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Dr. Kim Wünschmann Named 2016 Yad Vashem International Book Prize Winner

Annual prize recognizing scholarly research and writing on the Holocaust

12 December 2016

Yad Vashem International Book Prize for Holocaust Research, in memory of Holocaust survivor Abraham Meir Schwarzbaum, and family members murdered in the Holocaust, has been awarded to Dr. Kim Wünschmann, DAAD Lecturer in Modern European History and Acting Deputy Director of the Centre for German-Jewish Studies at the University of Sussex, for her book, Before Auschwitz: Jewish Prisoners in the Prewar Concentration Camps. The award ceremony will take place on Tuesday, 13 December 2016 at Yad Vashem.

Yad Vashem Chief Historian Prof. Dina Porat will deliver opening remarks, followed by Prof. Dan Michman, Head of Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research and Incumbent of the John Najmann Chair for Holocaust Studies, who will present Dr. Wünschmann with the award and speak about the judges' considerations. Finally, Dr. Kim Wünschmann will offer her acceptance remarks.

From the judges' remarks:

In her superbly researched and richly documented study, which systematically integrates perspectives and voices, Wünschmann has provided a broad description of the special treatment of Jewish inmates, offering detailed evidence for an understanding of the place of Jews in the prewar camps, which, until now, was largely based on anecdotal evidence. This alone justifies a close reading of Before Auschwitz. What turns the book into a major contribution to Holocaust scholarship are the implications of this special treatment of Jews in the prewar camps for our understanding of the quick acculturation of the German public to the idea that the Jewish neighbor was an enemy to be extirpated, first from civil society and ultimately from the world. Wünschmann demonstrates that the gruesome treatment of the Jews in the camps “is much more than a prelude to the Holocaust. It is a crucial phase of transition, when discrimination still took place right in the midst of German society, its members responsible for working toward or preventing the cementation of the fateful enemy category of 'the Jew' […] By using the concentration camps as murderous instruments of deterrence, humiliation and expulsion, the Gestapo and the SS helped to transform German Jews from a heterogeneous minority group within society to outsiders perceived as a homogeneous group of enemies to be excluded from German communal life. Concentration camps, therefore, helped to shape an enemy category that was still in the making.” Thus the treatment of Jews in the prewar concentration camps paved the way for the systematic, pan-European (and beyond) murder campaign of the Jews that unfolded between 1941 and 1945.

Guests will enjoy musical interludes by the Atar Trio, Ya'ala Avital, Ofer Shelley and Tanya Beltser.

About the Award:

The Yad Vashem International Book Prize for Holocaust Research was established in 2011 in memory of Holocaust survivor Abraham Schwartzbaum, and his family members who were murdered in the Holocaust. The International Institute for Holocaust Research bestows this award annually upon an academic scholar who has written groundbreaking research in Holocaust studies. Members of the judges' panel for the 2016 Yad Vashem Book Prize were international scholars and experts in the area of Holocaust research and remembrance: Prof. Doris Bergen, University of Toronto; Prof. Dan Michman, Yad Vashem and Bar-Ilan University, Israel [Chair]; Dr. Iael Nidam-Orvieto, Yad Vashem and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel; Prof. Dina Porat, Yad Vashem and Tel Aviv University, Israel; Avner Shalev, Yad Vashem, Israel; and Prof. Robert Jan Van Pelt, University of Waterloo, Canada.

In addition to the winner of the book prize, there were also two honorable mentions; Displaced Persons at Home: Refugees in the Fabric of Jewish Life in Warsaw September 1939-July 1942 (Yad Vashem, 2015) by Lea Prais; and The Pope's Dilemma: Pius XII Faces Atrocities and Genocide in the Second World War (University of Toronto Press, 2015) by Jacques Kornberg.

For more information or to attend this event, please contact the Communications Division at media.relations@yadvashem.org.il