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Professor Shirli Gilbert D.Phil in Modern History (University of Oxford, 2002), Postdoctoral Fellow, Michigan Society of Fellows (University of Michigan, 2004-7)

Professor of Modern History

Professor Shirli Gilbert's photo

I am a specialist in modern Jewish history with a focus on the Holocaust period. My book Music in the Holocaust (Oxford University Press, 2005) examines the role of music in the Nazi ghettos and camps and the insight it offers into victims' responses. The book was a finalist for the American National Jewish Book Award and has been translated into Spanish and Japanese. It was also the basis for a large-scale educational website Music and the Holocaust, a documentary feature on BBC Radio 3, and concerts at London's Wigmore Hall and the Hampstead Arts Festival.

My more recent research explores the ways in which the Holocaust shaped understandings of and responses to apartheid in South Africa (1948-1994). Several articles on the subject have already been published, and I am working on a monograph. As part of this broader project, I have helped curate the museum that will shortly be opened at the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide centre.  Together with Dr Avril Alba from the University of Sydney, I have co-edited a volume on Holocaust Memory and Racism in the Postwar World. The project challenges the assumption of an unproblematic connection between the Holocaust and the discourse of multiculturalism and anti-racism, and through diverse case studies seeks to historicize how the Holocaust has informed engagement with concepts of ‘race’ and racism from the 1940s until the present.

I have also written a book about a German-Jewish refugee who came to South Africa in 1936, based on a recently-discovered trove of over 2000 letters. For 35 years, Rudolf Schwab corresponded with family and friends across the world, including a close childhood friend who became a Nazi, meticulously keeping copies of his own letters in addition to those he received. The research was supported by the Kaplan Foundation in South Africa, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture in New York, and private donors. An exhibition based on the book has been produced by the South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town.

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Book Chapters

Areas where I can offer postgraduate supervision:

I welcome enquiries from graduate students interested in Jewish history and culture in the twentieth century, especially relating to South African Jewry, and any aspect of the Holocaust: its history, historiography, representation, and memory. My current graduate students are working on the following topics: Relations between the Polish government and the Zionist movement in the interwar period (Kasia Dziekan); ballet music in Paris during the Nazi occupation (Abi McKee); travel to Holocaust sites in Poland (Scott Saunders); Jewish identity in the GDR (Susan Wachowski); public and private Jewish responses to apartheid (Louise Leibowitz); and the lieder of Julius Bürger (Ryan Hugh Ross).

Professor Shirli Gilbert
Building 65 Faculty of Arts and Humanities University of Southampton Avenue Campus Highfield Southampton SO17 1BF United Kingdom

Room Number: 65/2051

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