For two years, Dr. Beorn was part of an interdisciplinary team of scholars funded by the National Science Foundation to investigate the Holocaust from a geographical perspective. This collaboration began as a summer workshop at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum which brought together a group of geographers and historians to discuss how the two disciplines could complement each other in helping us to better understand the Holocaust, to perhaps ask better and different questions of the evidence, and to find new ways of visualizing and analyzing old and new historical sources.
This two week workshop expanded into a National Science Foundation “Collaborative Research - Holocaust Historical GIS,” Award #0820501/ #0820487, spearheaded by Anne Knowles and Alberto Giordano. Since receiving this generous support, the group has met several times in person, has presented at multiple academic conferences, and has collaborated on six projects seeking to demonstrate the exciting power and opportunities offered by this collaboration between the disciplines of history and geography. Dr. Beorn's contribution is an examination of the importance of positionality for Einsatzgruppen perpetrators on the ground. This is involves first, of course, examining how geography (at a variety of scales from the regional to local to micro and individual) were not merely passive factors but also impacted HOW the Holocaust in the East took place on the ground. Then he moves to examine a more theoretical question: how did one's physical position vis à vis killing affect one's attitudes, but also conversely, what can we perhaps learn about the perpetrator's motivation by where they chose to position themselves. The results of our various case studies are currently being prepared for publication in an edited volume. The group continues to work collaboratively and to advocate for the benefits of an integration between geography and history in scholarly research, pedagogy, and public education.
Geographies of the Holocaust Working Group Members
Anne Knowles Middlebury College
Waitman Beorn University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill
Alberto Giordano Texas State University
Tim Cole University of Bristol, UK
Simone Gigliotti Victoria University, NZ
Anna Holian Arizona State University
Paul Jaskot DePaul University
Marc Masurovsky USHMM
Erik Steiner Stanford University
Below are links to the larger project and to Dr. Beorn's case study at the United States Holocaust Museum:
A Geography of Complicity: Spaces and Mentalities in Wehrmacht participation in Einsatzgruppen Killings in the Soviet Union
Anne Knowles discusses Historical Geography in the New York Times.