Dit is een Engelstalig project.

This project aims to re-evaluate and recast the history of resistance to hegemonic and occupying empires in Europe between 1936 and 1948, which has been occluded by dominant narratives of national resistance, the Cold War and the Holocaust. It will explore the trajectories of transnational resisters – defined as active behind enemy lines outside their country of origin –  encounters and exchanges between them, the forging of their identities in different contexts during the war and the postwar transformation of their lives and memories. The Network’s findings will be communicated by a collaborative volume and articles, and engagement with broadcasters and museums.

Resistance Committee in France ask them to volunteer for service in the new army of France.

Onderzoeker: Ismee Tames
Looptijd: 2015-2018
Beoogde publicatie: drie workshops tussen 2016 en 2018

  • The Centre for War Studies at University College, Dublin, where Prof Robert Gerwarth is directing a complimentary project on the transnational history of collaboration in Europe, which has an expert international staff. 
  • The Institut Universitaire de France where Profs Laurent Douzou and Mercedes Yusta are directing a project on resistance in Mediterranean Europe which has a regional focus but converges with our own.
  • The school of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) at University College London where Dr Bojan Aleksov is currently working on the flight of Jews from Central Europe to the Balkans during the Second World War. He has links with partner.
  • The Institute for Recent History, Belgrade, where Professor Olga Manojlovic Pintar heasa a research group on resistance in Yugoslavia.
  • The Institute of the Contemporary History of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague,where Dr Vit Smetana and Dr Zdenko Maršálak work on Czechosolvak military and resistance questions.

Two visiting fellows who are experts on Jewish resistance will be invited from Israel. They will work on the multi-dimensional aspects of Jewish and transnational rescue and resistance; Professor Renée Poznanski of Ben Gurion University, who is the world authority on Jewish persecution and resistance in France, and Dr Yaacov Falkov of Tel Aviv University, who is an unrivalled expert on Jewish and  Soviet resistance in the Russian borderlands.

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Context and aim

The story of transnational resistance has been written over by three dominant narratives of the postwar era: first, the narratives of national liberation elaborated in countries that emerged from wartime defeat, occupation and liberation by foreign powers; second, Cold War narratives that stifled narratives of anti-fascist struggle in the West and non-communist or anti-communist struggle in the East; and third, by the narrative of the Holocaust which highlighted Jews as victims rather than as resisters.

The International Network will multiply perspectives  from  scholarly vantage-points in different parts of Europe to explore the emergence, trajectories and afterlives of transnational resistance in very different theatres, from  the Pyrenean frontier between Spain and France to the borderlands of Russia and from the flatlands of the Netherlands to the mountains of Yugoslavia and Greece. Political, historical, cultural, religious and ethnic contexts were very distinct in these theatres and inflected the engagement of resisters in activism, their encounters and exchanges, and their afterlives and memories in very different ways.

The Network will bring together leading historians  of the Second World War who are working in specialist research institutes and on parallel projects across Europe in order to confront concepts, methods and evidence in this field. This will produce a new and exciting interpretation of the ‘long’ Second World War between the Spanish Civil War and the onset of the Cold War and make a significant contribution to the practice of transnational history.

Significance of the programme

The Network will undertake a major and sustained project on this subject for the first time since the 1960s, when collaborative study broke up in Cold War acrimony, and since the 1980s, when the dominant narrative of the Holocaust marginalised the history of Jewish resistance. Some studies have brought together historians to reflect on resistance across Europe, but not yet in any sustained way looking at the whole of Europe and deploying the methodology of transnational history. The Network will tackle the question of transnational resistance between East and West, North and South and will also contribute a major empirical case study that will draw on the approaches of transnational history but also critique them and define their limits. The outputs of the project will be a major collective volume a number of articles on questions that lend themselves to focussed treatment, including one on the contribution of the project to transnational historical approaches. These will be collectively written as a result of the convergence of scholarly thinking made possible by a sustained period of collaboration. Many questions, it is hoped, will be flagged up rather than closed down, opening the way to further research in the field by younger scholars. Given the significance of such a project from the viewpoint of narratives of the history of Europe in the twentieth century, contacts with broadcasters and museums, in particular the new House of Europe, will be built on in order to engage with wider publics.

Arrangements of the interchange

A series of three annual workshops will take place, dedicated to complimentary dimensions and milestones of the project. Workshop 1 (March/April 2016) at the Institute for Recent History in Belgrade will explore transnational resistance as a phenomenon that emerged among populations that were already on the move as a result of four factors (i)   the economic migration of people in response to labour shortages after the First World War (ii) the political and religious exile of individuals and families persecuted by Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and the authoritarian regimes of Eastern Europe (iii), flight from invading and occupying forces following the Anschluss, the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, the Nazi-Soviet pact and the Blitzkriege of 1940-1 in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Yugoslavia and Greece and (iv) the mass internment of prisoners of war, the persecution, ghettoisation and  deportation of  Jews, and the deportation of forced labourers to work for the German Reich. A minority of these shifting populations became transnational resisters, defined as being active in resistance or rescue outside their country. They were fighting ‘wars within the war’, part of a pan-European antifascist struggle that began with volunteering for the International Brigades in Spain or a struggle against the Holocaust which often killed members of their family, and sometimes caught up in both battles. This workshop will draw in the expertise of the specialists in order to define patterns of recruitment and trajectories of transnational resisters and how these varied from one theatre of Europe to another.

Workshop 2 (March/April 2017), at Centre for War Studies in Dublin, will examine the encounters, exchanges and transfers that took place between transnational resistance in different sites across Europe. It will focus on (i) particular camps, prisons and ghettoes in which Spanish republicans, communists and Jews were interned and which often acted as universities of resistance (ii) particular resistance and rescue networks and (iii) key resistance events.  In these sites resistance expertise was transferred and transnational resistance identities were shaped. Resisters were not all engaged in the same struggle, the same ‘wars within the war’. For some, the priority was the antifascist struggle with Fascism, Nazism and authoritarianism, beginning with the International Brigades in Spain; for others it was the struggle against the Holocaust by resistance and rescue; and for others still the struggle against international Communism was equally significant. This produced hybrid identities as resisters, who might be anti-fascist and Jewish, or Jewish and anti-communist. It also produced crossovers between resistance and collaboration, in one direction because of hostility to communism, in the other because of the collapse of collaboration at the end of the war and the need to reinvent identities.

Workshop 3  (March/April 2018), at the MEHRC in Oxford, will address questions of the afterlives and memories of transnational resisters. After the war, transnational resisters generally followed  one of three paths. A first was to remain in the country in which they had undertaken most of their wartime resistance, such as the Netherlands, France or Italy, where legitimacy was now built on the story of national resistance. A second was to return to the Central or Eastern European countries they had left in the 1930s, fleeing fascism, Nazism or authoritarianism, and which after 1945 became one of the People’s Democracies. Only too often they were liable to be purged after 1948 when Stalinist regimes there purged former transnational resisters as cosmopolitans, Allied agents or Zionists. A third was to leave Old Europe, ruined by fascism and anti-Semitism, to undertake a new life in Palestine where they battled against the British  to found the State of Israel in 1948, or emigrated to the United States, which welcomed Judaism but not communism. The Network will explore how stories of transnational resistance were buried and were subsequently recovered. This might occur when, in their advancing years, former transnational resisters attempted to gain recognition or compensation via national resistance organisations in the countries where they had resisted, when the end of the Cold War allowed resisters from East and West to make contact again, and when the story of Jewish resistance was recovered from the dominant narrative of Holocaust victimhood.