KWI – Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (Kulturwissenschaftliches Intitut Essen, KWI)

Research areas

Project World War II: Everyday Life Under German Occupation

Project Leaders:Prof. Tatjana Tönsmeyer (University of Wuppertal/Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities - KWI), Prof. Peter Haslinger (Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe Marburg/University of Gießen)
General Editors: Prof. Włodzimierz Borodziej (University of Warsaw), Prof. Peter Haslinger, Dr. Stefan Martens (German Historical Institute Paris), Prof. Irina Sherbakova (MEMORIAL Moscow), Prof. Tatjana Tönsmeyer
Coordination: Agnes Laba M.A. (Bergische-University Wuppertal)
Managing Editor: Francis Ipgrave M.A., M. Int. (Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe Marburg)

The pilot study is funded by the Leibniz Association in cooperation with the German Historical Institute Paris. The duration of the pilot study is from 2012 until 2017.


Research and Editorial Project

Lille, France. Local population reading German edicts. May 1940
© German Federal Archives, picture: 101I-126-0304-11A, photographer: Heinz Fremke

Thus far, the history of the Second World War has been written predominantly as a history of Nazi aggression and its perpetrators. The Holocaust and the crimes of the Wehrmacht, in particular, as well as resistance movements in the occupied countries have been the focus of historical research. In contrast, there is a notable dearth of research on and documentation of the situation and perspectives of local populations living in German-occupied Europe.

Lemberg, flea market. Street hawkers with merchandise. July 1943
© Austrian National Library, picture: CL 3.133/5/02, photographer: Joe J. Heydecker

In order to address this deficit, the pilot study of the international research and editorial project ‘World War II - Everyday Life Under German Occupation’ is preparing an English-language source edition which documents the diverse and complex everyday circumstances, experiences and survival strategies of ordinary people in the European regions occupied by the Wehrmacht during the war. Central themes explored in the source edition include, amongst others, shortage and supply, local administrative institutions, labour and exploitation, and the experience and witnessing of violence and mass killings.

The edition is conceived as a hybrid edition, combining the advantages of a printed publication in English with a digital project portal which will present the sources both in English and the original languages. Work on the first printed volume will be completed by the end of the pilot study. In total, the print edition will consist of eight volumes.

The project brings together scholars from 15 European countries and offers a unique transnational perspective on a period and topic which remains highly relevant for the politics of history and memory throughout Europe, but which has hitherto been investigated primarily in relation to individual countries.