'Dance on the Razor’s Edge: Criminality and Law in the Ghettos during the Holocaust'

Series Name Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies – Public Lecture
Speaker Dr Svenja Bethke (Helmut Schmidt University, Hamburg)
Type Lectures & Talks
Starts at Nov 05, 2015 06:30 PM
Ends at Nov 05, 2015 07:45 PM
Venue Ken Edwards Lecture Theatre 3, University of Leicester
Open To Public

What does it mean to speak of “criminality” and “law” in the ghettos of Nazi-occupied Europe? The European Jews persecuted in, and ultimately sent to their deaths from, the ghettos were exposed to the absolute power of the German occupiers, utterly beyond the reach of any legal protection. ‘Jewish Councils’ were established in the ghettos, on the order of the Germans, to oversee the execution of anti-Jewish measures, including the facilitation of the mass murder of ghetto inhabitants. Faced with this task however, the Jewish Councils developed their own conceptions of criminality and law, and sought to implement these with the help of the Jewish police, and the courts and prisons of the ghettos. All of these definitions centred on behaviour considered a threat to the ghetto community, involving crimes as diverse as smuggling, “illegal production of sweets”, counterfeiting ration cards, sexual abuse, and murder perpetrated against other inhabitants .

Svenja Bethke presents a multifaceted picture of the communities within the ghettos, showing how solidarity amongst the victims was not the sole means by which the collective struggled for survival. Examining the ghettos of Warsaw, Łódź and Vilna, she describes the use of law as an instrument for the protection of the community and the maintenance of an internal moral code, and reveals the ill-fated attempt to adapt to the living conditions forced upon the European Jews.

This lecture is free to students, staff, and members of the public – booking is not required. For more information please contact Dr. Paul Moore: t: 0116 252 2816    e: pm294@le.ac.uk


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