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Spatial configurations of the Warsaw Ghetto : selected aspects of Jewish space and Nazi policies Nowak, Anja

Abstract

Conceptualizing space as both a social product and a social agent, my thesis examines the Jewish ghetto that the Nazi German occupiers created in Warsaw in the years between 1940 and 1943 from a distinct spatial perspective. Following the example of authors such as Dan Stone, Anne Kelly Knowles, Tim Cole, Alberto Giordano, Paolo Giaccaria and Claudio Minca, my study, thus, makes a case for the relevance of spatial analysis in the context of the Holocaust. Seeing the ghetto itself as a form of violence exerted against the Jews, I proceed in two steps: In the first part of the study, I trace out which German policies and actions created and shaped the space of the ghetto and how it changed over time due to shifts in the Nazi German agenda and the practices on site. The analysis is guided by the objective of making transparent the administrative processes and responsibilities involved in the ghetto’s creation and management. At the same time, the analysis pursues questions regarding violence, power dynamics, segregation, spatial appropriation and ownership, identity-formation, as well as social, cultural and economic exclusion. In the second part of the study, I shift the focus to explore the space of the ghetto as it was perceived, experienced and described by the people held within it. Building largely on war-time diaries and post-war memoirs, the study investigates particular examples, constellations and recurring situations to further explore how the spatial environment – both in its physical and social dimensions – negatively affected Jewish everyday life, cultural practices, social and personal identity-formation and social relationships. By showing that the ghetto space was inherently adverse to Jewish life, I will advocate a view of the ghetto that emphasizes the violent nature of the spatial environment itself. The analysis of the observations from first-hand accounts is based on concepts and terminology from a broad range of theoretical approaches from the fields of history, urban studies, architecture, (human) geography, anthropology, political theory, philosophy, and sociology, making the study inherently interdisciplinary.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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