Although February was a short month, it was one filled with traveling, outreach, and preparations for a busy semester of academic programs. 

In mid-February, we bid farewell to our first fellow of 2019, Lukas Meissel, following his well-attended lecture on SS photography in concentration camps. Lukas spent a month searching the Visual History Archive for survivors’ counter-narratives to the concentration camp images produced by perpetrators. He will meet Center staff again when he presents his research at the upcoming conference on Holocaust testimonies in Akko, Israel, co-organized by the Center, and again this summer at the International Association of Genocide Scholars conference in Cambodia, where several staff members are presenting research with tetsimonies.

In February, the Center focused heavily on outreach about the power and relevance of the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive across disciplines. We collaborated with the Institute’s Education department to host an open house and informational session for USC librarians and faculty members, conducted five class introductions for students at USC and Occidental College, and traveled internationally to conduct workshops training faculty and students how to explore and benefit from the VHA in research and teaching. Late in February, I traveled to UC San Diego to give an invited evening lecture as part of the Holocaust Living History Workshop Program, and Center Associate Director Martha Stroud traveled to Guatemala. 

As we anticipate the arrival of more research fellows in the months ahead, we remind you that the Center is still accepting applications for the 2019 Beth and Arthur Lev Student Research Fellowship, which is exclusively available to USC students. See below for more details.

In March, we will be welcoming our 2018-2019 Center Graduate Research Fellow, Danielle Willard-Kyle (Rutgers University), who will spend a month at the Center conducting research in the VHA about the experience of refugees in Italian Displaced Persons camps. We are also excited to invite you to attend two lectures with two renowned scholars on the Armenian genocide, both co-sponsored by the USC Institute of Armenian Studies. Read more about these events below.

Wolf Gruner

Founding Director of the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research
Professor of History and Shapell-Guerin Chair in Jewish Studies


“SS Photographs from Concentration Camps: Perpetrator Sources and Counter-Narratives of Victims” 
Lukas Meissel (PhD candidate, University of Haifa)

2018-2019 Greenberg Research Fellow

In this lecture, Lukas Meissel discussed the significance of SS photographs in concentration camps, and argued that these photographs represent a carefully curated construction of camp reality often at odds with the actual experiences of survivors, as told through testimonies in the Visual History Archive. Meissel focused on what he calls “institutionalized perpetrator photography” to argue that SS photography was not only a visualization of the camps, but also part of the crimes committed there. Besides survivor narratives, he showed the audience rare relevant photographs he unexpectedly discovered at the end of the interviews in the Visual History Archive, which holds 700,000 photographs. The lecture was attended by over 60 people and attracted a large number of undergraduate students. 

Read more about Lukas Meissel here.

Watch the lecture and read a summary here.


2018-2019 Greenberg Research Fellow Lukas Meissel concludes his residency

Lukas Meissel, PhD candidate in Holocaust Studies at Haifa University, Israel, concluded his month-long residency at the Center with a public lecture on February 12th. He spent his time in residence at the Center conducting research in the Visual History Archive looking for testimonies about SS photography in concentration camps. He hoped to find counter-narratives by former prisoners, who talk about violence and humiliation, which is strikingly absent from most SS photographs.  By using the testimonies of the Visual History Archive, he can illustrate the danger of uncritical usage of perpetrator documents in Holocaust research.

Read more about Lukas Meissel here.


In February, Center staff offered VHA introductions to many USC classes, including French 373: Remembering Loss, Writing Memory; Arts and Letters 100: Remembering the Holocaust; Jewish Studies 211: The Holocaust; and Social Work 634: Global Violence Against Women. In addition, VHA Program Coordinator Badema Pitic visited Occidental College to discuss the Guatemalan collection with students from the class Latino/a & Latin American Studies 321: Immigration to the United States from Mexico and Central America. During these introductions, students expressed interest in conducting individual research in the archive on the variety of topics, including humor and laughter as a coping mechanism, and impregnation resulting from sexual violence.

The Center also collaborated with the Institute’s Education department to host an open house introducing USC faculty and librarians to the Visual History Archive and IWitness University. The event was very successful and introduced around 20 USC librarians and faculty members to the research and teaching uses of the VHA and iWitness University.

February also included a lot of travel for Center staff. Center Director Wolf Gruner was invited to give a presentation on his research on individual Jewish resistance during the Holocaust as part of the Living History series at the University of California, San Diego. The public evening lecture attracted an audience between 80 and 100 people, including students, faculty and many community members. VHA Program Coordinator Badema Pitic visited the University of Oxford to conduct a VHA workshop providing a hands-on introduction for faculty and students about how to navigate the Visual History Archive and effectively integrate it into research and teaching. 

Center Associate Director Martha Stroud traveled to Guatemala as part of a USC Shoah Foundation delegation to learn more about the work of the USC Shoah Foundation’s partner the Fundación de Antropología Forense de Guatemala (FAFG), to observe how testimony is already being integrated into education, and to participate in strategic discussions about the research and education potential of the life history interviews the FAFG has collected in the region. The delegation also dicsussed strategies for bringing the work of the USC Shoah Foundation to sites across Latin America. 31 interviews about the Guatemalan genocide are currently available in the VHA, but over 550 have been conducted. The large remainder needs funding in order to be preserved, indexed, and integrated into the Visual History Archive. The Visual History Archive is now accessible at 149 sites, mostly universities, in many parts of the world including Latin America and Africa. 

In March, Center staff will travel to Akko, Israel to attend the Future of Holocaust Testimonies V conference, which the Center is co-organizing. Later in the month, Martha Stroud will attend the Association for Asian Studies conference in Denver, CO, where she will present on her own research on the Indonesian mass killings of 1965. Wolf Gruner will travel to St. Louis to an invited seminar, where prominent Holocaust scholars will meet to talk about the future of Holocaust studies and how to advance Holocaust research. Lastly, Center staff will conduct VHA workshops at Yad Vashem Jerusalem, Israel, and Yale University in New Haven. 

Upcoming Events

March 22, 2019 at 12PM, USC Main Campus, Harris Main Room, Harris Residence Hall

Public lecture by Taner Akcam: "Talat Pasha's Killing Orders and Denial of the Armenian Genocide"

April 2, 2019 at 4PM, USC Main Campus, SOS 250

Public lecture by Gabor Toth, 2018-2019 Postdoctoral Research Fellow: "In Search of the Drowned in the Words of the Saved: Testimonial Fragments of the Holocaust"

April 11, 2019 – Further details to follow

Save the date for a public lecture by the 2018-2019 Shapiro Scholar in Residence Marion Kaplan (New York University)

April 16, 2019 at 4PM, USC Main Campus, SOS 250

Public lecture by Danielle Willard-Kyle, 2018-2019 Center Graduate Research Fellow: “Afterlives: Memories of the Displaced Persons Camps in Italy"

April 23, 2019 at 12PM, Doheny Memorial Library 241

Public lecture by Bieke Van Camp, 2018-2019 Katz Research Fellow in Genocide Studies: "Missing Links: Social Bonds and Barriers amongst Italian Jewish Deportees"


Call for Applications

2019 Beth and Arthur Lev Student Research Fellowship

The USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research invites research proposals from USC undergraduate students and USC graduate students for the 2019 Beth and Arthur Lev Student Research Fellowship. The fellowship provides $1,000 support for USC undergraduate students or $3,000 support for USC graduate students doing research focused on the testimonies of the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive and/or other related USC resources and collections during the summer of 2019. The fellowship is open to USC undergraduate students and graduate students of all disciplines. 

Deadline for applications is March 31, 2019.

For more details, click here.