„Man hört, man spricht“

Informal Communication and Information „From Below“ in Nazi Europe (INFOCOM)

INFOCOM is a five-year collaborative research project at the Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ) dedicated to investigating the intersection between official, “from above,” and state-driven communication and “from below” practices of information production, gathering, and interpretation in Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe. Led by Dr. Caroline Mezger, the project is funded by the Leibniz Association within the framework of its “‘The Best Minds’ – Leibniz Junior Research Groups” program.

Inspired by cultural histories of National Socialism, media studies, and historical anthropologies of violence and war, the project highlights “from below” practices of communication — especially rumor — to explore innovative questions and establish a modern, transnational history of communication under National Socialism. How did individuals in Nazi Germany and its occupied territories construct knowledge in discursive fields dominated by censorship, state propaganda, and authoritarian rhetoric? What might the brokerage, form, and interpretation of informal information reveal about practices of inclusion and exclusion, gender relations, ethnic categorizations, or the distribution of power in a given society? How might we conceive of the interactions between societies and subjectivities in conditions of mass violence and exception, or between construals of reality and individual/collective agency?


To explore these questions from a multidisciplinary, transnational, and comparative perspective, the project is collaborating with a renowned network of cooperation partners from Germany and beyond. These include Prof. Dr. Ulf Brunnbauer, Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies (IOS) in Regensburg; Prof. Dr. Jan Grabowski, Polish Center for Holocaust Research; Dr. Stefan Martens, German Historical Institute Paris; Prof. Dr. Jochen Oltmer, Institute for Research on Migration and Intercultural Studies (IMIS) in Osnabrück; Prof. Dr. Roberta Pergher, Indiana University; Prof. Dr. Miloš Řezník, German Historical Institute Warsaw; Prof. Dr. Marsha Siefert, Central European University; Dr. Oswald Überegger, Competence Centre for Regional History (ZefüR) at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano; and Prof. Dr. Yfaat Weiss, Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture – Simon Dubnow (DI).


Image Sources:

Title Image: A group of Polish Jews converses in a reading room in front of a large map of Poland, before 1939, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Dr. Anna Wieteska, Photograph Number 25452 (cutting).

Image 1: British poster “Careless talk costs lives. Mr Hitler wants to know!”, 1939 – 1945, Collections of The National Archives (United Kingdom), catalogued under document record INF3/238 [Public domain], commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:INF3-238_Anti-rumour_and_careless_talk_Mr._Hitler_wants_to_know.jpg

Image 2: Jews converse outside in the "Sammelstelle" [gathering place] in the Kovno ghetto, 1941 – 1944, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of George Kadish/Zvi Kadushin, Photograph Number 81110 (cutting).

© Institut für Zeitgeschichte