Review | Outstanding continuation of the EHRI Webinar Series with “Left Behind”

EHRI webinar Left Behind
Wednesday, 6 July, 2022

By Michala Lônčíková, Masaryk Insitute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences

On June 22, the second EHRI Webinar was successfully organised by Work Package 10 (Thematic layers across collections). Our colleague Dorien Styven (Kazerne Dossin, Belgium) with the support of Wolfgang Schellenbacher (Vienna Wiesenthal Institute and Dokumentationsarchiv des österreichischen Widerstandes, Austria), both members of the EHRI-3 Consortium, presented the project Left Behind, focusing on the impact of forced labour by Organisation Todt on survival chances of Antwerp Jews.

Organisation Todt

This fascinating project originally started with a simple request of Gaby Morris from Great Britain to researchers in Kazerne Dossin, while she was trying to trace the destiny of her family members during WWII. More than 2,250 Jewish men were deported from Belgium to Northern France to work as forced labourers for Organisation Todt (OT), the German enterprise responsible for building the Atlantic Wall. At least 1,625 men came from Antwerp, including Gaby’s grandfather. The rest of his family were the ones who were “left behind” in the city and later got deported via SS-Sammellager Mecheln (Dossin barracks) to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1942.

Lesser known chapter

During the webinar, Dorien Styven explained in detail how the data was harvested and described the approaches and strategies used to identify the sample of the Antwerp Jews. The  Left Behind project represents an important step into a lesser known chapter of the Holocaust in Belgium and skilfully combines micro-, macro-history and spatial analysis exemplified in about twenty family stories. Wolfgang Schellenbacher gave further insight into how to visualise these datasets and clarified the process of creating the maps.

Higher deportation rate

Analysis indicates that the slave labour of Jewish men from Antwerp for OT significantly impacted the higher deportation rate from the city compared to figures from other large Belgian cities (56%:40-50%). Also, the risk of deportation was higher for the forced labourers themselves than for their “left behind” relatives in Antwerp (85%:74%).

Document Blog

If you are interested in this project and the history of the Jewish community in Antwerp, you can explore the project website and read the blog post by Veerle Vanden Daelen and Dorien Styven on the EHRI Document Blog.

EHRI Webinar Series 

In March this year, EHRI launched a new service, the EHRI Webinar Series, and the “Left Behind”presentation was the second episode. We aim to establish a space for discussions on research projects with a relationship to Holocaust data, specific collections and digital humanities. The series is inspired by our experience during the Covid-19 pandemic, which stimulated the organisation of events in a virtual format that provided easy access on an international level. The presenters will come from the EHRI partner’s institutes and our wider network, including EHRI Conny Kristel Fellows. Our goal is to discuss ideas and projects which can stimulate further research and motivate Holocaust researchers to experiment with digital humanities. The events will welcome established scholars as well as early career researchers from various backgrounds such as historians, archivists, digital humanists, sociologists, and geographers.

The third EHRI webinar is planned for early Autumn 2022. Date and presenter will be announced on the EHRI website and social media well in advance. If you are interested in the next EHRI Webinar, follow the EHRI website or social media channels: EHRI on Facebook; EHRI on Twitter; EHRI on LinkedIn.

Image: Taken from the webinar with Dorien Styven and Wolfgang Schellenbacher on the right. Thanks to Michala Lônčíková.