Current Students

Yad Vashem Thesis Awards

Each year Yad Vashem presents research grants to outstanding  thesis projects of students exploring historical aspects of the Holocaust throughout different disciplines.  We are elated to report that four of these grants have gone to students of our program.  Congratulations to Stacey Campbell, Ariella Esterson, Leah Hansen and Ronen Harran.

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Stacey Campbell:

My thesis is called “How did the Swiss public respond to refugees?” and it is supervised by Professor Hagit Lavsky and Professor Jacque Picard.

My research examines the many different ways that the Swiss public responded to refugees between 1942 and 1945. I am primarily using newspaper articles to look at the public discourse that surrounded refugee policies, and then using memoirs and diaries to supplement my findings. I am particularly interested to know if the Swiss public treated Jewish refugees any differently from civilian refugees. At present, I have almost finished researching my primary sources and I am beginning to write my the main chapters of my thesis.


Ariella Esterson:

My thesis is called “A Question of Faith: Children of the Kindertransport and Their Search for Jewish Identity” and is being supervised by Dr. Joanna Beata Michlic.

For many children growing up in Europe during the Holocaust, the Kindertransport was their only hope of survival. Once arriving in England, the children, ages 18 and under, each had very different experiences. There were a variety of factors which influenced how they adapted to their new surroundings. Specifically, each of the children were accustomed to a certain degree of Jewish observance in their homes. Whether they had been assimilated into German culture or came from religiously observant homes, where the children were placed in England, be it in Jewish homes, Christian homes, hostels, or schools, the degree of religious observance and level of faith varied. The different experiences that the Kindertransport children had will be analyzed as it pertains to how they preserved the religious identity begun to be developed in their homes in Germany, and explain how those experiences shaped their religious identities and levels of faith as adults. I am currently conducting interviews with Kindertransport survivors and interning at Yad Vashem in their education department, helping to create online courses and other materials for use in classrooms.


Leah Hansen:

My thesis is called “Jewish Film Audiences in the Third Reich, 1938-1941” and is being supervised by Dr. Kobi Kabalek  and Dr. Ofer Ashkenazi.

This thesis focuses on the film division of the Jüdischer Kulturbund, or Jewish Cultural League, which screened German and foreign films to Jewish audiences in the Third Reich in the time following Kristallnacht until deportations from the Reich. This thesis will present an in-depth study of the organization and Jewish moviegoers in the Nazi years. It will analyze the films screened to Jewish audiences, examine the way films were advertised/reviewed/discussed publicly (both in the Jewish press and the non-Jewish press), and consult letters and diaries of Jewish individuals who wrote about attending the cinema. This study will reconstruct the ambiguous position of Jews as cultural consumers who were, on the one hand, excluded from attending film theaters together with “Aryans” and, on the other hand, allowed to watch many of the films that non-Jewish Germans did. In addition, this thesis hopes to determine whether the only surviving Jewish newspaper during this time period was used as a public space for reflecting the ideology that oppressed German Jews, or as a place to subvert or resist Nazi ideology and censorship under the guise of discussing plotlines and characters in films.


Ronen Harran:

My thesis is called “The role of the Jewish women in the uprising of the Sonderkommando in Birkenau, 1944″ and is being supervised by Professor Sara Bender. The uprising of the Sonderkommando (October 7th, 1944), was the most significant attempt to stage an armed uprising in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

My thesis deals primarily with the events that preceded the uprising, and the events that followed it. My research is based on assembling, analysing and evaluating dozens of testimonies from women who were personally involved, or persons who were in direct contact with them. Such testimonies were found in autobiographies, compilations of multiple testimonies, as well as individual testimonies, transcripted or oral, found in multiple archives. The mass of testimonies, sometimes conflicting, mostly corroborating and complementing, enables us to reconstruct the story, provide answers to yet unanswered questions, and perhaps more significantly, to lead to new insights and even some novel conclusions.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website:


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