© 2018

Photography, Migration and Identity

A German-Jewish-American Story


  • Presents research which is the basis of 'Through Whose Eyes?', a short film produced by the BBC in collaboration with Maiken Umbach

  • Takes an innovative, micro-historical approach to the experience of German Jewish migration to the United States following the National Socialist seizure of power

  • Analyses private photographs to explore how refugees imagined, asserted and redefined their identities

  • Argues that private photography was an eminently political practice, both used in Nazi propaganda and as a means of resisting the separation of Jewish and German identities


Part of the Palgrave Studies in Migration History book series (PSMH)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xii
  2. Maiken Umbach, Scott Sulzener
    Pages 1-16
  3. Maiken Umbach, Scott Sulzener
    Pages 17-36
  4. Maiken Umbach, Scott Sulzener
    Pages 37-57
  5. Maiken Umbach, Scott Sulzener
    Pages 59-75
  6. Maiken Umbach, Scott Sulzener
    Pages 77-91
  7. Maiken Umbach, Scott Sulzener
    Pages 93-114
  8. Back Matter
    Pages 115-127

About this book


Between the 1933 Nazi seizure of power and their 1941 prohibition on all Jewish emigration, around 90,000 German Jews moved to the United States. Using the texts and images from a personal archive, this Palgrave Pivot explores how these refugees made sense of that experience. For many German Jews, theirs was not just a story of flight and exile; it was also one chapter in a longer history of global movement, experienced less as an estrangement from Germanness, than a reiteration of the mobility central to it. Private photography allowed these families to position themselves in a context of fluctuating notions of Germaness, and resist the prescribed disentanglement of their Jewish and German identities. In opening a unique window onto refugees’ own sense of self as they moved across different geographical, political, and national environments, this book will appeal to readers interested in Jewish life and migration, visual culture, and the histories of National Socialism and the Holocaust.


Private photography, amateur photography National Socialist National identity Jewish refugees Personal archive Nazis Exile Cuba Re-settlement Tourism Resistance Persecution Photo album Bildung Anti-Semitism Heimat Volksgemeinschaft Kindertransport

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK
  2. 2.Department of HistoryUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA

About the authors

Maiken Umbach is Professor of Modern History at the University of Nottingham, UK. She has published widely on German regional identities and bourgeois culture, the nature of ideologies, and private life in Nazi Germany. She is currently directing a large research project on ‘Photography as Political Practice during National Socialism’.


Scott Sulzener is a PhD Candidate in Modern European History at the University of Iowa, USA. In addition to his research on German migrations, he has received fellowships for his work on the gender and social history of the German Empire. He is currently finishing his dissertation on the Imperial history of Protestant monasticism in the border regions of Schleswig-Holstein.  

Bibliographic information


“The book is a fascinating contribution to the study of migration, photography, and the ways in which German-Jewish self-understanding was practiced and, critically, how it changed overtime. … Sulzener’s book remains an important piece of scholarship for students and scholars interested in migration and Holocaust history. The work also serves as a clear case for the importance of using vernacular photography as a source in its own right.” (SarahWobick-Segev, H-Soz-Kult,, October 9, 2020)