University of South Florida
E-Mail: rodgj [at] sas.upenn.edu
The 'Archives of Humanity': The International Tracing Services and the Legacies of Political Humantarianism
My project, The ‘Archives of Humanity’: The International Tracing Services and the Legacies of Political Humanitarianism,” investigates how the governments of the West- the United States, France, and West Germany- and the Red Cross mobilized the archive of the International Tracing Service, a humanitarian agency established by the Allies to locate civilians missing from 1933-1948, to promote and legitimize their respective post- World War Two
political and cultural agendas. I explore how the desire to control displaced populations, secure Cold War Europe, and regulate the historiography of the Holocaust fueled the continual repurposing of the agency’s files, which document National Socialist persecution and Allied relief, even after the termination of its original tracing mandate in 1949. I analyze how epistemic anxieties defined and were influenced by international involvement in the tracing service. I also employ case studies of individuals to emphasize how the triangular interdependence between the international community, the ITS, and individual Holocaust victims and their families mutually influenced and complicated one another, highlighting what one Red Cross employee dubbed “the legacies of political humanitarianism.” I argue that the significance ascribed by states, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals to the agency once called “the archives of humanity” not only redefined humanitarianism and reconceptualized the archive, but also revealed deeper political tensions that were connected intimately to the legacy of World War II and the Holocaust, the struggle for hegemony in Europe, and the Cold War.
My project, an extension of my dissertation that I am currently revising into a book manuscript, draws upon newly released and previously unused archival and primary sources in Europe and the United States. It is the first study of the International Tracing Service, but nevertheless intersects and engages with a wide, interdisciplinary body of scholarly literature. In particular, it contributes to the emerging areas of inquiry on archives, displaced populations, and humanitarianism. My project enriches this literature and, more importantly, complicates these subjects by revealing the close interconnection between them and postwar political projects. In addition, my work converges with a well-established literature on the Cold War and Holocaust memory by challenging earlier theses on Washington’s objectives in Europe and (West) German attempts to come to terms with its Nazi past at both a practical and symbolic level.
Keeping an eye to the future, I am also in the nascent stages of developing a second book project. Drawing on work by Suzanne Marchand and H. Glenn Penny, I will investigate German attempts to reclaim and secure cultural heritage sites domestically and internationally from German unification in 1870 to the present. My study will recontextualize previous scholarship by expanding the geographic borders beyond Germany, advancing the temporal scope past the 19th century, and developing the disciplinary framework from the intellectual and cultural spheres into the political and legal. Case studies such as the reconstruction of razed cities to prewar circumstances, and the archaeological traces of Germany’s Roman and medieval past these projects unearthed; involvement in organizations such as UNESCO and the Deutsch-Orient Comité; as well as direct involvement in museums and conservation efforts in nations including Cambodia will shine a light not only on Germany’s claim to be a Kulturstaat, but also the development of cultural preservation and its impact on state sovereignty.