Anna Holian is a cultural, social, and political historian of twentieth-century Europe, with a special interest in the reconstruction of Europe after World War II. Her other key research interests are migration and displacement; architecture, urban planning, and city life; nationalism and internationalism; and film studies. Her geographical area of specialization is Germany. However, her work ranges broadly across continental Europe and has a strong comparative and transnational dimension.
Holian's first book, entitled "Between National Socialism and Soviet Communism: Displaced Persons in Postwar Germany," tackles the big question of how Europeans made sense of the Second World War. It examines how Eastern European refugees in postwar Germany defined and represented themselves. Focusing on Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, and Jewish refugees, it explores how divergent historical narratives about the war, especially wartime encounters with Nazi and Soviet power, formed the basis for the development of distinct displaced political communities.
She is currently working on two new book-length research projects. The first, entitled "Reconstructing Livelihoods after Genocide: Jewish Shops and Shopkeepers in Postwar Germany," examines how Jewish survivors established themselves in trade in West Germany during the first two postwar decades and considers what role their businesses played in the reconstruction of Jewish life more generally. It also considers how survivors’ personal economic histories mapped onto the larger economic history of postwar West Germany. It challenges the prevailing view that Jews in postwar Germany were “sojourners,” temporary residents who were prepared to leave—and abandon their businesses—at the earliest opportunity. Combining economic and spatial history, it treats Jewish businesses both as economic ventures and as interventions in the postwar urban built environment.
Her second project, “Europe’s War Children: A Cinematic History," explores how postwar European filmmakers addressed what was perceived as one of the critical issues of the day: “war children.” Combining historical and film studies methodologies, it examines how the “problem” of war children was represented in popular culture and how popular cultural understandings drew on and fed discussions among politicians, social workers, and medical professionals.
Holian is also involved in a large collaborative research project entitled “Geographies of the Holocaust.” Based at Middlebury College and Texas State University, the project brings together historians, art historians, and geographers to explore how spatial methods of analysis can enhance our knowledge of the Holocaust. Together with the geographer Alberto Giordano, she has examined spatio-temporal patterns of flight and deportation in Italy during the period of German occupation. The results of their research were published in Geographies of the Holocaust, ed. Anne Kelly Knowles, Tim Cole, and Alberto Giordano (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014). More information about the project can be found at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website. A visualization for the Italian case study can also be found at the Stanford Spatial History Project website.
Holian's teaching focuses on modern German and European history and the history of migration. She regularly teach courses on nineteenth- and twentieth-century Germany, the Holocaust, European fascism, Europe since 1945, migration in modern Europe, and history and film.