During his month-long fellowship, Williams, a junior history major at USC, built on the research he began with Center director, Wolf Gruner, about prisoner escapes and death marches during the Holocaust. He primarily focused on death marches - how Nazi officers treated the prisoners on the marches, what caused prisoner casualties and deaths, and how commonly-held narratives about death marches may oversimplify what really happened. Two of the foremost authorities on death marches are Daniel (The Death Marches) and Daniel Goldhagen (Hitler’s Willing Executioners), who suggest that death marches were a final act of Nazi cruelty intended to kill the remaining Jews – but Williams said the testimonies in the Visual History Archive offer a more nuanced view of death marches that suggest there was much more variation in how prisoners were treated than either of those scholars acknowledge.
Williams intends to turn the research he’s conducted during his DEFY fellowship into his honors thesis, which he hopes will widen our perspective on both German and American behavior during the Holocaust. He’s seen that not all Germans were vicious, and that Americans are not completely without fault.