Olga Kartashova

Olga Kartashova is a Ph.D. candidate in Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. She is currently writing her dissertation, “International Networks and Jewish Efforts to Prosecute Nazi Criminals in Poland (1944-1959)” under the supervision of Professor David Engel.

Olga specializes in the history of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, its aftermath, memory, historiography, and trials. She holds M.A. degrees in Comparative History from Central European University and in Holocaust Studies from Haifa University. She completed internships in Yad Vashem, Ghetto Fighters’ House, and the Open Society Archives in Budapest. In 2020, Olga worked as a researcher at the USHMM on a project broadly devoted to genocides and justice with a special focus on legal aspects in the history of the Holocaust. From Spring 2021, Olga has led a monthly research seminar on the East European and Jewish roots of international law in cooperation with the Minerva Center for Human Rights at Tel Aviv University, where she was a visiting fellow during 2021-2022. In 2022, she was a fellow at The Center for Holocaust Studies at the Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History in Munich. Olga is engaged in Digital Humanities and is exploring ways to incorporate technology into Holocaust research, archives, and museums.

Kartashova’s project explores how Polish Jews lobbied for human and minority rights and sought national justice before, during, and after World War II. She builds her narrative upon two main arguments. First, the continuation of the post-World War I activism of Jewish lawyers, community leaders, and individuals remained strong even during the war and occupation. This allows seeing postwar trials and Jewish investigations as a natural extension of the previous decades and not an isolated phenomenon of the postwar period. Second, she claims that Jewish “shtadlanim” (lobbyists) who fought for minority rights, collected evidence, and testified in courts, in fact, represented the Jewish nation as a semi-autonomous group in the legal landscape of developing international criminal law and to the national governments and courts.

At the center of the dissertation are Jewish voices in the post-war trials of Holocaust perpetrators in Poland. The work builds upon existing research on Nazi and collaborator trials (Finder and Prusin 2018, Kornbluth 2021) and contributes a novel study of what surviving Jews understood as justice, how they approached the Polish government in the search for it, and in what ways did they support investigations and trials. At the center of the project are Jewish national institutions active in Poland in the late 1940s that represented survivors and served as intermediaries between them and the authorities. She claims that in circumstances of anti-Jewish hatred and developing conflict of victimhood, Polish Jews made efforts towards achieving justice and they saw Jewish institutions as legitimate representatives of victims and their families. This and the widespread international networks used for information exchange among survivors, domestic and foreign Jewish communities, and national and international legal bodies, ensured the abundance of sources and witness accounts for the Holocaust-related trials and increased the chances of sentencing perpetrators.