According to Geographies of the Holocaust “the Holocaust transformed the meaning as well as the materiality of every place and space it touched” (4). Through incredible visualizations produced from an array of data, this profound work analyzes the geographical aspects of the Holocaust, providing “insight and spatial understanding [through the] employ[ment] of spatial methods to investigate… the most familiar subjects in the history of the Holocaust” (1-2). While the subjects examined in this work are “familiar subjects” within scholarship, the examination of these subjects within Geographies of the Holocaust provide new viewpoints. Looking at these subjects on both macro and micro scales, Geographies of the Holocaust examines territoriality, “the primary geographic expression of social power” and the “geography of oppression” (3-4).
Geographies of the Holocaust proves to be an important and significant contribution to scholarship. In one aspect, the projects within the book demonstrate how the Holocaust was a geographical event through the numerous spatial analyses. In chapter three, “Retracing the “Hunt for the Jews”: A Spatio-Temporal Analysis of Arrests during the Holocaust in Italy,” the data traces deportation, specifically the first stage: arrest. Through that tracing we can see spatial patterns, temporal patterns, demographic and perpetrator nationality patterns. This gives not only a visualization of such patterns, but provides insight into macro scale analyses, such as comparing the differences between German and Italian practices. In addition, the project examines the patterns based on a micro scale. On the micro scale, the data is from individual, personal accounts. The data is representative of the individualized experiences (micro), but also putting them in a collective experience (macro).
The projects within the book are also strong contributions to scholarship for their interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches. In the seventh chapter, “From the Camp to the Road: Representing the Evacuations from Auschwitz, January 1945,” Erik B. Steiner and colleagues use the data collected to map the evacuations from Auschwitz. But in addition to the maps of the evacuation routes (and other related visualizations), Steiner created what I would argue is a piece of art, a sculpture, utilizing the visualizations and data. He used a piece of rope, “described as a handheld sensory investigation into the past,” to create a powerful visualization of the “geography of the evacuation’s origins, connections, and landmarks of death” (219). I believe this is an example of the scholarly significance of not only this project in particular, but the ways in which using these kinds of projects, the methods and approaches can produce visualizations that not only has data behind it, but creating symbolic representations of the data such as sculpture, which in this case is the stories of thousands of individuals.
Knowles, Anne Kelly et al. Geographies of the Holocaust. Indiana University Press, 2014.