The escalation of the Holocaust after the invasion of the Soviet Union was accompanied by the public auctioning of Jewish property in Germany. Local authorities opened and cleared sealed apartments and sold their holdings within days of the residents' deportation. In this way, the buyers and tenants of the abandoned apartments profited from the property of the doomed families. This project explores the relationships of the new residents and tenants to their new property. What did it mean to sleep in someone else’s bedroom? Did the new tenants try to forget or lie about the origins of their acquisitions? Were they haunted by them? The project aims to show the emotional consequences of complicity with a genocidal dictatorship. It aims to show how non-Jewish people simultaneously enriched themselves materially and coped emotionally - or failed to do so.
Since the end of the ‘Third Reich,’ historians have wondered what ordinary non-Jewish Germans knew, thought, or felt about the Holocaust. They have struggled to answer these questions, pointing to the lack of reliable evidence in a politically repressed and ideologically manipulated society. This project will demonstrate the affective consequences of witnessing and materially benefiting from an unfolding genocide by examining the above questions through the example of housing. Housing was both distinctly intimate and highly political. It touched on the social imagination (e.g., ‘inflation profiteers,’ ‘rent sharks’) as well as issues of public health and the distribution of public goods. Under National Socialism, it was also racially charged, once as an ideology of ‘Aryan’ ‘blood and soil,’ then as an instrument of racial persecution. In a society trained to spy, snitch, and spy on each other, close analysis of housing offers us insights into a much broader social spectrum. Methodologically, the project combines microhistorical approaches, everyday history, and the history of emotions.