Holocaust Escapees and Global Development

Hidden Histories

David Simon


Recovers the pioneering achievements of the Holocaust refugees who helped to shape development studies in its formative years after the Second World War.

The thousands uprooted and displaced by the Holocaust had a profound cultural impact on the countries in which they sought refuge, with numerous Holocaust escapees attaining prominence as scientists, writers, filmmakers and artists. But what is less well known is the way in which this refugee diaspora shaped the scholarly culture of their new-found homes and international policy. In this unique work, David Simon explores the pioneering role played by mostly Jewish refugee scholars in the creation of development studies and practice following the Second World War, and what we can learn about the discipline by examining the social and intellectual history of its early practitioners.

Through in-depth interviews with key figures and their relatives, Simon considers how the escapees' experiences impacted their scholarship, showing how they played a key role in shaping their belief that ‘development’ really did hold the potential to make a better world, free from the horrors of war, genocide and discrimination they had experienced under Nazi rule. In the process, he casts valuable new light on the origins and evolution of development studies, policy and practice from this formative postwar period to the present.

Author Bio

David Simon is Director of Mistra Urban Futures, Gothenburg, and Professor of Development Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London. His previous books include Rethinking Sustainable Cities (2016) and the co-edited collection Fifty Key Thinkers on Development (2008).

Table of Contents

  • To Hell and Back – For My Grandparents: Visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, 2 March 1997
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. European Childhoods, Nazi Rule and Escape
  • 3. Surviving the War in the UK
  • 4. Wartime Tracks in Europe and North America
  • 5. Adult Escapees: Rebuilding Lives, (Re)shaping Careers
  • 6. The Younger Generation: Postwar Education and Careers in Higher Education
  • 7. The Younger Generation: International Agency Staff and Influential Consultants
  • 8. Conclusions: Interpreting the Mosaic References
  • Appendix: Biographical Sketches of People Excluded from the Study by Virtue of the Threshold Conditions


‘A fascinating and important book about the extraordinary contributions to global development by those who escaped the Holocaust. The lessons of these remarkable people are of deep and enduring value.’
Nicholas Stern, LSE, and former Chief Economist for the World Bank

‘Tells the remarkable story of a group of holocaust survivors and escapees who were among the most influential thinkers in the nascent field of development studies. The book consecrates its author as one of the leading chroniclers of the history of development.’
Arturo Escobar, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

‘A genuinely insightful and moving book which shows just how profoundly the study of international development was shaped by the political and personal biographies of Jewish refugees from tyranny. A necessary and outstanding volume.’
Stuart Corbridge, Durham University

‘A superb book exploring its subject with delicacy and depth. It adds to the social history of Holocaust escapees, and provides intriguing intellectual biographies of people who have had an enduring influence on development studies.’
Christopher Cramer, SOAS University of London

‘A profoundly human account of the relationships between the personal lifeways of Holocaust escapees and their contributions to development thought. A fascinating book to be read with pain, pleasure, emotion and reflexivity.’
Anthony Bebbington, Clark University

‘In honouring the remarkable though neglected contribution of Jewish refugees to the emergence of development studies, Simon has written a unique, moving and thought provoking book that will richly inform current critical thinking across the discipline.’
Uma Kothari, University of Manchester

‘Reveals new insights into the ideas and lives of key development thinkers who escaped the holocaust. By revealing the often hidden context to their ideas Simon greatly enriches our understanding of the evolution of development studies.’
Cristóbal Kay, author of Latin American Theories of Development and Underdevelopment

‘Simon has undertaken a novel and also an unusual quest, one which sheds new light on the genius and creativity that the Nazis set out to destroy by the Holocaust.’
Reinhart Kössler, Arnold-Bergstraesser-Institut, Freiburg

‘Simon pieces together a puzzle of history: Why were so many of the pioneer scholars in development escapees from the Nazis? In this fascinating book, he tells the story of how these scholars helped to define a field.’
Jonathan Rigg, National University of Singapore


Publication Date: 15 January 2019
344 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781786995124
Hardback: 9781786995131
eBook ePub: 9781786995155
eBook PDF: 9781786995148
eBook Kindle: 9781786995162

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