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Students report on summer research

Photo taken by Jesse Steinman in Vienna, Austria.

This summer two grant recipients of the Waxman Fund used their awards for research in both the U.S. and abroad. 

Jesse Steinman, C'21, traveled to Vienna to conduct research at Centropa, a Jewish historical institute. Jesse used Centropa's catalog of firsthand accounts to analyze eighty transcripts from the years 2002-2006 to support his research on Bulgarian Jews and collective memory. 

Though the majority of Bulgarian Jews emigrated away from their home country, Jesse examined transcripts of elderly Jews who remained in Bulgaria after the Holocaust. Jesse explains his analysis as "not as much through a historical lens, but through a memory lens. These interviews were individualistic, and their purpose was not to establish a truth about the past, but to reflect through their contemporary lens on the convergence of their intimate lives and the greater history of the time." In his research, Jesse found that multiple identities, such as strong nationalistic ties and communist ideology, shaped the collective memory of Bulgarian Jews on a case-by-case basis. 

Jesse plans to use his research to create educational materials that teach Bulgarian and Jewish history using an individualized framework to explore the idea of collective memory. 

Another grant recipient, Liza Gellerman, used her funds to conduct research for her honors thesis. Her paper examines the charges of crimes against humanity and genocide in the Nuremberg trials, specifically the Einsatzgruppen trial.

Liza used the the papers of Raphael Lemkin (found at the American Jewish Historical Society in New York City) and Benjamin Ferencz (housed in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.) to explore the reasons why the defendants in the Einsatzgruppen trial were charged with crimes against humanity rather than genocide. 

Liza found that Lemkin's papers illuminated not only his professional life but also his personality. Lemkin spent his career lobbying for the adoption of genocide as a crime under international law. Liza describes her experience, writing, "I picked up on Lemkin’s unruly temperament when I was examining his notes – many of the archived documents were Lemkin’s scribbles on paper that eventually amounted to his coining of the word genocide."

In contrast, Liza found the papers of Ferencz, the chief prosecutor of the Einsatzgruppen trial, to be carefully organized. After Nuremberg, Ferencz campaigned for international human rights law.

After conducting her research, Liza visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, writing, "It’s easy to lose sight of your own sympathy amongst the reading, writing and editing process, but the Holocaust Memorial Museum was an experience that re-alerted me to the deeper meaning of my studies."

Both Liza and Jesse thank the Waxman Fund for their support of higher learning.

Read the full reports
Jesse Steinman
Liza Gellerman