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The University of Southampton
The Parkes Institute

Call for Papers: Letter Writing in Holocaust Studies

Published: 29 November 2022

Please note: The date of this workshop has changed from what was originally advertised. It is now taking place on Wednesday 24 May and not Thursday 25 May.

This one-day PGR/ECR Workshop at the Wiener Holocaust Library will take place on the 24 May 2023. The workshop is organised by the Holocaust and Genocide Research Partnership (HGRP), an initiative of The Wiener Holocaust Library and the Holocaust Research Institute at Royal Holloway, University of London, in cooperation with the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations (University of Southampton), and will bring together postgraduate and early career researchers working with letters in Holocaust Studies. Holocaust letters offer unique insights into events, contexts and connections but also come with limitations. Their materiality can pose a range of challenges for scholars, and their use raises important ethical questions around ownership and interpretation. Our workshop offers a space for discussion of research projects based on letters, and an opportunity to reflect on the value of letters as sources.

The workshop forms part of the exhibition Holocaust Letters which will be shown at the Wiener Holocaust Library from 22 February - June 2023 as part of the HGRP’s activities. The exhibition will show Holocaust-era letter-writing and archives as sites of knowledge production. It will consider how Jewish persecutees understood what was happening to them as events unfolded. Moreover, it will shed light on letters as objects that reveal how people communicated and illustrate the role of family and friends in preserving, interpreting and donating family correspondences. The exhibition Holocaust Letters is funded by the Ernst Hecht Charitable Foundation, the Stuart Rossiter Trust, the Holocaust Research Institute, and Friends and supporters of the Library.

We invite submissions of abstracts for papers about any aspect of letter writing in Holocaust Studies. We welcome researchers at all levels of their PhD or post-doctoral work, as well as faculty members. Lunch and light refreshments will be provided. Currently, we cannot offer support for participants’ travel/accommodation, but subsidies might become available pending further fundraising.

Possible themes may include:

  • Letter-based histories of the Holocaust
  • Letters as sources (transcription, translation, the use of AI, subjectivity, how to approach idiosyncrasies and gaps, family collections, how to read the writers, knowledge production, sources of the self, mentalities)
  • Materiality (how and where were the letters written, philately, archives)
  • Ethics (ownership, use of private archives in public settings)


Please send your abstract (250 words) to Clara Dijkstra,
by 27 January 2023 . Please include your name, a short biography, the title of your paper, and your contact details.

Conference Organisers: Sandra Lipner (RHUL), Alex Jimenez Nimmo (RHUL), Charlie Knight (University of Southampton), Clara Dijkstra (University of Cambridge)

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