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Bielefeld Graduate School

in History and Sociology

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Logo der Einrichtung

Christiane Heß


Drawings from the concentration camps Ravensbrück and Neuengamme. Material - functions - reception

The visual archives of the Nazi-Camps include SS photos and film footage, as well as those later produced by the Allies, but also the drawings, sketches and handicrafts produced by prisoners in the camps or after the war. My thesis focuses specifically on those drawings, made secretly by prisoners in the Concentration Camps Ravensbrück and Neuengamme and also shortly after their survival/liberation.

Study of the prisoners' experiences in and their perspectives on the camps still remains an important gap in the historiography of the concentration camps. Thus, the visual perspective of the female and male prisoners has to be taken into account as a serious and complex cluster of source material that offers a wide range of subjective interpretations of social relations, diverse cultural and everyday-life practices in the camps.

In my thesis, I analyzed the different functions drawings had as self-testimonies or more precisely as "testimonial objects" (Hirsch/Spitzer); e.g., their social, communicative, and mnemonic or memorial functions. Using a microhistorical approach, I give further an account of the strategies, continuities, and changes in the visual narratives daily life in the concentration camps, gender-roles, violence and death. Finally, I shed light on selected processes of transmission and reception of the drawings after 1945: their use and re-uses in collections, exhibitions and in the first Ravensbrück trial in Hamburg 1945

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Second Funding Period 2012-2017)

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