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Recognition for Research Seminar at Freie Universität That Deals with Deportation of Polish Jews in Berlin

USC Shoah Foundation Teaching Fellowships for Professor Gertrud Pickhan and Doctoral Student Alina Bothe

№ 216/2015 from Jul 07, 2015

Professor Gertrud Pickhan and the doctoral student Alina Bothe, both from Freie Universität, were granted Teaching Fellowships from the USC Shoah Foundation to further develop a research seminar dealing with the deportation of Polish Jews from Berlin in 1938. In their course, they use the Visual History Archive, which contains eyewitness accounts and makes them available for research. Pickhan and Bothe are investigating facts about families who were affected by the so-called Polenaktion in Berlin from October 27 to 30, 1938. During those four days, between 1,500 and 6,000 people of Polish origin were deported from Berlin to the Polish border. The seminar was taught once so far, and with the Teaching Fellowship, it will be offered three more times. The syllabi are published on the USC Shoah Foundation website, and fellows are expected to give a public presentation of their course at the end of the fellowship period. The Teaching Fellowship amounts to a stipend of $2000 and $500 for course material. Bothe and Pickhan are also working with former students on a public exhibition in Berlin, planned for October 2017, which will focus on the life stories of Polenaktion victims and survivors.

"Up to now the expulsion of Polish Jews from Berlin has not been properly researched," said Pickhan. When the seminar was first held in 2014, the students were able to contact survivors or relatives from six families, and they are still in constant dialogue with them. The students were also inspired to dedicate Stolpersteine, memorial stones laid in pavement outside Holocaust victims' former homes or businesses, to the vicims they had researched. Pickhan, Bothe, and their students aim to reach more families affected by the deportation in October 1938.

In the exhibition they will trace the lives of victims and survivors of the deportations in 1938. The exhibition will be developed along with the Aktives Museum Berlin and the Fundacja Tres, a Polish foundation commemorating the Polenaktion in the town of Zbaszyn, where about 9,000 people were deported.

Pickhan was one of the first professors at Freie Universität to begin incorporating testimony after Freie Universität became the first full access site in Europe in 2006. Bothe is a researcher at the Center for Jewish Studies Berlin-Brandenburg and currently in the process of completing her doctoral thesis at Freie Universität. It deals with the Visual History Archive and how digitalization shapes the ways in which we research, write, and perceive the history of the Holocaust.

Further Information


Prof. Dr. Gertrud Pickhan, Institute for East European Studies, Freie Universität Berlin,

Tel.: +49 30 838-52469, Email:

Link to the Homepage of the Foundation

Statement by the USC Shoah Foundation