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< All Fellows and Scholars

Ms. Michelle Penn

Michelle Penn
2015-2016 J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Fellow

“The Extermination of Peaceful Soviet Citizens: Aron Trainin, the Holocaust, and the Concept of Genocide”

Professional Background

Ms. Michelle Penn in a PhD candidate in history at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She received her JD from Washington University in St. Louis, and her BA in Political Science from Cornell College. Ms. Penn is a native English speaker with language skills in Russian and German. While in residence at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, Ms. Penn conducted research on her project, “The Extermination of Peaceful Soviet Citizens: Aron Trainin, the Holocaust, and the Concept of Genocide.”

Ms. Penn has been awarded a number of fellowships, including an Arts and Sciences Fellowship at the University of Colorado-Boulder that provided full financial support with no teaching obligation during first year of graduate study, as well as a Cash Nickerson Fellowship at the Whitney Harris World Law Institute. In addition to being an emerging scholar in her field, Ms. Penn has also contributed as Washington University Journal of Law & Policy associate editor, Center for the Humanities and Arts Graduate Scholar at the University of Colorado-Boulder, and a Red Cross International Humanitarian Law Student Teacher.

Fellowship Research

For her J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Fellowship at the Mandel Center, Ms. Penn explored how the Soviet Union defined and understood genocide and the Holocaust, and explored the boundaries between Universalist and Particularist approaches to naming a mass killing of a group of people “genocide.” Using the life and work of Aron Trainin, the most prominent figure in Soviet international law in the 1930s and 1940s, she examined what was uniquely Soviet in portrayals of the Holocaust and in definitions of the concept of genocide, and elucidated what the Soviets held in common with Western international legal thought.  In doing so, she examined how Soviet experiences of mass violence influenced or were ignored in Soviet definitions of genocide. In this way, Ms. Penn investigated how the international legal order influenced the legal definition of genocide, and the Soviet Union’s role in this legal context as a global power.

Ms. Michelle Penn was in residence at the Mandel Center from October 1 to December 31, 2015.