The Holocaust’s maps
Summary of Harrie Teunissen’s presentation at the “Map Afternoon” of the Brussels Map Circle on March 12, 2016.
Nazi Germany gave great importance to maps and spatial studies. However, until recently few historians had taken an interest in the Nazi maps that served to plan and execute the genocide of millions people, mainly Jews.
Harrie Teunissen presented in Bruselas two eerie maps that he has managed to trace and buy. The first one is a manuscript map of the Jewish Ghetto of Warsaw, made by a SS major who drew it over a German military map prepared for the Luftwaffe. The quarter within which Jews were confined is highlighted in purple color, and in the same color there is a succinct legend, “Juden Ghetto”, next to a David star and the signature of the SS. Thanks to a painstaking study, Teunissen has managed to date this map to an exact date of 1940.
The second map, in much larger scale, shows the Jewish population that existed in the North-Western Soviet Union (including the occupied countries) before the German invasion of 1941. The map was published in 1942, and the issue shown in the picture is a reprint of early 1943. As Teunissen explained, when this map was published it was already totally obsolete, given that German forces and local militia had already, in the second half of 1941, killed around one million Jews. He wonders therefore what the purpose of the map’s publishers was: identify the localities that had yet to be annihilated? graphically celebrate the ‘work’ already accomplished by the exterminators? He also commented the sad irony that this map is nowadays a valuable historical source for historians to know the distribution of Jewish population prior to 1941, as for some of the represented regions practically no ethnographic maps exist.
After this striking presentation, I had a short chat with Harrie. He told me that these maps had been received with mixed reactions by different Jewish communities. While some consider them valuable historical sources, others do not want to have anything to do with such Nazi tools of control and propaganda.
In Harrie Teunissen’s website, http://www.siger.org, you can find high-resolution images of these and other maps of the Holocaust; particularly in the pages The Holocaust in contemporary maps and Maps of the Warsaw Ghetto.