- First Name
- Last Name
- United States
- Washington University in St. Louis
- Website URL
- Belarus, USSR, history and memory of war and genocide, Holocaust, Jewish resistance, migration, oral history
- Media Contact
- Additional Contact Information
- About Me
I am a historian of Belarus, the Soviet Union and its successor states, concerned primarily with the history and memory of 20th century war and genocidal violence such as the Holocaust in the region. I am particularly interested in the experience, representation, and memory of Jews in this context. Jews in this part of the world have repeatedly been the target of policies and practices of exclusion and social experimentation, and their history challenges us to rethink notions of multinational integration. The Soviet Jewish experience provides a platform on which to interrogate how ideological frameworks including communism, internationalism, and, during the German occupation 1941-1944, racism, have shaped institutions and how individuals facilitated change and made sense of the world.
My book, “Pioneers and Partisans: An Oral History of Nazi Genocide in Belorussia,” analyzes how the first generation of Soviet Jews experienced the Nazi genocide and how they remember it in a context of social change. Based on oral histories, video testimonies, and memoirs produced in the former Soviet Union, I show that the young Soviet Jews’ struggle for survival, and its memory, was shaped by interethnic relationships within the occupied society, German annihilation policy, and Soviet efforts to construct a patriotic unity of the Soviet population.
I elaborate this point by showing the significance of individual and collective efforts and reproductive labor for the struggle for survival, in hiding places and partisan formations, and how these efforts were subsequently erased in the construction of the Soviet war portrayal.
The work is part of a growing attention to the Nazi genocide in the occupied Soviet territories and the social dynamics associated with war and genocide. Foregrounding questions of identity and memory, the book contributes to understanding the problems and strategies of minority and displaced groups to attain social inclusion.
A current research project looks at the long aftermath of the Nazi genocide in Belarus. In particular, I am interested in how people remember and live with the effects and repercussions of systematic violence. I try to account for the shared suffering of Jews and non-Jews during the German occupation, and for a mass murder that, in part, relied on local participation. I have been working in local archives, interviewed survivors and current residents, and explored local sites of persecution to understand, how communities, which in some cases lost more than half of their population, rebuilt life after genocide and remember the dead, or why some victims are intensely forgotten.
Last but not least, I am a member of the Holocaust Geographies Collaborative. I currently serve as Co-PI in the Holocaust Ghettos Project, an NEH-funded Digital Humanities project to study the spatio-temporal dimensions of ghettoization at scale.
- Recent Publications
Pioneers and Partisans: An Oral History of Nazi Genocide in Belorussia. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. (Paperback 2018)
Migration and Mobility in the Modern Age: Refugees, Travelers, and Traffickers in Europe and Eurasia. Eds. Anika Walke, Jan Musekamp, Nicole Svobodny. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017.
PEER REVIEWED ARTICLES
“Testimony in Place: Witnessing the Holocaust in Belarus,” East European Jewish Affairs 52, no. 3 (2023): in press.
“A People’s Biography: Ada El’evna Raichonak, Germanavichy,” Autobiografia: Literatura/ Kultura/ Media 14, no. 1 (2020): 123-144.
“Historische Orte als Chiffre: Protestbewegung und Erinnerungskultur in Belarus,“ Osteuropa 70, no. 10-11 (2020): 385-398.
Anne Kelly Knowles, Justus Hillebrand, with Paul B. Jaskot and Anika Walke, “Integrative, Interdisciplinary Database Design for the Spatial Humanities: The Case of the Holocaust Ghettos Project,” International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing 14, no. 1-2 (2020): 64-80.
“’To Speak for Those Who Cannot’: Masha Rol’nikaite on Anti-Jewish and Sexual Violence during the German Occupation of Soviet Territories.” Jewish History 33, no. 1-2 (2020): 215-244.
“Split Memory: The Geography of Holocaust Memory and Amnesia in Belarus.” Slavic Review 77, no.1 (2018): 174-197.
“Jewish Youth in the Minsk Ghetto: How Age and Gender Mattered.” Kritika–Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 15, no.3 (2014): 535-62.
“Memories of an Unfulfilled Promise: Internationalism and Patriotism in Post-Soviet Oral Histories of Jewish Survivors of the Nazi genocide.” Oral History Review 40, no.2 (2013): 271-98.
- Media Coverage
- New York Review of Books Blog, New Books Network, China Global Television Network, Chronicle of Higher Education, Zeitgeschichte-online.de, humanities.wustl.edu,
- Country Focus
- Belarus, Russia/ Soviet Union
- Expertise by Geography
- Eastern Europe, Russia
- Expertise by Chronology
- 8, 9
- Expertise by Topic
- Children & Youth, Genocide, Holocaust & Nazi Persecution, Migration & Immigration, Sexual Violence, Women, World War II