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< All Fellows and Scholars

Dr. Debórah Dwork

Dr. Debórah Dwork
2017-2018 J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Senior Scholar-in-Residence

"Saints and Liars: American Relief and Rescue Workers during the Nazi Era"

Professional Background

Dr. Debórah Dwork is the Rose Professor of Holocaust History and Founding Director of the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. She holds a PhD from University College London, England, an MPH from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and a BA from Princeton University, New Jersey. As the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Senior Scholar-in-Residence, at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, Dr. Dwork will research and write a book titled  “Saints and Liars: American Relief and Rescue Workers during the Nazi Era.”

One of the first historians to record Holocaust survivors' oral histories and to use their narratives as a scholarly source, Dwork explores the social and cultural history of the Holocaust. Among her award-winning books, Children With A Star introduced a child-centered approach to historical investigation; Auschwitz (coauthored with Robert Jan van Pelt) drew the critically important connection between industrial killing and a society that believed it was involved in constructive activity; and Flight from the Reich (coauthored with van Pelt) opened the geographic view of the Holocaust and integrated the refugee experience into its history. Dwork is working on two book projects, Saints and Liars, which drills down on American relief and rescue and efforts during the Nazi years, and Dear Tante Elisabeth: An Extraordinary, Ordinary Christian during the Holocaust, which draws upon a cache of over a thousand letters written by Jewish parents to their children and from the children to their parents.

Dr. Dwork serves on the American delegation to the 31-state International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. She has been, inter alia, a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and a Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies.

Fellowship Research

While in residence at the Mandel Center, Dr. Dwork researched and wrote a book about Americans -- Quakers, Unitarians, secular people, Jews — who traveled abroad to offer aid and, step by step, engaged in rescuing people targeted by Nazi Germany and its allies. Few of the Americans who hurtled into action on behalf of the Nazis’ victims are known today. The inspired efforts and blazing successes of people like Martha and Waitstill Sharp, Moses Beckelman, Laura Margolis, Marjorie McClelland, Elisabeth and Robert Dexter, and Herta and Noel Field elicit hardly a flicker of recognition. Drawing on the Museum's resources, she seeks to understand the choices and courses they persued.  Zooming in on a series of concrete situations (in Prague, 1939; Vilna, 1940; Shanghai, 1941; Marseille, 1942; Lisbon, 1943; and Geneva, 1945), Saints and Liars traces the development of initiatives on the ground and how they unfolded in real time.  Analyzing these daring ventures, unlikely factors come into focus: luck, impulse, ambition, fortuitous circumstance, timing.

Dr. Dwork was in residence from September 1, 2017, to May 31, 2018.