From 1942 on, Allied GI's were trained in intelligence, interrogation techniques, close combat, photo interpretation, etc., a knowledge they used for the interrogation of POWs and the production of leaflets and radio broadcasts intended to destroy the morale of the Wehrmacht. When these teams eventually arrived at the recently liberated concentration camps in April 1945, they were often tasked with investigating the camps' history. Along with the memoirs of the camps’ survivors, these reports represent the first kind of “scientification” of the concentration camps. From the perspective of a sociology of knowledge, this research could be called a “third culture” of knowledge production—a knowledge production beyond the more individual literary or juristic evaluations, a social scientific, methodologically thoughtful investigation into a collective experience aiming at theoretically understanding the concentration camps.
In this talk, I want to focus on this early research on the camps before, while or immediately after liberation, i.e., before they were history. What was this type of “third culture” research on concentration camps? What methods and concepts did they use in their research? What were their findings, and how relevant are these reports for today’s research on concentration camps? Writing the history of their practice means writing the history of scientific and military resistance against the Nazi regime.