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From the Atlantic to the Black Sea: Local Relief and Rescue Operations on the Margins of the Holocaust

Jacob and Yetta Gelman International Research Workshop

August 19–30, 2024

Application deadline: The application deadline has passed

The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum invites applications for the 2024 Jacob and Yetta Gelman International Research Workshop From the Atlantic to the Black Sea: Local Relief and Rescue Operations on the Margins of the Holocaust. The Mandel Center will co-convene this workshop with Gaëlle Fisher, Bielefeld University, and Sebastian Musch, University of Osnabrück. The workshop is scheduled for August 1930, 2024, and will take place at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In the last couple of decades, the role of non-governmental organizations and their relief and rescue activities for those seeking to flee Nazi-dominated Europe have received considerable scholarly attention. While the history of major global organizations—such as the World Jewish Congress and the International Committee of the Red Cross—has become integral to the study of the Holocaust, the decisive role of local actors in humanitarian operations has been neglected and, in many cases, overlooked entirely. With their distinct practical knowledge and connections, local actors often played a crucial role in relief and rescue for persecuted Jews, Roma, and others seeking to flee Nazi-dominated Europe. Navigating the space between highly specific local contexts and global politics, and filling the interstices between state actors and larger rescue and relief organizations, these individuals and groups proved to be skilled operators, with their own distinctive incentives, interests, and problems. 

This workshop advances research on rescue and relief in World War II by foregrounding these smaller local actors and organizations, particularly in locations on the perimeters of the main theaters of the Holocaust and on the peripheries of power. We will consider a range of non-governmental actors and networks from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, from Lisbon to Helsinki to Tbilisi to Cairo, often small-scale and grassroots, organized from below and inhabiting the margins. How and why did they attempt to provide rescue and relief for those in danger of persecution, deportation, and extermination by Nazi Germany and its allies? What challenges and constraints, material, ideological, or otherwise, did they face? What were the stakes, priorities, and possibilities for such actors at the margins and how did they differ from those in what are often regarded as the epicenters of the Holocaust? What were the global dimensions and effects of this civilian activism during the Holocaust? 

By linking the nascent field of humanitarian studies with the local turn in the study of the Holocaust, we seek to provide a more theoretically informed, transnational, and comparative picture of relief and rescue activities that sheds new light on the structures, networks, and relationships that mattered and made a difference. Highlighting the interactions of these local actors with both local state authorities and larger global rescue and relief organizations will, for instance, contribute to a broader understanding of flight and forced migration during the Holocaust. This research, in turn, will enhance our understanding of how the war, violence, and the mass murder of European Jews and Roma has shaped beliefs, narratives, and conceptions of individual and collective agency––and continues to shape them to this day. 

We welcome contributions that address specific individuals and organizations, issues of scale, hierarchies and asymmetries of power in different local contexts, and regional and/or urban case studies from a broad range of sites on the margins.

Daily sessions of the workshop will consist of presentations and roundtable discussions led by participants, as well as discussions with Museum staff, and research in the Museum’s collections. The workshop will be conducted in English.

Museum Resources

The Museum's David M. Rubinstein National Institute for Holocaust Documentation houses an unparalleled repository of Holocaust evidence that documents the fate of victims, survivors, rescuers, liberators, and others. The Museum’s comprehensive collection contains millions of documents, artifacts, photos, films, books, and testimonies. The Museum’s Database of Holocaust Survivor and Victim Names contains records on people persecuted during World War II under the Nazi regime, including Jews and Roma and Sinti. In addition, the Museum possesses the holdings of the International Tracing Service (ITS), which contains more than 200 million digitized pages with information on the fates of 17.5 million people who were subject to incarceration, forced labor, and displacement as a result of World War II. Many of these records have not been examined by scholars, offering unprecedented opportunities to advance the field of Holocaust and genocide studies.

The Museum’s related collections include:

Participants will have access to both the Museum’s downtown campus and the David and Fela Shapell Family Collections, Conservation and Research Center. Learn further information about the Shapell Center here. To search the Museum's collections, please visit

To Apply

Applications are welcome from scholars affiliated with universities, research institutions, or memorial sites and in any relevant academic discipline, including anthropology, art history, economics, genocide studies, geography, history, Jewish studies, law, literature, philosophy, political science, psychology, sociology, religion, and Romani studies, and others. Applications are encouraged from scholars at all levels of their careers, from Ph.D. candidates to senior faculty. Scholars in the Global South are especially encouraged to apply.

The Mandel Center will reimburse the costs of round-trip economy-class air tickets to/from the Washington, D.C. metro area, and related incidental expenses, up to a maximum reimbursable amount calculated by home institution location, which will be distributed within 68 weeks of the workshop’s conclusion. The Mandel Center will also provide hotel accommodation for the duration of the workshop. Participants are required to attend the full duration of the workshop and to circulate a draft paper in advance of the program. Participants must commit to attending the entire workshop.

The deadline for receipt of applications is Friday, February 2, 2024. Applications must include a short biography (one paragraph), a list of related publications (if any), and an abstract of no more than 300 words outlining the specific project that the applicant is working on, plans to research, and is prepared to present during the program. All application materials must be submitted in English here.

Admission will be determined without regard to race, color, religion, sex, gender (sexual orientation or gender identity), national origin, age, disability, genetic information, or reprisal. The Museum also prohibits any form of workplace discrimination or harassment.

Questions should be directed to

This workshop has been made possible through the generosity of the Yetta and Jacob Gelman Endowment at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.