Holocaust Bystanders: A History of the Modern State


Summer Institute for the Study of East Central and Southeastern Europe


Holocaust and Genocide Studies


This research focuses on multiethnic borderlands under wartime Hungarian and Bulgarian occupations that targeted several groups to realize ethnonational visions of “Greater Hungary” and “Greater Bulgaria.” By examining testimonies of Jews who described state violence against their non-Jewish neighbors—instances when they found themselves as bystanders as well as victims—this perspective raises new questions about Jews’ experiences in the face of state violence, and it calls for rethinking assumptions about bystanders more broadly. Based mostly on testimonies of Jews and non-Jews, this research traces how state assaults on multiethnic societies tore the social fabric so that bystanders’ behavior reflected not a prior social conflict but one made by the design of the violent state.