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Dean presents multi-volume encyclopedia on Holocaust

Published: November 1, 2013
Section: News, Top Stories

Last Tuesday, the Brandeis Center for German and European Studies welcomed Dr. Martin Dean of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). Introduced by Professor Sabine von Mering, Dean discussed the second volume in the USHMM’s massive “Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos” publication. Dean is the volume editor of the project.

The series, the fifth and sixth volumes of which Dean is currently working on, has been in the works for almost 15 years and will eventually encompass at least seven volumes. The first two volumes of the encyclopedia are currently available for purchase. Dean discussed the second volume of the project, titled “Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe,” in front of an audience consisting primarily of off-campus guests.

The lecture, accompanied by a creative PowerPoint presentation, began with an overview of the project itself before going into detail about the second volume. Though this introduction took up a majority of the event, it was necessary given the size of the subject. The encyclopedias not only contain massive amounts of information on camps and ghettos that existed during World War II, but also thousands of pages of supplementary information including photos, journalistic articles, memoirs, maps and interviews. According to Dean, much of the information came from unique sources, such as formerly classified information caches in the former Soviet Union.

“The principle discovery of “The Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos” has been the huge number of the previously unknown camps and ghettos built by the Nazis,” said Dean, going so far as to call the network a “universe.” In specific reference to the second volume of the “Encyclopedia,” Dean said he had been amazed by multiple discoveries, including “the sheer amount of people, we’re talking in the tens of thousands, that were moved very quickly through these places.”

Since camps and ghettos were created and destroyed so quickly, there could be over 50 built in a single area, with at least 30 existing at one time. One of these areas included Russia, which at one point during the early years of the war saw around 40 camps and ghettos being built. Perhaps most shocking was the level of complicity in the building of these camps by locals in countries such as Austria and Poland. Both of these countries were known for extreme anti-Semitism during the War; however the second volume of the “Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos” cites documents that show a much higher level in local volunteerism than previously reported.

Dean said that he hoped the final project would be a tool for both professional and personal research. “I want [the encyclopedia] to be a way that people can find out deep information about their family that they may not have otherwise been able to find,” Dean said.