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Understanding the spatial dimensions of the Holocaust

NSF Award:

Collaborative Research: Holocaust Historical GIS  (Texas State University - San Marcos)

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A spatial analysis of segregation in Nazi-controlled Hungary has revealed that written rules only partly determined the segregation experience for Jews in Budapest in 1944. In practice, access to resources and a social network dramatically altered an individual's experience.

Using geographic information systems (GIS) and social network analysis, a research team from Texas State University examined both shifting physical boundaries and social networks of Hungarian Jews near the end of World War II. They found that maintaining a physical place to live but also a social place became a critical factor for Jews during the Holocaust. The strength and size of a social network shaped access to food, information and medical care.

The findings from this study may help both academics and the public reevaluate the assumption that all Holocaust victims shared the same experience. The methods used in this research may provide a better understanding of other historical events and could also be applied to contemporary genocide.

The GIS-created maps of Nazi-controlled Budapest included features such as zones restricted to Jews, food market locations, health care sites and areas providing legal documents. The researchers combined these maps with a mathematical assessment of how far an individual might be able to walk from their home during the three-hour period they were free to use the streets.

The research team also estimated the potential social networks of Budapest's Jews. On paper, Jews' contact with each other as well as non-Jews was highly restricted, but in practice this contact was largely at the discretion of building managers. Thus, many people's social networks included both Jews and non-Jews and were closely bound to their apartment building or even a single apartment.

Images (1 of )

  • map shows density of Jewish-designated ghetto houses in budapest 1944
  • walking distances to the closest market for jewish-designated residences june 1944
Density of Jewish-designated ghetto houses in Budapest, 1944.
Alberto Giordano, Texas State University and Tim Cole, University of Bristol
Walking distances to the closest market for Jewish-designated residences, June 1944.
Alberto Giordano, Texas State University and Anna Holian, Arizona State University

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