Dead bodies, evidence and the death march from Buchenwald to Dachau, April–May 1945
Christopher E. Mauriello
This article utilises the theoretical perspectives of the forensic turn to further expand our historical understandings and interpretations of the events of the Holocaust. More specifically, it applies a theory of the materialities of dead bodies to historically reconstruct and reinterpret the death march from Buchenwald to Dachau from 7 to 28 April 1945. It focuses on dead bodies as ‘evidence’, but explores how the evidential meanings of corpses along the death-march route evolved and changed during the march itself and in the aftermath of discovery by approaching American military forces. While drawing on theories of the evidential use of dead bodies, it remains firmly grounded in empirical historical research based on archival sources. The archives at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp contain eyewitness accounts and post-war trial testimony that enable a deeply contextualised ‘microhistory’ of the geography, movements, perpetrators, victims and events along this specific death march in April and May 1945. This ‘thick description’ provides the necessary context for a theoretical reading of the changing evidential meanings of dead bodies as the death march wove its way from Buchenwald to Dachau and the war and the Holocaust drew to an end.
This article seeks to show that the bodies of Jewish people who died in the Drancy internment camp between 1941 and 1944 were handled on French soil in a doubly normalised manner: first by the police and judicial system, and then in relation to funeral arrangements. My findings thus contradict two preconceived ideas that have become firmly established in collective memory: first, the belief that the number who died in the Drancy camp is difficult to establish; and second, the belief that the remains of internees who died in the camp were subjected to rapid and anonymous burial in a large mass grave in Drancy municipal cemetery.
The Kulmhof extermination camp in Chełmno nad Nerem was the first camp set up by the Nazis to exterminate Jews during the Second World War. The history of Kulmhof has long been an area of interest for academics, but despite thorough research it remains one of the least-known places of its kind among the public. Studies of the role of archaeology in acquiring knowledge about the functioning of the camp have been particularly compelling. The excavations carried out intermittently over a thirty-year period (1986–2016), which constitute the subject of this article, have played a key role in the rise in public interest in the history of the camp.
Jon Seligman, Paul Bauman, Richard Freund, Harry Jol, Alastair McClymont, and Philip Reeder
The Ponar-Paneriai base, the main extermination site of Vilna-Vilnius, began its existence as a Red Army fuel depot in 1940. After Nazi occupation of the city in 1941 the Einsatzgruppen and mostly Lithuanian members of the Ypatingasis būrys used the pits dug for the fuel tanks for the murder of the Jews of Vilna and large numbers of Polish residents. During its operation, Ponar was cordoned off, but changes to the topography of the site since the Second World War have made a full understanding of the site difficult. This article uses contemporary plans and aerial photographs to reconstruct the layout of the site, in order to better understand the process of extermination, the size of the Ponar base and how the site was gradually reduced in size after 1944.
This article has two aims: to examine the effects of victim proximity to crematoria ashes and ash pits both consciously and unconsciously in a subset of Holocaust survivors, those who were incarcerated at the dedicated death camps of Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, as well as Auschwitz-Birkenau; and to contrast these effects, the subject positions they produce, with their suppression as the basis both for a strategy of survival during incarceration and for a reimagined identity after the war. Within a cohort of four survivors from Rudolf Reder (Belzec), Esther Raab (Sobibor), Jacob Wiernik (Treblinka) and Shlomo Venezia (Auschwitz), I trace the ways in which discrete memories and senses became constitutive in the formation of the subject prior to and after escape – the experience of liberation – so that essentially two kinds of subjects became visible, the subject in liberation and the subject of ashes. In conjunction with these two kinds of subjects, I introduce the compensatory notion of a third path suggested both by H. G. Adler and Anna Orenstein, also Holocaust survivors, that holds both positions together in one space, the space of literature, preventing the two positions from being stranded in dialectical opposition to each other.
Archaeology, networks, and the Smithsonian Institution, 1876–79
James E. Snead
Intricate networks of collectors and institutions have been fundamental
elements of the infrastructure of archaeology. Informal, fluid networks
particularly characterized communities of antiquarian interest in the
nineteenth century United States, when limited institutional development
coincided with increased public interest in indigenous relics. Competition
over American antiquities intensified during the 1870s, a period marked both
by increased regional interest in the indigenous past and national demand
sparked by the 1876 Centennial Exposition. In this effort the Smithsonian’s
two archaeologists, Charles Rau and Otis Tufton Mason, fell back on the
time-honored mechanism of a circular, dispatched through their national
network. This document, ‘Circular 316: In Regard to American Antiquities,’
generated an enormous response. What one contemporary called an ‘undigested
mass of information’ is actually a unique account of a complex pattern. The
history of archaeological practice that emerges is one not of a steady drive
toward professional accountability and standards, but instead of motivated
actors pursuing personal ambitions associated with the exploration of the
past in a mode that directly reflects the cultural and social context of the
United States in the 1870s.
The dynamic processes of knowledge production in archaeology and elsewhere in the
humanities and social sciences are increasingly viewed within the context of
negotiation, cooperation and exchange, as the collaborative effort of groups,
clusters and communities of scholars. Shifting focus from the individual scholar
to the wider social contexts of her work, this volume investigates the
importance of informal networks and conversation in the creation of knowledge
about the past, and takes a closer look at the dynamic interaction and exchange
that takes place between individuals, groups and clusters of scholars in the
wider social settings of scientific work. Various aspects of and mechanisms at
work behind the interaction and exchange that takes place between the individual
scholar and her community, and the creative processes that such encounters
trigger, are critically examined in eleven chapters which draw on a wide
spectrum of examples from Europe and North America: from early modern
antiquarians to archaeological societies and practitioners at work during the
formative years of the modern archaeological disciplines and more recent
examples from the twentieth century. The individual chapters engage with
theoretical approaches to scientific creativity, knowledge production and
interaction such as sociology and geographies of science, and actor-network
theory (ANT) in their examination of individual–collective interplay. The book
caters to readers both from within and outside the archaeological disciplines;
primarily intended for researchers, teachers and students in archaeology,
anthropology, classics and the history of science, it will also be of interest
to the general reader.
Dutch collectors, antiquarians, academics and (museum) archaeologists have
explored the ancient heritage of the Mediterranean for over four centuries.
Nevertheless, the institutionalised practice of archaeology in these areas
is a relatively young discipline. This chapter deals specifically with the
birth of Dutch archaeology in Italy. The first Dutch excavations, under the
aegis of the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (KNIR), started in the
1950s and continued for more than a decade. This chapter examines the
disciplinary infrastructure and the social, political and intellectual
contexts of the first Dutch dig in Italy. Two issues are central in this
research. One is to understand better the changing social, intellectual and
political networks that commence and evolve during the process of an
archaeological fieldwork project in a foreign country. The second is to
place the many narratives produced by these academic networks in their
contemporary contexts. This chapter deals with the questions: In which
political context did foreign archaeological practice in Italy emerge? Who
were the Dutch scholars that started the first excavation project? Which
institutional context made the first Dutch excavation in Italy possible? Why
dig beneath the Santa Prisca church?