Conny Kristel Fellow Judith Vöcker | "A Red Thread Throughout My PhD"
Judith was an EHRI Conny Kristel Fellow at the Federal Archives in Berlin (March 2022), the Wiener Holocaust Library in London (January 2019) and the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw (September 2018).
By Judith Vöcker
The EHRI Conny Kristel Fellowship has been a red thread throughout my PhD in History at the University of Leicester as I was awarded my first EHRI Fellowship at the beginning of my PhD in September 2018 and January 2019, and now, during my writing up year, a second Conny Kristel Fellowship.
My thesis looks at the German jurisdiction which was established in the General Government during the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II. It is supervised by Dr. Klaus Richter from the University of Birmingham and Dr. Svenja Bethke from the Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Leicester and funded by the Midlands4Cities Doctoral Trainingship Programme.
With the generous financial and institutional support from EHRI, I was able to conduct research at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw in late September 2018 for two weeks, in the Wiener Holocaust Library in London in January 2019 for two weeks, and three weeks at the Federal Archives in Berlin in March 2022. As an EHRI Conny Kristel Fellow, I was always warmly welcomed at the respective institutions and received an introduction and guidance from the academic staff on how to search their collections to best suit my research. This direct contact and interactions with the archivists and researchers was unique to my usual archival visits, which made the EHRI Fellowship even more valuable. Throughout my archival stays, I was able to not only copy and read the files I had previously researched in the databases of the different archives, but also to receive even more guidance and recommendations on where to search for further collections or literature, that touched upon my research topic. The archivists and academic staff from the Wiener Holocaust Library and the Jewish Historical Institute were especially helpful and supportive to explore areas I had so far not considered.
Especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the possibility to travel to Warsaw and London at the very beginning of my PhD was very helpful and crucial in order to start working with archival documents right away. Since the Jewish Historical Institute holds the underground archive of the Warsaw Ghetto, I was able to read through a large number of testimonies, letters, and reports from former ghetto inhabitants, which aided me in understanding and grasping the historical background and setting of my thesis. Since my project is heavily based on archival sources, primarily court documents from the cities of Warsaw and Radom, the pandemic had a severe impact on the progress of my research as several important archives remained closed for many months. Access to the Federal Archives in Berlin was especially difficult since the beginning of the pandemic. However, thanks to the EHRI Conny Kristel Fellowship, I was able to visit their archives for three weeks and carry out thorough research that I had already prepared for, during the previous two years. Their collections contain a plethora of personnel files of German jurists who were stationed at the different German courts I am researching in my thesis. Finally, being able to access these files and research the lives and work of different German judges, state prosecutors, clerks or secretaries, felt like finding the missing piece to the overall story I aim to tell with my thesis.
Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw, Poland. Front and reading room. | Photo at the top of the article: Bundesarchiv. | Photos thanks to Judith Vöcker.