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< Conferences and Workshops

Between Enemy Combatant and Racial ‘Other’: Nazi Persecution of Soviet POWs


Applications must be received in electronic form no later than Friday, November 1, 2019. 

January 6-10, 2020
Washington, DC

About the Workshop

The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) announces the 2020 Jack and Anita Hess Faculty Seminar: Between Enemy Combatant and Racial ‘Other’: Nazi Persecution of Soviet POWs. This year’s Seminar will explore Soviet prisoners of war (POWs) as one of the many victim groups that the Nazis deliberately persecuted in their campaign on the Eastern Front. Among other topics, we will discuss the various facets of the Nazis’ policies toward Soviet POWs, including mass-starvation tactics, forced labor, and mass executions. Seminar participants will also gain familiarity with the controversies and debates that have dominated the scholarship on this particular victim group and that continue to shape the ways in which they are represented, memorialized, and remembered today. 

It is estimated that the Nazis captured roughly 5.7 million Red Army soldiers and personnel during their campaign in the East. Often held in makeshift camps, Soviet POWs were provided little to no shelter, insufficient food and water rations, and limited medical care. They were also executed on a level that was unparalleled by other POW groups under Nazi control. By war’s end, the Nazis had killed 3.3 million or just over half of the Soviet POW population.

The Hess Seminar will focus on the Nazis’ treatment of Soviet POWs within the larger context of the Third Reich’s race policies, the war of annihilation in the East, and the Holocaust. We will also explore the challenges faced by Soviet POW survivors who were repatriated to the Soviet Union after the end of World War II. In addressing these topics, participants will be introduced to a range of sources from the Museum’s film, oral history, testimony, recorded sound, archival, and photography collections, and the International Tracing Service Digital Archive. Participants will also be able to meet and speak with staff scholars who have expertise in various Holocaust-related topics. Finally, the Seminar will provide an opportunity for participants to discuss pedagogical approaches and techniques for teaching the history of Soviet POWs within comparative, transnational, and interdisciplinary frameworks.

The 2020 Jack and Anita Hess Seminar is designed to help faculty, instructors, and advanced PhD students who are currently teaching or preparing to teach courses that focus on or have a curricular component devoted to POWs, World War II, and Holocaust studies broadly conceived. Applications are welcomed from faculty across academic disciplines including but not limited to: language studies, film studies, war studies, displaced people and refugee studies, anthropology, sociology, history, literature, and international law. We also particularly welcome scholars who teach courses with a global, comparative, or transnational approach and are interested in incorporating materials on the experiences of Soviet POWs during the Second World War. While the Seminar’s focus will be on Nazi persecution of this particular victim group, the Seminar’s themes, approaches, and methods are intended to be useful for faculty who teach related topics across geographic regions and time periods.

Seminar topics to be discussed include:

  • POWs in the Great War
  • The Geneva Conventions and International Law
  • The Wehrmacht and Hitler’s Ostkrieg
  • Campaign Barbarossa and the Criminal Orders
  • The Nazi “Hunger Policy”
  • Experiencing Captivity in Nazi Camps
  • Women and Minorities in the Red Army
  • The Radicalization of Warfare
  • POWs in the Lens of the German Camera
  • Repatriating Soviet POWs
  • Memory and Memorialization of Soviet POWs
  • Pedagogical Approaches to the War on the Eastern Front

Jeff Rutherford received his PhD from the University of Texas. He is an assistant professor of history at Xavier University who specializes in the military and ideological aspects of the German-Soviet war. He is the author of Combat and Genocide on the Eastern Front: The German Infantry’s War  (2014) and co-author of The German Army on the Eastern Front: An Inner View of the Ostheer’s Experiences of War (2018), as well as co-editor of Nazi Policy on the Eastern Front, 1941: Total War, Genocide, and Radicalization (2012). He is currently writing a history of the German army during the Second World War for Cambridge University Press. 

Edward Westermann received his PhD from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and is a Professor of History at Texas A&M-San Antonio. He has published extensively in the areas of German military history and the Holocaust. He is the author of Hitler’s Police Battalions: Enforcing Racial War in the East (2005) and Hitler’s Ostkrieg and the Indian Wars: Comparing Genocide and Conquest (2016).  He was a Fulbright Fellow in Berlin, a three-time German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Fellow, and a J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Fellow at the USHMM.  His forthcoming work, Drunk on Genocide: Alcohol, Masculinity, and the Intoxication of Mass Murder, will be published by Cornell University Press in association with the USHMM. 

How to Apply

Seminar applicants must be teaching or anticipate teaching relevant courses at accredited institutions in North America. This includes four-year colleges and universities and community colleges. Applications must include: (1) curriculum vitae; (2) a statement of the candidate’s specific interest in strengthening his/her background in Holocaust studies for the purpose of teaching; and (3) a supporting letter from a dissertation advisor, departmental chair, or dean addressing the candidate’s qualifications and the institution’s commitment to Holocaust-related education. A draft syllabus of a Holocaust-related course that the candidate has taught or anticipates teaching should also be included in the application. 

Participants must commit to attend the entire Seminar. After the conclusion of the seminar, participants will be expected to submit a preliminary version of a revised syllabus. Time will be built into the Seminar to allow participants to revise their syllabi as appropriate to include Museum resources, academic materials, and other relevant sources introduced and discussed during the Seminar.

Admission will be decided without regard to age, gender, race, creed, or national origin of the candidate. For non-local participants, the Mandel Center will defray the cost of (1) direct travel to and from the participant’s home institution and Washington, DC, and (2) lodging for the duration of the Seminar. Incidentals, meals, and book expenses must be defrayed by the candidates or their respective institutions. 

Applications must be received in electronic form no later than Friday, November 1, 2019. 

Apply Now

For questions regarding the application process, contact

This Seminar is endowed by Edward and David Hess in memory of their parents, Jack and Anita Hess, who believed passionately in the power of education to overcome racial and religious prejudice.