide, but also how various groups responded and participated in the violence and crimes of the camp. Ms. Allar’s study incorporates both contemporary and post-war documents, ranging from official SS records to private correspondence to Allied and German investigations, found in multiple archives throughout Germany, Israel, and the United States. Ms. Allar was a fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and has held research fellowships from the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure and the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst. Her dissertation committee includes Dr. Thomas Kühne, Dr. Wendy Lower, and Dr. Peter Black.

 Andrew Kornbluth, PhD Candidate, History, University of California, USA

Andrew Kornbluth is currently completing a dissertation entitled “Poland on Trial: Postwar Courts, Collaboration, and the Holocaust, 1944-1956.”

Making use of unpublished memoirs, interviews, ministerial archives, and hundreds of individual trial records, his dissertation examines how the Polish judicial system dealt with citizens accused of collaboration in a country which was otherwise famous for being the only state in occupied Europe “without a Quisling.”  In particular, he focuses on how the combination of a weak Soviet-backed government, a conservative and sometimes nationalistic judiciary bent on preserving its independence, vague laws, and a reluctant society impeded the search for justice on behalf of Jews who had been murdered or exploited by their gentile neighbors during the war.  Ultimately, the Polish example reveals striking parallels with other processes of abortive postwar justice on either side of the Iron Curtain, suggesting the extent to which ethnic cleansing and its judicial aftermath were part of a pan-European experience, and raising questions about our modern-day infatuation with international and transitional justice as an alternative to failures of the political and social order.

In addition to his doctoral studies, Mr. Kornbluth has also conducted archival research in Serbia on the topic of collaboration and national identity in that country during the Second World War.  He has been the recipient of fellowships from the Foreign Language and Area Studies program, the American Council of Learned Societies, the International Research and Exchanges Board, as well as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  His doctoral advisers are Profs. John Connelly, Yuri Slezkine, and Jason Wittenberg.

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Dr. Jan Láníček, PhD, Post-doc Candidate, History, University of  New South Wales, Australia

Dr. Jan Láníček was born in Ostrava, the Czech Republic. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Southampton in Britain (supervised by Professor Tony Kushner) and, in 2011-2012, heldaPrins Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Center for Jewish History in New York.  Dr. Láníček currently lives in Sydney and works as a post-doctoral fellow in Jewish history at the School of Humanities and Languages at the University of New South Wales. He also serves as Vice-President (for New South Wales) of the Australian Association for Jewish Studies. He recently published a monograph entitled Czechs, Slovaks and the Jews, 1938-1948: Beyond Idealisation and Condemnation (Palgrave, 2013), and also co-edited a volume on Governments-in-Exile and the Jews during the Second World War (Vallentine Mitchell, 2013). Láníček’s post-doctoral project analyzes Jewish/non-Jewish relations in East-Central Europe from 1933 to 1939 through the prism of the international construction of the ‘Jewish minority question’. The project will add new dimensions of understanding to the topic by addressing the ways in which the international community treated the Jewish question in the framework of the Minorities Treaties signed in 1919. The project offers four perspectives on the main research question: a) the way in which East-Central European countries (Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Romania) in the 1930s attempted to transform their domestic Jewish question into an international issue; b) the perception of the Jewish minority in the countries in comparison with other ethnic minorities; c) the treatment of the Jewish minority question in the region by international actors; d) perspectives offered by various western Jewish activists. The lenses provide comprehensive insights into Jewish life in East-Central Europe in the 1930s shortly before the Holocaust.

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Dr. Yaron Pasher, PhD, Post-doc Candidate, History, Tel Aviv University, Israel

Dr. Yaron Pasher wrote his PhD at Tel Aviv University under co-supervision from Prof. Gerhard L. Weinberg (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) and Prof Dina Porat (Chief Historian of Yad Vashem, Tel Aviv University). Yaron is a Postdoctoral  Research Fellow at the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem working on the topic titled: ” Albert Ganzenmüller:  The “Steam” Behind the German War Machine and the “Final Solution”. His upcoming book to published in early fall 2014  by ” University Press of Kansas ” – ( Modern War Studies)  is  titled: “HOLOCAUST VERSUS WEHRMACHT : How Hitler’s “Final Solution” undermined the German War Effort”.  It deals with logistics and strategy of the German army between 1941-1944 in relation to the “Final Solution”.