Europäische Zeitgeschichte

The way out: Microhistories of flight from Nazi Germany

24 Januar 2018 bis 26 Januar 2018

USHMM Albert Nussbaum
This international conference will study the broad theme of the flight of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany in the 1930s and their trajectories during the war and its aftermath from multiple perspectives.

In recent years, the microhistorical turn in Holocaust history has placed increasing importance on individual practices and experiences by exploring new, nominative mass sources and combining a prosopographical approach with quantitative analysis of individual trajectories. As Claire Zalc and Tal Bruttmann state in the introduction to Microhistories of the Holocaust (2016): “Reducing the level of analysis increases knowledge, because smaller spaces can better elucidate the complexities of decision-making, help reestablish the “space of the possible”, show how reality was experienced at the individual level, and ultimately provide more compelling insights into the events that contemporaries faced in their day-to-day lives.” The micro-level of the individual and the family is a scale of observation that sheds light in a new way on the relationships between Jewish migrants and representatives of state authorities and places individual behaviour in the context of its social and political environment. It enables us to observe migrants in their networks and groups of belonging, trace their biographical and migratory trajectories and identify their agency, the means at their disposal and the opportunities or obstacles that the policy framework allowed them, so that we can identify their spaces of possibility and constraint.

The conference is organised by the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C²DH) / University of Luxembourg, the Institut d’histoire moderne et contemporaine, Ecole normale supérieure, Paris (CNRS), the Institut für Zeitgeschichte, München and the Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam (NIOD).



Programme and registration

(PDF version)


Wednesday, 24 January 2018, 19.00

Centre culturel de rencontre Abbaye de Neumünster, room José Ensch
28, rue Münster, L-2160 Luxembourg

Opening Keynote by Dalia Ofer, Professor Emeritus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

The historian and his/her protagonists

>>>Register here for the opening keynote<<<

Dalia Ofer, born in 1939, is a well known historian of contemporary Jewry, with a research specialization in Holocaust studies. Illegal immigration to Palestine and daily life in east European ghettos are Dalia Ofer's main areas of research. In her keynote - which is opening the conference "The Way Out. Microhistories of flight from Nazi Germany" - the historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem gives insights into her work and explains why every voice and micro-history of involved protagonists counts when constructing a historical narrative. 

In the course of her research on immigration, she encountered multiple protagonists: persecutors and victims, political leaders, immigration activists, heads of communities, ideologues, and organizations and institutions from different countries such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). All contribute their accounts as parts of a big puzzle. However, the narrative had many gaps until the scale of analysis was modified. The voices of different individuals had to join the orchestra not as illustrations but as a major factor that enables an integrated narrative of the protagonists I selected.

In the dialogue she conducted with her various sources, the micro-history of different immigrants and their families enriched her understanding of the role of other protagonists, such as youth movements, Zionist activists, Nazi rulers, concentration camps, and more. Only then did the emplotment merge into a fabric that presented a troubled and nuanced narrative. This left the historian and the reader uneasy and still questioning. In many respects, this is the root of the Holocaust era, with never a happy and satisfying ending. Micro-history is a necessary tool of the historical craft. It negotiates constantly with macro-history and assists in creating the complexity of the past for the present. 


Thursday , 25 January 2018

University of Luxembourg, Belval Campus
Maison du Savoir, Room 3.520
2, avenue de l'Université L-4365 Esch-sur-Alzette

>>>Register here for the conference in Belval<<<


8.45       Arrival at the Maison du Savoir
9.00 Welcome to all participants by Stéphane Pallage, Rector of the University of Luxembourg
9.10 Welcome address by Andreas Fickers, Director of the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History, University of Luxembourg.
9.30 Introduction to the conference by Denis Scuto, Head of the Research Unit on Contemporary History of Luxembourg at Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History, University of Luxembourg
10.00 Keynote address by Claire Zalc (Institut d’histoire moderne et contemporaine, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris)
Le renouveau des sources dans l’étude de la Shoah et les perspectives microhistoriques
10.30 Coffee break

Panel 1: Methods and sources

  Moderator: Claire Zalc (Institut d’histoire moderne et contemporaine, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris)
  Christiane Weber (International Tracing Service Arolsen)
Individual paths reflected in ITS documents: The fates of displaced persons before and after the emigration to Canada
  Eric Le Bourhis (Institut des Sciences sociales du Politique, Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, Paris)
Loger les réfugiés juifs du Reich. Riga 1938-1941
  Antoine Burgard (Université Lumière Lyon 2)
Reconstructing trajectories of survival and resettlement through Holocaust orphans’ visa application files
12.15 Lunch

Panel 2: Private law and flight

  Moderator: David Fraser (University of Nottingham)
  Susanne Bennewitz (Hochschule für Jüdische Studien, Heidelberg)
Arranging a marriage for the way out. Marriage fraud and reacting policies in Switzerland
  Germaine Goetzinger (Centre national de littérature, Luxembourg)
“Mischehen” jüdischer Emigranten in Luxemburg
  Didier Boden (University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)
Escape and marriage out of Nazi Germany: Individual destinies from a microhistorical perspective
15.15 Coffee break

Panel 3: The administrative approach


Moderator: Frank Caestecker (Ghent University)

  Yaron Jean (University of Haifa and Sapir College, Negev)
No way out: Passport hurdles and individual refugee experiences in pre-war Nazi Germany
  Daniela Gleizer (National Autonomous University of Mexico)
When diplomats’ agency is used against refugees. The case of Mexican Consul Gilberto Bosques and the Jewish refugees in Marseille

Panel 4: Individual and collective identities


Moderator: Dalia Ofer (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

  Christine Kausch (Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, Münster)
From individual to collective history: Jewish refugees in the Netherlands (1933-1945)
  Katharina Seehuber (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München)
The Cahnmann family – Representative of possible emigration paths
  Geraldien von Frijtag Drabbe Kunzel (Utrecht University)
A foreign country: Concepts of collective and individual identity among German-Jewish refugees in the Netherlands
18.45 Drinks reception
20.00 Official conference dinner


Friday , 26 January 2018

University of Luxembourg, Belval Campus
Maison du Savoir
2, avenue de l'Université L-4365 Esch-sur-Alzette


9.00 Keynote address by Frank Caestecker (Ghent University)
State persecution and protection: the political determinants of the Jewish refugee flow (1933-1948)

Panel 5: In-between areas


Moderator: Susanne Heim (Institut für Zeitgeschichte, München – Berlin)

  Marion Kaplan (New York University)
Lives in limbo: The daily lives and feelings of refugee communities in Portugal 1940-45
  Katharina Friedla (The International Institute for Holocaust Research Yad Vashem, Jerusalem)
Expelled from Germany to Poland – Deported by Stalin to Siberia: Polish-Jewish refugees in the Soviet Union during the Second World War
  Michal Frankl (Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague)
Surviving (in) a stateless space. Refugee experience in the No Man’s Land
11.00 Coffee break

Panel 6: The refugee question before the war

  Moderator: Bob Moore (University of Sheffield)
  Baijayanti Roy (Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main)
Pragmatism paves the way? A scholar’s adventurous exit from Nazi Germany
  Laurence Schram (Kazerne Dossin, Mechelen)
Destins d’émigrés ou réfugiés juifs du Luxembourg en Belgique
  Renée Wagener
Pour des raisons d’opportunité: une famille juive en quête de refuge au Luxembourg face à l’attitude de l’administration
12.45 Lunch
14.00 Keynote address by Susanne Heim (Institut für Zeitgeschichte München - Berlin)
Ökonomie der Flucht. Enteignung, Erpressung und Gegenwehr

Panel 7: Escaping Europe during the war

  Moderator: Denis Scuto (Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History, University of Luxembourg)
  Corry Guttstadt and Maria Vassilikou (Institut für Zeitgeschichte München-Berlin)
A Perilous Way out of Greece
  Vincent Artuso (Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (University of Luxembourg)
Administrating chaos: Albert Nussbaum’s role in the organization of the escape route from Lisbon (August 1940-March 1942)
16.00 Coffee break

Panel 8: Returning after the war

  Moderator: Vincent Artuso (Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History, University of Luxembourg)
  Wolfgang Schmitt-Koelzer (Emil-Frank Institut, Universität Trier)
Die NS Arbeitsverwaltung holt die Geflüchteten und Emigranten ein – Verfolgung, Zwangsarbeit und Entschädigung am Beispiel Luxemburg
  Donna Swarthout (CIEE Global Institute Berlin)
Revoked and Restored: The German Jewish Citizenship Experience
  Angela Boone
German Jewish refugees in the Netherlands between 1945 and 1951
18.00 Closing remarks by Bob Moore (University of Sheffield/Lichtenberg-Kolleg, Göttingen)
20.00 Optional informal dinner


Please note that a photographer will be present at this event. The images may be published by the University, e.g. on its social media, its website and in print products. If you do not wish to be photographed, please alert the organisers and the photographer.


Albert Nussbaum, Director of Transmigration for the American Joint Distribution Committee, poses in the port of Lisbon in front of a wooden fence that cordons off the Jewish refugees who are waiting to board the SS Mouzinho. (10 June 1941)
© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Milton Koch
The views or opinions expressed on this website, and in the context in which the image is used, do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of, nor imply approval or endorsement by, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.