2012 Recipients


Zoe Egelman, Yale undergraduate

When Hélène Berr, at the age of 23, was forced from her Paris home in 1944, she left behind a journal in which she had documented her experience as a Jewish, French girl during the Occupation. This diary is both a poetic masterpiece of a young student of letters as well as an immense contribution to social history, shedding light on the fate of the assimilated French bourgeoisie in face of anti-Semitic persecution. However, the private and spontaneous nature of her diary writing leaves a vague picture of Hélène as a young victim of the Shoah. Furthermore, there is little secondary scholarship on Hélène and her Journal, published for public readership only three years ago. I will spend nine weeks in Paris using unique archival resources to fill in the historical and biographical context of Hélène’s personal narrative. At the Centre de Documentation Juive Contemporaine, I will examine both the original manuscript of the Journal as well as the Berr family collection of documents. I will then use the archives of the Sorbonne to explore the powerful interplay between history and literature at the core of Hélène’s diary. How did anti-Semitism influence Hélène’s relationship to La Sorbonne and her studies? I will research what literature and with which scholars Hélène chose to study during this time, and I will track down Hélène’s academic writings to consider the relationship between her scholarly and personal work. Lastly, understanding Hélène’s Journal would not be possible without visualizing her Paris, as Hélène embodies the characteristic Parisian “flaneur” who often documents her city walks. To explore Hélène’s relationship to a specific set of places, I will both literally retrace Hélène’s footsteps as well as visually uncover the Paris of 1942-44 in historical photography collections. I hope this project will contribute to the fields of Holocaust and anti-Semitism studies by uncovering the historical dimensions of a highly unique document and thereby contributing to the state of Holocaust research undertaken by the 21st century’s new generation of scholarship.


Eian Katz, Yale undergraduate

My project entails the translation of selected chapters from Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi’s voluminous treatise, The Children of Israel in the Qur’an and the Tradition (Banu Isra’il fi al-Qur’an wa al-Sunna). This book, published in 1997, piqued my interest for a number of reasons, not least of which is the figure of Tantawi (d. 2010) himself, a giant within the Egyptian political and religious landscape who acquired a global following as a progressive Islamic cleric and scholar. Banu Isra’il is Tantawi’s interpretation of the Qur’anic portrayal of the Jews, and its appeal as a tool for the study of anti-Semitism is precisely this textual grounding, lending it a degree of intellectual rigor lacking in most lie-mongering and accusatory anti-Semitic pamphlets in circulation in the Arab world. As a component of the project, I will be traveling to Egypt in order to conduct background research and contextualize Tantawi’s work within his time and environment.

Benjamin Mappin-Kasirer, Yale undergraduate

With the support of YPSA’s Baron Foundation Grant, I plan to explore the evolving depiction of Jews in French Canadian literature during the Post Quiet Revolution era (1940s to 1990s). The Quiet Revolution was a period marked by the retreat from socially conservative politics in Quebec. I propose to examine how these widespread ideological changes allowed for a richer portrayal of the Jewish community in the novels and short stories of the period, both in French and English literature. I will be conducting primary research at Montreal’s Jewish Public Library and in the archives of the Canadian Jewish Congress during the summer of 2012. This project would not be possible without the direction of Prof. Maurice Samuels, Professor of French Literature and specialist of Jewish writers in 19th century France, and of Prof. Margaret Olin, Senior Research Scholar in Art History and in Religious Studies, here at Yale who have generously offered to assist me with their expertise and insight.

David Petruccelli, Yale graduate student in History

The Salo W. and Jeanette M. Baron Student Research Grant will fund a trip to Warsaw and Gdańsk in Poland, and Berlin, in Germany, in autumn 2012 to conduct archival research for my dissertation exploring the internationalization of policing in Europe between the two world wars. My account centers on Central and Eastern Europe, where the political, economic, and social upheavals surrounding the collapse of the Russian, German, Habsburg, and Ottoman Empires during the First World War spurred fears about international criminals. The International Criminal Police Commission, founded in Vienna in 1923 and now known as Interpol, reflected the desire to forge connections and foster cooperation between police forces in the region. Demographic characteristics of these territories influenced the developing system of international policing. Eastern European Jews made up a large proportion of the individuals targeted as international criminals across interwar Europe. My project explores the reasons for this, examining the complex interconnections between antisemitism and Jewish crime in this period. Assumptions about Jewish criminality inflated the percentage of Jews among those sentenced, while the conditions of Eastern European Jewish life and the transnational bonds of this diaspora people made involvement in offenses stretching across borders more likely, feeding preexisting prejudices. I will explore the myths and realities of Jewish international crime as part of a broader project looking at the roots of the modern system of international policing based on such offenses as international fraud, counterfeiting, human trafficking, and drug smuggling.

Max Scholz, Yale graduate student in History 

Thanks to the generous support of a Salo W. and Jeannette M. Baron Student Research Grant, I will be spending the summer in Frankfurt, Germany researching the city’s treatment of its Jewish community.  This subject likely brings to mind images of the Holocaust and the tragic story of one of Frankfurt’s most famous daughters, Anne Frank.  But the story of Jews in Frankfurt does not begin (nor does it end) in the twentieth century.  I will be looking back four hundred years to a time when Frankfurt’s Jewish community was the largest of several religious minority groups living within the city walls.  In the late sixteenth century, Jews as well as Christian minorities (including native Catholics and refugee Calvinists) were subject to an array of prejudicial policies and decisions handed down by the city’s ruling council (Rat).  Inspired by Professor Baron’s approach to history, my project is one of contextualization.  I ask the central question: Where did anti-Jewish policy fit into Frankfurt’s constellation of religious and national prejudices?  Was there something unique about attacks on Jews?  To answer these questions I will compare Rat legislation pertaining to the Jews to those decrees governing other religious minorities.  Additionally, I will examine internal community responses to discriminatory policies.  These two types of sources exist in Frankfurt at the Institut für Stadtgeschichte and at the Jüdisches Museum.  Ultimately, I hope to uncover not only the differences between the treatment of Jews and the treatment of other minorities but also the common threads that connect various forms of discrimination in early modern Germany.  My thanks again go out to the Salo W. and Jeannette M. Baron Committee, and I look forward to any comments, suggestions, or general Gutachten about my project.

Amy Smith, Yale graduate student in History

Amy’s project, which draws extensively on the Fortunoff Archive for Holocaust Video Testimony, examines the impact of the Holocaust on the family life of Holocaust survivors between 1945 and 1960. Her project examines the process of mourning and rebuilding that Holocaust survivors had to face; studying family life provides a unique window into this complex process. This focus on domestic life will also ensure that the experiences of male and female Holocaust survivors are analyzed as interrelated but distinct topics. 

Justine Walden, Yale graduate student in History and Renaissance Studies

My project will look at a select array of edited and unedited texts produced in 15th-century Florence and housed in libraries in Florence, Rome, and Milan in order to move beyond certain standard approaches to assessing attitudes towards Jews and Judaism during the Renaissance–approaches such as, for example, the examination of residence permits. To understand the variety of forms of, and subtle shadings within antisemitism in Renaissance Florence, I will look at accounts of pragmatic economic interactions, popular religious plays, humanist treatises, and biblical narratives. I will present my findings as a chapter in my dissertation, which focuses on religious life in Renaissance Florence before the advent of Savonarola, and in the form of an article entitled “Modes of Antisemitism in Renaissance Florence”. 


Timothy Snyder, Bird White Housum Professor of History

Timothy Snyder received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1997, where he was a British Marshall Scholar. Before joining the faculty at Yale in 2001, he held fellowships in Paris and Vienna, and an Academy Scholarship at Harvard. He is the author of five award-winning books, including: Nationalism, Marxism, and Modern Central Europe: A Biography of Kazimierz Kelles-Krauz (Harvard Press, 1998); The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999 (Yale Press, 2003); Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist’s Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine (Yale Press, 2005); The Red Prince: The Secret Lives of A Habsburg Archduke (Basic Books, 2008.  He is also the co-editor of two books Wall Around the West: State Power and Immigration Controls in Europe and North America (Rowman and Littlefield, 2001) and Stalin and Europe: War, Terror, Domination (forthcoming). In 2010 he published Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, a history of Nazi and Soviet mass killing on the lands between Berlin and Moscow. It has received a number of honors, including the Leipzig Prize for European Understanding and the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award in the Humanities. It was named a book of the year by some dozen publications, has been translated into more than twenty languages, and was a bestseller in four countries. Click here for a list of reviews and links. Most recently he helped Tony Judt to compose a thematic history of political ideas and intellectuals in politics, Thinking the Twentieth Century, published by Penguin in February 2012.

He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in modern East European political history. In 2012-2013 he will teach History 263-264, “Eastern Europe to 1914” and “Eastern Europe Since 1914,” as well as graduate seminars on the Holocaust and on east European history as global history.