Amber Nickell: “We Wander” Together

“We Wander” Together: Jews and Ethnic Germans on the Eurasian Steppes, 1917-1979

This project examines the changing relationships between ethnic Germans and Jews in Southern Ukraine and their Central Asian sites of displacement over the course of the short twentieth century. The two groups, with long historical ties to the Black Sea region, found themselves trapped in between two competing empires—Russia (later the Soviet Union) and Germany. These imperial powers often used ethnic policies as a tool to manipulate, control, and engineer their conquered territories. These ethnic policies increasingly drove a wedge between the two groups, which had maintained relatively amicable social, political, and economic relationships prior to World War I the Russian Revolution. With each regime change (some territories changing hands up to seven times in the first half of the twentieth century), the relationships between ethnic Germans and Jews deteriorated and each group developed hatred or affinity for one of the two empires—most Germans looked West, while many Jews preferred the less national promise of the East. By 1941, with the German invasion and occupation of Ukraine, relationships between the two groups had already been decimated by decades of occupation policy; the Nazis capitalized on this, prompting one group to participate in the mass murder of the other. Yet, as this project demonstrates, the story of Ukraine’s ethnic Germans and Jews did not end with the Holocaust. Rather, the site of their interactions shifted much further East, to Central Asia (Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan). There, they began the long process of rebuilding relationships, and ultimately working together to combat the Soviet state.

Amber Nickell

Amber N. Nickell is a PhD Candidate in the history department at Purdue University. Her major research field is “Eastern and Central Europe”, and she has minor fields in “Russian and Eurasian Borderlands” and “Transnational Germany.” She received an MA in American history and BA in European history from the University of Northern Colorado. Her Masters’ thesis has already yielded one peer-reviewed article, and she has another unrelated article forthcoming (July 2018). She has presented her work at numerous local, national, and international conferences, workshops, and symposia and received a number of awards for her writing, research, service, and teaching. Additionally, she is a recipient of several research grants and fellowships, including the 2016 Auschwitz Jewish Center Fellowship, a Title VIII Grant, and most recently the Fulbright Fellowship.​

 


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