Paula Chan’s dissertation examines the Extraordinary State Commission created by Stalin’s government to gather evidence of Nazi crimes during World War II. These investigations generated an enormous amount of material – more than 43,000 files – that remained off-limits even to Soviet researchers until after the collapse of the USSR. In the years since, the release of these documents has fueled the massive expansion of scholarship on the Holocaust in the East. Yet the functioning of the Commission itself, and the ways in which its methods of investigation and reporting shaped information on the Shoah in the Soviet Union, have received far less attention.
To shed new light on the Extraordinary State Commission, Ms. Chan analyzes investigations in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic region at multiple turning points over the course of the war, thus capturing how investigations varied from place to place even as the Commission’s work as a whole evolved over time. To critically interrogate local-level findings, she compares witness statements given to Commission representatives with testimony from these same Jewish survivors preserved in other Soviet and non-Soviet sources. By situating Extraordinary State Commission records in their local and temporal contexts – both when the document was created during the war and within the life cycle of the investigation – this dissertation illustrates how knowledge of the Holocaust developed in the USSR. As a result, we will have a more complete understanding of the genocide through the eyes of those still wrestling with its consequences.
During her Kagan Fellowship, Ms. Chan will continue her archival research in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and the United States. Her article, “Red Stars and Yellow Stars: The Soviet Investigation of Klooga Concentration Camp,” is forthcoming in the fall 2019 issue of Holocaust and Genocide Studies. In 2018-2019, she was the Robert A. Savitt Fellow at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum). Ms. Chan holds a Master of Arts in Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies (Georgetown University, 2015) and a Master of Science in Library and Information Science (Pratt Institute, 2011); prior to beginning her doctoral studies, she worked as an archivist. Her supervisor at Georgetown University is Michael David-Fox.