Iris Kamil

Linguist and Assyriologist

Holocaust Remembrance and the Humanities and Sciences

As my academic interest began in my school days with a publication in a history journal where I wrote on the experience of teenage generational trauma of the Holocaust, I continue to advocate for research on NS-Germany and its toll both on research and researchers, as well as for the remembrance of its victims. At the risk of lingering on past days, I wish to share both the story of my first publication and current endeavours in Holocaust studies in linguistics.


In 2015 I had the incredible chance of visiting Kraków within a project setting out to bring together Polish, British, and German youth. As part of the project, the German and English classes visited Auschwitz and later discussed their experiences and impressions with the Polish classes. Back in Germany, the local Jewish Museum, Cohn Scheune, reached out to our school (which publicised the Poland-trip in multiple newspapers), to offer us an exhibition spot for January-April 2016.

While my colleague Till Petersen produced the photographies exhibited, I wrote a long piece detailing our visit and my experience trailing my family history in the death camp. A Göttingen-based professor, upon reading the essay, then offered to publish it in the “Zeitschrift für Museum und Bildung” journal.

Apart from the amazing opportunity I was offered in my high-school years to get a glance into academia, I appreciate the way in which I got to re-experience remembrance.

In memory of my family who lost their lives in camps across Poland, Austria, and Romania

If you are interested, you may check out the medial attention our exhibition got under the following links (in German). The experience was interesting, to say the least, but it is not every day you get interviewed by a Rita Skeeter-ish person, so I do appreciate the “5 minutes of fame” that these interviews got us. Even if my words went through a whisper-down-the-lane game, our exhibition led to an unprecedented amount of visitors to the Cohn-Scheune and in turn to an unprecedented amount of interest in and engagement with the Jewish history of Rotenburg.

Our Interviews with the Rotenburger Kreiszeitung:

Rotenburger Rundschau:

Norbert Jokl

Norbert Jokl (1877-1942)
Copyright: Archiv der Universität Wien

In May 2022, the University of Vienna hosted a remembrance symposium for the Indoeuropeanist, librarian and founder of Albanian studies, Norbert Jokl, organised by students of the linguisitcs department and supported by professors and researchers of the University of Vienna.

Norbert Jokl was born into a Jewish family in the South Moravian Region, then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He began his studies in Vienna with a degree in law, after which he began working in the university’s library studying Indo-European, Slavic, and Romance studies. In 1912 he became a professor for Indo-European studies, specialising in Albanian, Baltic, and Slavic languages.

Following the Austrian Anschluss in 1938, Jokl was forcibly pensioned off. Early endeavours to be reinstated or find tenure abroad failed. Endeavours to aid his escape later failed either due to the rejection of an exit permit, or Jokl’s refusal to leave without his library. In 1942, he was arrested by the Gestapo and brought to the collection camp of Leopoldstadt, whence he was deported to the death camp of Maly Trostinez on the 06.05.1942. It is unknown how or where exactly Jokl died, multiple theories exist, but no documents remain to attest of his murder.

In light of the 80th year of Jokl’s disappearance, we have organised a symposium not only to honour his person, but also to celebrate his achievements for the field of Indo-European, and specifically for Albanian studies. Additionally, a Stolperstein was laid at his last address (for him and the other Jews who lived in the building and were murdered in the Holocaust), and we plan the establishment of a reading hall in the library of the Department of Linguistics in his name, and the foundation of a Jokl-society aimed at rewarding excelling works in Albanian, Slavic, and generally Indo-European studies.