Perceptions of daily life in diaries from the Warsaw and Łódź ghettos

PORTER, Karen Elizabeth (2022). Perceptions of daily life in diaries from the Warsaw and Łódź ghettos. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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This thesis explores the intersection of daily life, diaries, and the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Poland by analysing diaries and accounts written by Jewish individuals in the Warsaw and Łódź ghettos. These authors wrote their accounts outside of any archival group (such as Oneg Shabbat), allowing the study to glean individual perspectives, created without organisational direction. It combines lengthy and reflective diaries with fragments of diaries to provide an in-depth overview of how Jewish individuals perceived their own situation during the Holocaust. The diaries offer a unique insight into how societies respond not only under the mass death of genocide, but how they attempt to live under this threat. The thesis analyses common themes in the diaries, such as food and family networks and combines them with conceptual issues such as time and place which were also disrupted and threatened by the Nazis. It also analyses the responses of the diarists to their oppressors. The diarists’ responses to these facets of life informed their view of their situation and, significantly, how likely they perceived their own survival. It shows how every aspect of life was altered as much as possible in order to survive until forces beyond their control (predominantly disease, deportation, or death) destroyed this. Overall, the thesis provides nuance in our understanding of daily life inside the two largest and longest lasting ghettos and expands our knowledge of ordinary people who were subject to all manner of injustice, violence, and suffering. It does not laud them as heroes for existing in ghettos but concludes that the attempt to live in such conditions is a quotidian form of heroism. Furthermore, it suggests that there is potential for employing this diarist-led approach to other ghettos in order to expand our understanding of other ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe. Shorter, fragmentary texts can be unified with longer texts through the notion of daily life in order to draw conclusions on similarities and differences within different settings of Nazi violence and persecution.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Aitken, Robbie [0000-0002-3332-3063]
Thesis advisor - Petersson, Niels
Thesis advisor - Stibbe, Matthew [0000-0002-7269-8183]
Additional Information: Director of studies: Prof. Robbie Aitken / Supervisors: Prof. Niels Petersson and Prof. Matthew Stibbe
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 08 Sep 2023 16:04
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2023 11:47

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