New APSR article “The Death Camp Eldorado: Political and Economic Effects of Mass Violence”
by Volha Charnysh, Princeton University, Evgeny Finkel, George Washington University
Armed conflicts often involve massive redistribution of property through confiscation, looting, extortion, and even grave digging. The dead lose everything; refugees leave behind houses, land, and valuables. The possessions of even the poorest person can be of use to those who kill, expel, or simply stay put and survive. Yet, we still know little about the long-term political and economic effects of wartime property transfers. This article examines such effects by focusing on the impact of benefiting from Jewish property during and after the Holocaust. Specifically, we analyze the long-term impact of the Treblinka death camp, operated by the Nazis in occupied Poland during WWII. There, the valuables of murdered Jews sometimes ended up in the hands of locals through trade with the camp’s guards and post-war grave digging. We find that in communities close to the camp, more than fifty years after the Holocaust, the anti-Semitic League of Polish Families party received a significantly higher percentage of votes than in communities further away. Communities close to the camp also experienced a post-WWII real estate boom but currently do not enjoy higher levels of economic and social development than communities that did not benefit from Jewish property.