Lukas Meissel, a PhD candidate in Holocaust Studies at the University of Haifa, Israel, has been awarded the 2018-2019 Greenberg Research Fellowship at the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research. Meissel will be in residence at the Center for one month in early Spring 2019 to conduct research in the Visual History Archive for his doctoral dissertation, entitled “SS-Photography in Concentration Camps. Genres and Meanings of Erkennungsdienst-Photos.”
During his month at the Center, Meissel plans to use the Visual History Archive testimonies to add counternarratives to the research he has conducted about photography in concentration camps. The SS men of Erkennungsdienste (identification departments) were responsible for producing images of the concentration camps for the camp administrations and higher officials. These images included portraits of incoming inmates, photographs of the corpses of murdered inmates and important events such as visits by delegations. Perpetrators produced most of the photographs of the Holocaust we have today, and Meissel argues that these camp photographs were used to create specific images that excluded significant aspects of the camps’ reality. Meissel hopes that by juxtaposing the images taken by perpetrators with the perspectives of victims he will be able to contextualize the one-sided visual documentation of the Holocaust and break the visual narrative of its perpetrators. He plans to explore the Visual History Archive to unearth the experiences of those being photographed in order to understand more about the circumstances of the production of the photographs, the intentions of the SS photographers, and what is missing from the perpetrators’ photographic record.
Meissel earned his BA in History at the University of Vienna and his MA in contemporary history at the same university, where he wrote his thesis on photography of Mauthausen. Before beginning his PhD at the University of Haifa, Meissel worked as an historian in the Jewish community archive of Vienna, as a guide to the Mauthausen memorial, and as a project worker for Yad Vashem in Vienna. He has received many awards, including a full PhD scholarship from the University of Haifa and the 2017 Yad Vashem Scholarship, and has given lectures at conferences including Lessons and Legacies XII and the international conference “Photographs from the Camps of the Nazi Regime.” He has published seven journal articles and over a dozen encyclopedia entries.
The Margee and Douglas Greenberg Research Fellowship is awarded annually to an outstanding advanced-standing Ph.D. candidate from any discipline for dissertation research focused on testimony from the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive and other unique USC research resources. The fellowship enables the recipient to spend one month in residence at the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research during the academic year and to deliver a public lecture about his or her research.