Dr Svenja Bethke

Lecturer in Modern European History

Svenja Bethke Picture

Contact details

  • Tel: +44 (0)116 252 5138
  • Office: Attenborough Tower 604

Personal details


I studied History, Political Science, Law and Eastern European Studies at the University of Hamburg, completing my PhD there in 2014. During my doctoral project I conducted research in archives in Israel, Poland, Germany and the United States and was awarded several grants and fellowships amongst other at the German Historical in Warsaw (GHI) and at the Institute for Jewish Research in New York (YIVO).

2013-2015 I was working as a research associate at the Institute for the History of the German Jews in Hamburg (IGdJ) and taught German, Eastern European and Modern Jewish History at the Universities of Hamburg, Frankfurt Oder and Heidelberg. I was appointed lecturer in Modern European History at Leicester University in 2016. I am a member of the Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.


My teaching focuses on the history of WW II and the Holocaust in Germany as well as in Eastern Europe (occupied Poland and the Soviet Union) with an emphasis on the Jewish experience. Furthermore, I teach on the History of clothing and fashion in 19th and 20th Century Europe in a transnational context.



Tanz auf Messers Schneide –  Kriminalität und Recht in den Ghettos Warschau, Litzmannstadt und Wilna [Dance on the Razor’s Edge. Criminality and Law in the Ghettos of Warsaw, Lodz and Vilna], Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2015.

Journal articles and book chapters

Crime and Punishment in Emergency Situations. The Jewish Ghetto Courts in Warsaw, Lodz and Vilna in WW II – A Comparative Study, in: Dapim. Studies on the Holocaust 28 (2014), H. 3, S. 173-189, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23256249.2014.950051.

Regeln und Sanktionen im Getto Litzmannstadt. Die Bekanntmachungen des Judenratsvorsitzenden Rumkowski [Rules and Sanctions in the Lodz Ghetto. The Proclamations of the Jewish Council Head Rumkowski], in: Alltag im Ghetto. Strukturen, Ordnungen, Lebenswelt(en) im Blick neuer Forschungen, ed. by Stephan Lehnstaedt and Kristin Platt, München et. al.: Wilhelm Fink/Ferdinand Schöningh 2013 (= Themenheft der Zeitschrift für Genozidforschung, Jg. 13 (H. 1/2) 2012), S. 30-52.

mit Hanna Schmidt Holländer: Lebenswelt Ghetto. Raumtheorie und interpretatives Paradigma als Bereicherung für die Erforschung jüdischer Ghettos im Nationalsozialismus [Life World Ghetto. Spatial Theory and Interpretevist Paradigm as a Contribution for Research on National Socialist Ghettos], in: PaRDeS. Journal of the Association of Jewish Studies e.V. 17 (2011), S. 35-51.


My PhD and subsequent research focuses on the history of the Holocaust with a strong interest in the Jewish experience in East Central Europe under German occupation. I am especially interested in everyday life in the ghettos, established by force by the Germans in WW II. In my doctoral project, I examined concepts of criminality and law formulated by the Jewish Council in the ghettos of Warsaw, Lodz and Vilna. I argue that the dilemma of the Jewish Councils, set up by force by the Germans, condensed in the formation of an internal “legal sphere” within these communities of coercion. My resulting first book was published in September 2015 by Hamburger Edition.

I am currently working on a new book project on the role of Eastern European and German immigrants in the nation-building process in Palestine/Israel (late 19th – mid 20th century), which breaks new ground by focusing on clothing and fashion as representations and practices of nation and state identity. My language skills in Russian, Polish, Yiddish, Hebrew, French, Spanish and German allow me to approach the history of the Holocaust as well as the Jewish history from both an international and transnational perspective.


Modern German and Eastern European History (particularly Poland and the Soviet Union) as well as Jewish History, especially 20th Century; everyday (Jewish) life and experiences during WW II and the Holocaust; criminal and legal history; clothing and fashion history in Modern Europe and Palestine/Israel.

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