Bonds of intimacy and Dependency. Survival Strategies of Intermarried Families in Nazi-Dominated Europe

(P 37020-G)

Projektleitung: Michaela Raggam-Blesch
Natalia Aleksiun, László Csősz, Benjamin Frommer, Tatjana Lichtenstein, Nina Valbousquet, Laurien Vastenhout
Finanzierung: FWF
September 2024 - September 2027


Historians have long considered the persecution of intermarried families as marginal. Yet for Nazi officials this topic was central: The “unresolved problem” of “mixed families” sparked continuous disputes among bureaucrats and policymakers and reveals the contradictions at the core of National Socialist race ideology. The treatment of “mixed marriages” and their children under Nazi rule differed greatly between East and West, since occupied Poland and the eastern territories lacked official edicts protecting this group. A comparative study of intermarried families throughout Nazi-dominated Europe is still a notable research desideratum. This project aims to shed light on this overlooked victim group on the margins of Holocaust history.

This project explores the impact of the Nazi regime on the daily lives of intermarried families and how they navigated their intimacy, interdependences and struggle for survival. “Mixed families” developed intricate survival strategies, depending on their attempts to understand the logics of persecution. In occupied Poland, their lack of protection limited the scope of action for these families and led to greater dependencies and power imbalances. Considering the massive scale of the Nazi genocidal program, the fact that the Holocaust was also an intimate history shaping relationships between individuals easily gets lost from sight. Research on intermarried couples and their children, who by definition navigated between Jewish and non-Jewish spheres, will enhance our understanding of the intricacies of interpersonal relations during the Holocaust.

The centrality of family for the persecuted has gained increased attention in Holocaust studies, highlighting contested decision-making and survival strategies of family members during war and impending genocide. The project embraces a concept of understanding the Holocaust “via things intimate,” drawing from new findings in the history of emotions. Considering that the destruction of Jewish life had a profoundly geographic dimension, this microhistorical project builds on studies on the spatiality of the Holocaust. Following Saul Friedländer’s concept of an integrated history, it will explore the everyday life of intermarried families in selected cities in Nazi Germany, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Italy, the occupied Western countries (France, Belgium, the Netherlands), Hungary and occupied Poland.

Conducted together with an international research team (Natalia Aleksiun, László Csosz, Ben Frommer, Tatjana Lichtenstein, Nina Valbousquet, Laurien Vastenhout), this project moves beyond the dominant national histories of Holocaust studies to reveal the survival strategies of an overlooked victim group across state borders and historiographies.