Cartographies of Catastrophes




Planning the British Historic City: the Impact of World War Two

Prof. John Pendlebury (Newcastle)

This paper will discuss the planning of British historic cities before, during and after World War Two. For Britain, as with other countries, the war marked a decisive moment in the development of the state and its role in citizens’ lives, one facet of which was a more comprehensive approach to land use planning. This also led to a focus on the historic qualities of towns and cities as planners sought to implement a new, rational planned modernity, deemed appropriate for the mid-twentieth century. The talk will start by setting out some pre-war context, before considering the possibilities created by war. It will then focus on some of the ‘reconstruction plans’ produced in the period before finishing with some overall reflections.

Cartographies of urban borders

War destruction and socio-political changes in Polish city plans of Wroclaw

Grzegorz Strauchold (Wrocław) and Jakub Tyszkiewicz (Wrocław)

Last months of the Second World War were a turning point in history of German Breslau. The town changed by Hitler into the fortress (“Festung Breslau”) was an area of heavy fights with the Red Army. Besieging of the town for four months (Feb.-May 1945) led to almost total destruction of some Breslau’s districts and its infrastructure. Moreover, in May 1945 the town was embraced by the Polish administration that meant a significant political change. Together with the Potsdam conference’s decision on expelling of German inhabitants (the process took place in 1946-1947) and the growing Polish settlement it led to the Polonization of the town. Taking into consideration those important elements – war destruction and social- political changes in Wroclaw it is interesting to consider how those changes were mapped in Polish city plans in 1945-1948. There are very interesting examples of a cartographic production. On the one hand there were mainly based on pre-war German plans (Breslau’s “Pharus” for instance). On the other, they mapped effects of war destruction, white spots of ruins, changes in the course of streets etc. Comparing of German maps of Breslau with Polish ones is a very good example of mapping changes created by war.

Another significant problem - mapping of socio-political changes – the Polonization of the town - changes of streets, parks and other places’ names – is also worth stressing. The additional vital element is that plans were part of city guidebooks issued in 1946 and 1948 which stressed the Polish character of the town (also in a historical approach) its reconstruction and recovery using the dominant communist propaganda of territories seizured by Poland in 1945. Based on our own research and secondary sources this picture will be confronted with the real developments in Wrocław at this time.

Mapping the Metropolis: The physicallity and Mentality of post-partition Calcutta

Subhasree Ghosh (Calcutta)

In consonance with one of the sub-themes of the conference ‘Mapping man-made disaster inflicted to the urban space,’ this paper would attempt to interrogate the mapping of the social space city of Calcutta in the twentieth century. The divider would be 1947—the year in which India gained independence and the year which also saw the emergence of the two nations of India and Pakistan that triggered one of the largest mass migrations in human history. Given this context, the paper would explore how cross-border migration changed the living pattern of the metropolis. Straddling the colonial and the post-colonial, this paper by telescoping down to the quotidian life of the inhabitants of Calcutta, would chart out the spaces (both physical and mental) of confrontations and collisions and how the city grappled with several layers of invisible borders, specially post-1947—of mind, of identity. This would essentially be done by taking cognizance of the cartographic delineation of the religious composition of the city, indicative of the spatial segregation. By taking into account the maps appended with three pre-independent decadal censuses of 1921, 1931 and 1941 and three post-independent decadal censuses of 1951, 1961 and 1971, the focus would be to make a comparative analysis of the pre and post-independent residential patterns. In doing so, attention would be riveted on how the corporeal vivisection that accompanied the 1947 Partition resulted in fissures and fractures in the living space of the city, leading to the creation of enclaves/pockets/ghettos. While the scientifically prepared maps give us an idea of the effect the man-made division of British India and the princely states had on Calcutta, it also needs to be noted that one cannot fully comprehend the fall-out of this catastrophe by simply analysing the conventional maps. In this context, one needs to enlarge the ambit of the term ‘mapping.’

The paper would argue that data acquired from physical maps should be complimented, at least in this context, by mental maps. In order to understand the compartmentalisation of living space within the city after 1947, due attention should be paid to ‘mental mapping’ to reach to the pith as to how these zones of exclusivity and contestation developed and further crystallised over decades. The mental scape of the residents of the city would further explain the re-contouring of the living space. Supplementing physical maps with information from government reports, oral narratives, written memoirs and non-fictional accounts, the paper would thus seek to widen the connotation of the term ‘mapping’ by focusing on mental mapping to conclude that psychological non-assimilation of the resident population led to deepening of the urban segregation in post-Partition Calcutta. The paper would try to bring forth the layered, nuanced structure of isolation/separation with a deft combination of physical and mental maps.

Old City of Jerusalem: Counter-mapping a city in conflict

Mohamed Fareed (Cairo)

The map of Old City of Jerusalem has long been used by both Israelis and Palestinians, from their unequal power positions, It is the same map virtually, showing two overlapped, asymmetrical and interconnected identities locked in a single city. The paper re-examine the unbalanced relations of Israel/Palestine by studying the recent works in cartography. A new approach that use maps as rhetorical claims for power and over territory, the mirror-maps of Jerusalem is read as indications of territorial ambitions and unspoken intentions to destroy the other identity. However, this paper suggests an alternative re-interpretations of political maps.

Following maps analysis as a matter of performance, whose meaning depends on its contexts and stakeholders , the paper emphasises the ritualistic sacralization of the Israel/Palestine map. Embedded within discourses of memory and history, maps are tools of nation narratives, often in diasporic contexts, carrying with them emotional significance to both peoples. These issues were largely left unaddressed by the territorial paradigm which has dominated political negotiations. Taking the discussion of geography beyond narrow territorial claims towards the possibility of heterogeneity of space is crucial, but faces political and conceptual challenges.

Virtual tour

“Catastrophe. What Comes After the End?” An Exhibition on film and disaster.

Stefanie Plappert (DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum Frankfurt am Main)

Catastrophe, End of the World, Apocalypse: terms that evoke fascination and fear in equal measure, conjoining overwhelming events and unimaginable misery.

These large-scale events of destruction have stimulated artistic exploration for thousands of years. Medieval painting feasted almost lustfully on apocalyptic scenes based on the biblical Revelation of John, and Romantic literature celebrated profound human loneliness; still, it is only Modernity, believing in the future shaped by man, that thinks of an End of the World without a new beginning, the mode of absolute destruction .

In this understanding, catastrophes are either man- made (e.g. by technology, states or climate change), or they are caused by external forces (such as meteorite impacts, super-volcano eruptions, hostile extraterrestrial life or the sun that, inflated to a giant Red Star, devours Earth).

The idea of catastrophe has inspired artists, especially since the Renaissance, to develop a dystopian vision of the future as a continuation of their present. The rule of thumb “the more uncertain the times in political or economic terms, the richer in catastrophic products” is valid at least insofar as end-time-oriented works of art reveal much about the attitude to life of an epoch.

This is true not least for film: disaster films, dystopias, end-time scenarios are in vogue in changeable times (doomsday films in the 1970s, social decadence of the 1990s), and are influenced by politically generated and culturally transported images, ideas and threat scenarios.

The Exhibition

By imagining the catastrophe, filmmakers also strive for reassurance, insurance, the feeling of being in control. The exhibition is dedicated to fundamental questions about the state of the world as addressed by filmmakers in their works by presenting multifaceted examples from the history of disaster films with regard to their historical context and their relation to world history: Media and artistic testimonies from different decades (leaflets, magic lantern slides, magazine title pages, comics...) contextualize the filmic images.

The central principle of the exhibition centers around images of the worst possible, presented through comparative juxtaposition of artistic, cinematic and scientific ideas. In addition to film compilations that illustrate these formative visual ideas, objects from the film production process with references to the underlying thoughts and the way these images were made are exhibited. Furthermore, interviews with experts from the field of natural science are on display, as well as objects from the real catastrophe prevention as done by politics, aid organizations and science.

Two things become clear: the cinematic images have their origins in historical models, in “scientific” reports as well as in visual mass media products; and the ideas of natural science and film today converge when it comes to the unpredictable, when there is talk of a future we cannot know about.¹ Consequently, the exhibition’s thematic focus is on “climate catastrophe,” the creeping process of man-made climate change - an actually “unfilmic topos” in view of a genre that thrives on quick impacts and rapid developments, but which increasingly finds thematic resonance and cinematically accompanies an ongoing discussion process within societies.

Visitors to the exhibition are thus enabled not only to see the lines of development of the disaster film in a larger social, political and cultural context, but also to examine and, if necessary, change their own actions in the face of current threats.

Meanwhile, the narrative and technical structures of disaster films are clarified by orienting the exhibition to the different phases of the cinematic disaster plot,

however, not leveling the unquestionably existing differences between the subgenres (disaster depictions, end-time scenarios / apocalypses, science fiction films with successful saving of the world and post-apocalyptic dystopias).


  1. Amongst others: Bulfin, Ailise: Popular Culture and the “New Human Condition”: Catastrophe Narratives and Climate Change. In: Global and Planetary Change, Vol.156, 2017, S. 140-146. Salmose, Niklas: The Apocalyptic Sublime: Anthropocene Representation and Enviromental Agency in Hollywood Action-Adventure Cli-Fi Films. In: The Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 51(6), Dezember 2018, S. 1415-1433.

Cartographies of destruction

Ruins after the Greek Independence war: a spatial picture by the French Scientific Mission of Moreas, 1828

Eleni Gkadolou (Athens)

The French Scientific Mission, known as Expedition de Moree, came to Greece in 1828 to map the territories and record the available resources of the Hellenic State that was about to be established right after the Greek Revolution of 1821. The Mission worked for months under difficult conditions in a post war land with ruined villages, destroyed cultivations and a basic road network also destroyed. The results of this work were published in numerous reports and maps and constitute the first official mapping of Greece with scientific measurements.

This study explores the historical documentation of the ruins depicted in the maps of that period as well as its limitations and challenges. The maps acting complementary to other historical material, are the most important source of this spatial information, unique and not available in other sources since they depict, apart from the actual location of entities, also their spatial relations. Even though, a series of maps of a wider period are actually needed to be studied comparatively and geo-historical data may be characterized by ambiguity, the spatial classification, geo-visualization, and analysis of them allow for patterns to be revealed otherwise difficult to extract.

Aerial Reconnaissance Photographs of Bombed Cities in German and Polish Visual Cultures: Tracing the History of Two Photos of Frampol

Noemi Quagliati (München)

On September 13, 1939, the German Air Force dropped high explosive bombs and incendiary weapons on the Polish town of Frampol (in Lublin Voivodeship). The writer Isaac Bashevis Singer narrated this tragic event in his short story The Little Shoemakers (1957).

Nowadays, German references report that the area functioned as a military experiment where the Luftwaffe tested the effectiveness of new weapons, destroying ninety percent of the town. Two aerial photographs—taken by a German reconnaissance plane—seem to attest the purpose of the attack: the first view preceding the air raid served to define the precise target, while the second record allowed to measure the consequences inflicted by the bombing. These two aerial photographs were first published in the 1965 GDR magazine Freie Welt: the only source on which German and English historians deduced the reason for this bombing. The GDR article affirmed that Frampol was chosen for the lack of anti-aircraft defenses and for its urban planning based on concentric streets culminating at the focal point of the central square, which made the town an evident landmark, clearly discernible by aerial photographic devices.

This paper compares German and English sources with the Polish ones, aiming to enhance knowledge of this tragic event. By doing so, it specifically addresses the role of photography in creating public memory. Thus, the paper reflects on the questions: 1) Was Frampol chosen as a testing ground because of its visual structure from the air? 2) Has the bombing of Frampol been reported by the GDR magazine (instead of other nearby bombed cities, e.g. Biłgoraj) thanks to the ability of pictures to “testify” crimes meanwhile telling stories by means of eye-catching features?

How to Document Urban Destruction? Literary and Cartographic Topographies of Warsaw after WWII

Anna Seidel (Berlin)

“[The city] had ceased to have the characteristics of a city - even those of a past city”¹, Grzegorz Piątek writes about Warsaw’s appearance after its liberation in January 1945. In fact, left-bank Warsaw lost more than 50% of its buildings during World War II and, after its occupation by the Nazis, resembled rather a “desolate work of untamed nature”² than a capital city.

In my paper, I will discuss different manifestations of documentation of this urban destruction: on the one hand, topographical mapping methods that document it from a bird’s- eye view, such as the damage map created by urban planners after WWII³; on the other hand, literary texts that depict subjective urban experiences of the city.

Based on Henri Lefebvre’s spatial triad, I will argue that the former method documents urban spatiality insufficiently and discuss the differences between cartographically produced and literary topographies using Miron Białoszewski’s Pamiętnik z powstania warszawskiego and Sylwia Chutnik’s Kieszonkowy atlas kobiet as case studies. Finally, guided by Robert Bevan’s assertion that the destruction and transformation of urban space alters its cultural memory, I intend to demonstrate how literary texts, in contrast to homogenizing topographical maps, restore a heterogeneous spatial memory of the destroyed city and are therefore able to subvert abstracting institutional perspectives on urban catastrophe.


  1. transl. by A.S. from: Grzegorz Piątek, Najlepsze miasto świata. Warszawa w odbudowie 1944-1949 (Warszawa: W.A.B., 2020), 42.
  2. transl. by A.S. from: Grzegorz Piątek, Najlepsze miasto świata, 42.
  3. see: Miasto Stołeczne Warszawa, „Mapa warszawskich zabytków zawierająca informacje pochodzące z Systemu ewidencji zabytków Warszawy ARKA, w tym o obiektach wpisanych do rejestru zabytków, pomnikach historii, obszarze UNESCO, jak również dane towarzyszące związane z planowaniem przestrzennym, a także inne dotyczące architektonicznego dziedzictwa kulturowego Warszawy”, Sept. 9, 2021
  4. Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (Malden: Blackwell, 1991), 33.
  5. Robert Bevan, The Destruction of Memory. Architecture at War (Web: Reaktion Books, 2016), 18–20.


  • Bevan, Robert. The Destruction of Memory. Architecture at War. Web: Reaktion Books, 2016.
  • Białoszewski, Miron. Pamiętnik z powstania warszawskiego. Warszawa: PIW, 2014.
  • Chutnik, Sylwia. Kieszonkowy atlas kobiet. Warszawa: Świat Książki, 2014.
  • Gutschow, Niels, and Barbara Klain. Vernichtung und Utopie. Stadtplanung Warschau 1939 - 1945. Hamburg: Junius, 1994.
  • Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space. Malden [u.a.]: Blackwell, 1991.
  • Miasto stołeczne Warszawa. Mapa warszawskich zabytków zawierająca informacje pochodzące z Systemu ewidencji zabytków Warszawy ARKA, w tym o obiektach wpisanych do rejestru zabytków, pomnikach historii, obszarze UNESCO, jak również dane towarzyszące związane z planowaniem prze. n.d. (accessed Sept. 10, 2021).
  • Piątek, Grzegorz. Najlepsze miasto świata. Warszawa w odbudowie 1944–1949. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo W.A.B., 2020.

Sketch as a tool for disaster mapping: Alexei Schusev's drawings of destroyed monuments of Istra

Anna Vyazemtseva (Moscow/Rome)

Russian archives and museum collections keep a lot of drawings of destroyed monuments, made by artists and architects during the WWII. These sketches represent in detail the impressive ruins of historical buildings caught by professional eye. In the war time of lack of any resource, probably, they were the basic instrument for the memorization, but also for further post-war reconstruction. In the time when the use of photography was complicated and any kind of maps were classified, these drawings become a useful tool for future work on the reconstruction projects.

The paper investigates the drawings of Istra town ruins, destroyed by German army in winter of 1941, made by the architect Alexey Schusev (1873-1946), who then became the author of the town-reconstruction project. It was the last work of large scale by the architect, it remained uncomplete but was published internationally. The task of the research is to use this example to understand the circumstances, ways and methods of ruins drawings that accompanied the destruction mapping and in some cases substituted it.

Cartographies of reconstruction

Cartographies of frontier urbanism: Documenting destruction and planning reconstruction after border change in Yugoslav Rijeka

Gruia Bădescu (Konstanz)

The socialist Yugoslav state faced significant challenges after the Second World War, which dismantled interwar royal Yugoslavia and brought significant destruction, also through urban bombing from both Allied and Axis forces. Urban reconstruction in the reassembled country went alongside various processes of state stabilization. In the Western territories that Yugoslavia received from Italy, reconstruction occurred while most local Italians fled, and the state led a series of actions to integrate the new areas. This paper focuses on the uses of mapping of urban destruction and reconstruction plans in the largest city that joined Yugoslavia: Rijeka (formerly known as Fiume). The paper discusses the experiences in Rijeka framing it within the broader practices in the new socialist state. It analyses the uses of maps and damage reports in decision making related to the reconfiguration of the city´s old core, as well as with regards to its industrial base, Rijeka becoming Yugoslavia´s main port. It examines how the city´s destruction was documented both by Italian authorities (until 1945) and the new Yugoslav administration, suggesting that continuities in the local practices endured well until the early 1950s. It focuses on the actors of such mapping and documentation, tracing experts, institutions and their employees during the last years of Italian rule and the gradual incorporation into Yugoslavia. Moreover, It interrogates to what extent Rijeka suggests that in state frontier regions, documentation of destruction and reconstruction serve distinctive purposes such as fixating new state authority, ie. a typology of ‘frontier urbanism’. As such, it explores the frictions that existed at the local level between such state concerns and the local mapping and place-making practices in such frontier cities.

Bomb damage, opportunity and rebuilding in post-war Britain

Peter J. Larkham (Birmingham)

This paper explores how wartime bomb destruction was mapped in various British towns and cities, the apparent extent of damage, and the extent to which the damage influenced post-war rebuilding. While it is often said that the destruction created the opportunity for reconstruction, how far was there a direct influence? The pre-war pressures to redevelop tightly packed, often medieval, city cores and the need to replace slum housing were also powerful pressures, hence the popular name for the first replanning legislation, the 1944 “Blitz and Blight Act”. The paper also examines conflicts between local claims of the extent of damage and those finally accepted by central government. Overall the paper uses the catastrophe of wartime damage to question the urban morphological concept of the "morphlogical frame" which, under more normal circumstances, is held to contain and constrain development.

Maps, projects and designs as a link between pre- and post-war history of the city: a case study of Opole

Barbara Szczepańska (Wrocław)

The end of the Second World War and subsequent change of borders marked a moment of disruption in histories of many cities. Among them was Opole – a formerly German city that became incorporated into southwestern Poland, forming so called Recovered Territories. New national affiliation caused not only social and administrative, but also symbolic changes. Local and national authorities strived to prove that Opole was not only incorporated into Poland, but „brought back” to the Motherland as an undeniably Polish city.

Narrative surrounding this new geopolitical situation, propagated by authorities, politicians and journalists, can be characterized by distrust and even hostility towards Opole’s pre-war history. During the first post-war years, German heritage (such as monuments, gravestones and even everyday objects) and the language – now foreign – was being eradicated from the cityspace. At the same time, in the offices of local authorities, a different approach was formed. In the light of the shortages of materials, workforce and finances, local officials strived to preserve and use maps and designs left behind by the German authorities in order to rebuild a brand new, Polish city.

The presentation will cover examples of this ambivalent approach to pre-war German maps, projects and designs. One of them is the case of the city’s theater: a design made in 1938 that was intended to be fully realized in the first post-war years, in a completely new geopolitical situation. Another examples concern the issues of reliance on pre-war designs, projects and maps during post-war spatial development of the city. Even in the 1950s pre-war plans of Opole served as cartographic basis for brand new designs. All of those examples provoke to ask questions concerning the nature of heritage, the relations between maps or designs and identity and the discrepancies between national propaganda and real actions of local authorities.

Cartographies of memory

Collecting for the Glory of Empire: cartographic cache of disaster settlements from the Turkestan Album

Inessa Kouteinikova (Amsterdam)

Drawn by the typographers Nvoselov and NCO Kokhanov between 1868 and 1872, their hand-colored maps show the citadel at Samarkand before 1 June, 1868 and area around the defense, battle and the remaining of the fortifications after 8 June, 1868. Both maps are part of the historical division of the formidable Turkestan Album (1871-72, part 4, pp. 62-63), a tiny fraction of the great collection amassed on the order of General von Kaufman, a mix of “war and peace” that thrilled the nineteenth-century public. In Turkestan Album, an assemblage appropriately dense with maps of defeated and damaged outposts and ballasted with forays into Central Asian everyday life, trade and politics, von Kaufman and his team of the first-class cartographers and photographers from the Imperial General Stuff, eminent Russian orientalists, linguists and high-rank military officers set out to reappraise the conquest of Central Asia by the Russians, and to clarify the varying motives that underpinned them. In this, von Kaufman’s production triumphantly succeeded.

This paper wishes to reconsider its success by centering the group of “disaster” maps as an artefact of imperial enlightenment and attempt to catalogue the aftermaths of the newly conquered Russian Turkestan. By exposing their imperial character as an assertion of Russian growing political and commercial dominance over territories stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Tian-Shian mountains, the Turkestan `album comes out as an invention of the unstated yet implicit belief in Russian superiority over all other ‘orient” races.

The Front Line as Territory: Mapping Cultural Heritage of the Spanish Civil War in Madrid

Nicolás Mariné (Madrid)

The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was especially violent in Madrid, where Franco's rebel side, faced with the impossibility of penetrating the city, attacked different areas in a sequence. Thus, the first line went all over the south and west of the region until the armies decided to continue towards the north of the country. Nowadays, this has left us a trail of remains of great heritage value in the form of trenches, bunkers, observatories, machine-gun nests, and so on. In 2013, Madrid recognized the identity value of these remnants by drawing up a regional plan for their cataloguing and protection, also incorporating them into the GIS repository that stores the region's heritage properties.

I explain here the process followed for the transformation of this GIS catalog into a spatial analysis tool. By processing the specific information on war heritage and converting its attributes, it is possible to work with it in such a way that it can no longer be understood as a sum of isolated entities. Instead, they can now be interpreted through their spatial relationships. Thus, we can draw maps that tell us about the advance and retreat of the battle lines over time and, above all, show us the first line in its surface condition: as a territory in itself that sometimes extends over several municipalities.

I contend that this way of understanding a war zone favors the characterization and protection of the landscape continuum in relation to a conflict. It also opens the possibility of cross-referencing it with other data sources, such as social media geotagged photographs, to measure the degree of affinity that the population has with these spaces.

Transgressing the Map: European-Turkish Contemporary Artists at Work

Lora Sariaslan (Amsterdam)

Artists have increasingly taken to mapping, allowing new spaces of dialogue to emerge. In reflecting on how maps and mapping can serve as sources and inspiration for contemporary art, this research examines a group of contemporary European-Turkish artists who use the cartographic language in their artworks. Mapping transforms real space into an abstraction or projection. The work of Turkish-Dutch artist Servet Koçyiğit is exemplary as he uses forms of cartographic representation to create what scholars have described as map art. Koçyiğit engages with and contests maps, which he rearticulates as artistic processes and expressions. Through his maps, Koçyiğit practices a form of history, conceived of as continuous revision presenting that artists are indeed vocal actors in map-making.

Marked by critical concern, Koçyiğit’s maps fuse different temporalities derived from diverse periods. His work touches upon warfare’s role in creating facts and how maps institutionalize this process. His work problematizes cartographies of catastrophes from an artistically interdisciplinary perspective presenting the destruction and ruins. Juxtaposing landscapes both found and made, his maps speak to and of the displacement of objects as well as people.

Mapping is always an abstract process that enacts symbolic violence. Koçyiğit mirrors this violence by cutting textiles, a violent act both in its own right and in that it cuts through space. This spatial incision signifies the violence that attends the creations of borders, historically and in the present, not least the violence of the uprooting that borders entail in creating “sides.” He exemplifies thinking-through-making practices, his textile collages reimagining the normative map by playing with cartographic forms and borders, reshaping and re-creating them in the process. Through his layered and stitched textile collages, Koçyiğit highlights how maps and textiles transmit a plurality of perspectives and the vital role of the artists in stressing this.

Intimate cartographies of the Holocaust

Aleksandra Szczepan (Kraków)

The proposed paper explores the significance of the map as a form of Holocaust testimony. By focusing on maps created or used by Holocaust survivors, I investigate the numerous roles played by these documents in the act of bearing witness. Holocaust maps are, I argue, much more than mere visual representations of a given space: they might serve as evidence, as a way of referring to and imagining the past, a tool for memory, an intimate medium of experience, and alternative testimonies: referents of multidimensional temporalities, social relations and spatial processes.

Firstly, I am interested in maps created during the Holocaust and after the war, such as those published as a part of memoirs, included in Yizkor books, or donated to the museums by the survivors. Secondly, I examine the use of maps by the survivors recorded for the video testimony archives (especially the USC Shoah Foundation and USHMM collection). These documents represent both camps and surroundings of survivors’ home towns or villages; they can be handwritten or in a form of topographic map simply adjusted with individual signs, drawings and colors. Maps are used by the witnesses for multiple purposes: to narrate their survival: hiding, escape routes, loss of relatives, points of betrayal or help; to invigorate their own memory; to engage the interviewer with the realities of their story.

Basing myself on several examples of these two types of documents, I demonstrate how Holocaust maps may be interpreted as performative practices of memory and alternative ways of representing survivors’ experiences. Cartographic testimonies shed a new light on the significance of space not only in understanding how the Holocaust happened from a historical point of view, but also in the dynamics of dealing with trauma and conveying the past.