Anna Hájková, How Should We Write a History of Prisoner Society? Anna Hájková’s New History of Theresienstadt Ghetto
When and Where
Edward and Belle Freid Memorial Lecture
Anna Hájková (University of Warwick)
“How should we write a history of prisoner society? Anna Hájková’s new history of Theresienstadt ghetto"
Terezín, as it was known in Czech, or Theresienstadt, as it was known in German, was operated by the Nazis between November 1941 and May 1945 as a transit ghetto for Central and Western European Jews before their deportation for murder in the East. Today, Theresienstadt is best known for the Nazi propaganda of the International Red Cross visit, cultural life, and children. But these aspects explain little what defined the lives of its 140,000 inmates. The Last Ghetto offers both a modern history of this Central European ghetto and the first in-depth analytical history of a prison society during the Holocaust. Theresienstadt produced its own social hierarchies under which even small differences among prisoners decided their fate. During the three and a half years of the camp's existence, prisoners created their own culture and habits, bonded, fell in love, and forged new families. Based on extensive archival research in nine languages and on empathetic reading of victim testimonies, The Last Ghetto: An Everyday History of Theresienstadt casts light on human society works in extremis.
Dr. Anna Hájková is associate professor at the University of Warwick where she co-directs the Centre for Global Jewish Studies. Her book, The Last Ghetto: An Everyday History of Theresienstadt, came out in 2020 with Oxford University Press. She is a pioneer of queer Holocaust history and her work has been awarded the 2020 Orfeo Iris Prize.