Professor Shirli Gilbert

Professor Shirli Gilbert

Professor of Modern History

Shirli Gilbert is a Professor of Modern History at the University of Southampton. She has previously held positions at the University of Cape Town and the University of Michigan.

Shirli Gilbert is a Professor of Modern History at the University of Southampton. She has previously held positions at the University of Cape Town and the University of Michigan.

I am a specialist in modern Jewish history with a focus on the Holocaust period. My book Music in the Holocaust (Oxford University Press, 2005) examines the role of music in the Nazi ghettos and camps and the insight it offers into victims’ responses. The book was a finalist for the American National Jewish Book Award and has been translated into Spanish and Japanese. It was also the basis for a large-scale educational website Music and the Holocaust, a documentary feature on BBC Radio 3, and a concert at London’s Wigmore Hall.

My more recent research explores the ways in which the Holocaust shaped understandings of and responses to apartheid in South Africa (1948-1994). Several articles on the subject have already been published, and I am working on a monograph. As part of this broader project, I have helped curate the museum that will shortly be opened at the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide centre.

I have also written a book about a German-Jewish refugee who came to South Africa in 1936, based on a recently-discovered trove of over 2000 letters. For 35 years, Rudolf Schwab corresponded with family and friends across the world, including a close childhood friend who became a Nazi, meticulously keeping copies of his own letters in addition to those he received. The research was supported by the Kaplan Foundation in South Africa, the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture in New York, and private donors. An exhibition based on the book has been produced by the South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town.

Finally, I am leading a collaborative project on ‘The Holocaust and Racism in the Postwar World’, which was inaugurated with a conference in Sydney (2012) and follow-up meetings in Cape Town (2013) and London (2014). The project challenges the assumption of an unproblematic connection between the Holocaust and the discourse of multiculturalism and anti-racism, and through diverse case studies seeks to historicize how the Holocaust has informed engagement with concepts of ‘race’ and racism from the 1940s until the present. I am co-editing a volume on the subject with Dr Avril Alba from the University of Sydney, which will be published by Wayne State University Press in 2018.

Events