While previous generations of Holocaust researchers have focused on the Nazis’
strategic extermination of Europe’s minorities, at Yad Vashem’s summer seminar
this week, a new generation of scholars from all over the world are discussing a
bottom-up approach to answer the question of who killed the Jews.
workshop, titled “The Persecution and Murder of the Jews: A Grassroots
Perspective,” began Monday at Yad Vashem in the capital and will continue for a
week. Participants will look at the involvement of local peoples throughout
Europe – from the women perpetrators in the fields of Ukraine and Poland to the
judges in France – in the killing of approximately 6 million Jews in less than
“Hitler did not do it on his own,” Prof. Dan Michman, chief
historian of Yad Vashem, said last week. “This was an enormous project that was
done in a very short time. How could this happen? It was not just by giving an
Although Holocaust experts have been “asking the big questions
for years,” contemporary research suggests that strategy has proven
insufficient. This year’s seminar is part of a larger trend in Holocaust
research that started gaining traction during the late 1990s. Michman said he
has seen more and more examples in the past three or four years.
the general picture of Holocaust research, on the perpetrators aspect, the
emphasis for many years was on higher echelons of the decision-making process,
and there is a new wave of research – especially among younger historians – who
say that it was carried out on the local level,” Michman said. “This subject has
become a hot topic in Holocaust research in recent times.”
To tackle this
issue of tremendous breadth, Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust
Research has invited a team of global Holocaust historians.
choosing applicants from a wide array of different countries,” Michman said.
“There are all kinds of kinds of fragments of persecutions, but a lot of
marginal issues, when you put them together you see how important they are in
order to have this whole issue materialize...We wanted a varied program
about many countries.”
From Hungary to Australia, scholars will gather to
build an information-sharing network that may help shed light on a
of Holocaust history.
By spreading the responsibility of the Holocaust to
individuals all over Europe, this contemporary trend in research could
tremendous implications in refuting the conventional wisdom concerning
the biggest scars on human history.
“A policy is not just an issue of top
officials but of everyone who contributes to it,” Michman said. “So you
contribute to the good or contribute to the evil... in this case, the