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Rediscovering the Refugee Scholars of the Nazi Era

A visualization of refugee scholars' migrations in the Nazi era, from the project.
A visualization of refugee scholars' migrations.

The Rediscovering the Refugee Scholars project is a research effort by Northeastern University faculty and graduate students in Jewish Studies, Journalism, Public History, and Computer Science to retrace the forgotten career and life pathways of a group of scholars who attempted to flee Nazi persecution in the 1930s and 1940s. With the assistance of the New York Public Library, researchers have been examining archival files from the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars, a private group that funded a select number of European scholars but was unable to accommodate thousands of others.

Under a grant from Northeastern’s College of Arts, Media, and Design (CAMD), the project has begun by examining the women scientists who applied to the Emergency Committee. Their work was often pioneering in their respective fields. Many of these women scholars’ names and stories have been forgotten or lost to history.

The Rediscovering the Refugee Scholars project is in its first phase, and its website is in beta, with a great deal of research still to be done. Profs. Laurel Leff, Michelle Borkin, and John Wihbey have been leading the project. Graduate students Brittany Costello, Michail Schwab, and Aditeya Pandey have provided vital research, data, and web work.

Principal Investigators
Laurel Leff, Faculty, Journalism; Michelle Borkin, Faculty, Computer Science; John Wihbey, Faculty, Journalism

Publications and Presentations

The Forgotten Women Scientists Who Fled the Holocaust for the United States.” Smithsonian Magazine. Nov. 9, 2017.

Professors uncover lost stories of WWII refugee-scholars.” News at Northeastern. Oct. 25, 2017.

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