Lukas Meissel, a PhD candidate within the Strochlitz Institute for Holocaust Research at the University of Haifa, was recently invited to present his current research at the “International Conference Photographs from the camps of the Nazi Regime” in Graz, Austria. The conference was hosted by the Karl-Franzens-Universität.
Lukas’ speech is titled, “Perpetrator Photography: Motives of the Erkennungsdienst at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp.” This was also the topic of his MA thesis. After his presentation he was able to get good feedback from veteran researchers in the field. It was also a great opportunity to speak with other presenters after their talks. Lukas’ PhD dissertation is also in the field of photography in the Holocaust, so attending a conference dedicated to this specific topic was significant.
The approach that Lukas takes in studying photographs is unique, but hopefully his research will change how historians look at photographs. Lukas said, often times historians use photos to bolster arguments that are founded in documentation. The manner that Lukas looks at photos is almost completely opposite. He’s basing arguments off of the photographs as they hold their own historical significance, and using documentation in tandem to create a discussion that will lead to new perspectives in Holocaust Research.
Lukas’ presentation focused on specific photos from Mauthausen Concentration camp, just outside of Linz, Austria. The group of photos that Lukas concentrated on were photos taken by the perpetrators. The photos taken inside the camps are rare, as it was forbidden in the camp, only SS-men of the Erkennungsdienst (Identification Department) were allowed to take pictures, but some still exist, these were smuggled out of the camp by some Spanish prisoners. All the photos are now in Vienna, in the Mauthausen archive.
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