Life and death in the forest: Landscape agency during the Holocaust

Suzanne Weiner Weber, Florida International University

Abstract

To escape certain death during the Nazi regime, approximately eighty thousand terrorized and persecuted Eastern European Jews sought refuge in the forests surrounding their communities. Most often, their forest deaths were the result of Nazi-sponsored activities such as ghetto deportations and hunts for Jewish escapees. However, anti-Semitic partisans, partisan combat, hostile peasants, and environmental elements were also factors contributing to an estimated ninety percent fatality rate.^ This dissertation explored the role and meaning of forests to these Jewish fugitives. It investigated the bodily and social practices they developed to enhance their odds of survival in the forest landscape. I develop the concept of landscape agency as a response to my research question: What was it like to live and survive (or die) in the forest during the Holocaust? Moreover, it is an approach to theorizing about the humanity of space. Landscape agency builds upon a phenomenological approach to space and place that links landscape and action through bodily practices. This dissertation analyzed the fugitives' actions as functions of various forms of capital, namely economic, cultural and social.^ The sample included thirteen individuals who were themselves forest fugitives during the Holocaust. Face-face qualitative interviews were conducted from 2004 to 2006. Primary data from these interviews was used extensively to demonstrate the practices utilized in the fugitives' experiences with life and death in the forest. This study concluded that the odds of survival for forest fugitives were enhanced by use of landscape agency.^

Subject Area

Anthropology, Cultural|History, European|Sociology, General|Jewish Studies

Recommended Citation

Suzanne Weiner Weber, "Life and death in the forest: Landscape agency during the Holocaust" (January 1, 2007). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. Paper AAI3268667.
http://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/dissertations/AAI3268667

Files over 15MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "Save as..."

Share

COinS