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Research Profile [short English version]


Prof. Dr. Christoph A. Rass
Chair of Modern History and Historical Migration Studies.

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2007: Habilitation (venia legendi for social and economic history), RWTH Aachen University.

2001: PhD (summa cum laude), RWTH Aachen University.

1996: Master of Arts (with distinction) in Modern History, Economic and Social History & Information Science, Saarland University.



1996: Research Assistant, Chair of Economic and Social History, Department of Economics, RWTH Aachen University

2001: Lecturer, , Chair of Economic and Social History, Department of Economics, RWTH Aachen University

2007: Assistant Professor, Chair of Economic and Social History, Department of Economics, RWTH Aachen University

2011: Interim Professor of Modern History, Department of History, Osnabrueck University

2015: Professor (W3) of Modern History and Historical Migration Studies, Department of History & Institute for Migration Studies and Intercultural Research, Osnabrueck University 


Research Profile

My research focuses on the history of migration and organized mass violence during the 19th and 20th centuries. My first book, “Menschenmaterial,” looked at the social profile, power structures, and patterns of warfare of a German infantry division during the Second World War to better understand Nazi Germany’s War of Annihilation in Eastern Europe from 1941 to 1945. In my second book, I traced ‘bilateral labor agreements’ institutional roots to regulate temporary labor migration between nation-states from 1919 to the mid-1970s. I have also published a monograph on the West-German secret service which looks at the presence of former Nazi officials in the ranks of the "Org Gehlen" and the "Bundesnachrichtendienst" between the late 1940s and the end of the 1960s. Current book projects focus on transatlantic knowledge transfer and policy learning regarding the regulation of migration during the interwar period (with Prof. Julie Weise/UO) and the transformation of conflict landscapes from the Second World War.

During the spring term of 2022, I served as a visiting professor of history at the University of Oregon, Eugene, and taught a class on “Migration and Europe during the 20th century”, a seminar designed to introduce students to theories, methods, and themes of Historical Migration Studies while providing a survey of how migration has transformed Europe since World War I. Teaching seminars in English, mostly on forced migration in the 20th century, is also part of my teaching portfolio at the University of Osnabrück. 

My research group at the Chair of Modern History and Historical Migration Studies in Osnabrück currently has six postdoc/senior researchers, eight part-time researchers pursuing Ph.D. degrees, several doctoral students, and about a dozen graduate student research assistants. We organize along two major lines of work:

[1] In historical migration studies, we engage in research on the biographical dimension of migration and mobility and the negotiation of migration conditions between individuals and institutions in migration regimes. Linked to our work in digital history, we have recently focussed on modeling mobility phenomena from large samples of biographical/life-event data, the exploration of experiences, memories and narratives, practices of data collection and processing, especially regarding the datafication of migration. The production of migration knowlege, especially the consturction of categories of people read as migrants, is currently becoming a lead theme of our research with which we hope to contribute to the reflexive turn in migration studies.

This links up with our second theme in this field is the production and the transfer of knowledge on migration which we study as part of the international and interdisciplinary network "Translations of Migration". In forced migration studies, our workgroup "Negotiating Resettlement" investigates the management of displacement and the agency of victims of forced mobility in the aftermath of World War II. My research project Mass-data based long-term models of migration induced diversity in an urban context: A Foreigners Card File Index as cultural asset and source for reflexive migration research has yielded the first machine-readable dataset from a German card file index registering “foreigners” from the 1930s to the 1980s and connects several research projects exploring the potential of such sources to understand better the nexus between migration and society, data and knowledge throughout the 20th century.

 [2] My research on the history of organized violence centers on social profile analyses of perpetrators and victims and institutional structures, practices, and processes. It has recently expanded to the material and discursive transformation of places through mass violence. Understanding correlations between knowledge production, regime practices, and the projection of power in authoritarian societies are at the core of several projects conducted by my workgroup on Digital History and Data-Driven History based on a machine-readable dataset of the Osnabrück Gestapo card file index.

Our activities in this field have since 2014 expanded to fieldwork at places transformed by mass violence. We have built an interdisciplinary team to analyze such conflict landscapes, integrating remote sensing, geophysics, archaeology, history, and cultural studies. This Interdisciplinary Work Group Conflict Landscapes at Osnabrück University explores interactions between the material and the discursive dimension of landscapes transformed by mass violence. Our main projects focus on “battlefields“ from the Second World War, mass graves from the Shoah and the War of Annihilation, and on sites of Nazi concentration camps and forced labor.

In may of our projcts, we engage in digital/data-driven history, specialize in applying Geographical Information Systems (GIS) in history, and pursue several public history projects. Our network of international partners includes projects in Belarus (History Workshop Minsk) and Ukraine (Network Remembrance), and Greece (NHSF), as well as Austria (University of Vienna) and the international research group Translations of Migration I co-founded with Julie Weise and Peter Schneck.

All currently active and past research grants and projects at the Chair of Modern History and Historical Migration Studies are listed here, more research can be found on my team’s profile pages.


Selected Publications (in English)

[with Mirjam Adam & Marcel Storch]: Conflicted landscapes – the Kall Trail (northern Eifel). Monitoring transformations of a Second World War heritage site using UAV-LiDAR Remote Sensing and Ground Truthing. Project Gallery, Antiquity First View, 18.02.2022.

[with Andreas Stele et al.] The battle of Vossenack Ridge: exploring interdisciplinary approaches for the detection of U.S. Army field positions on a Second World War battlefield, in: Antiquity (2021); .

 [with Ismee Tames] Negotiating the Aftermath of Forced Migration: A View from the Intersection of War and Migration Studies in the Digital Age, in: Violence Induced Mobility – Special Issue, Historical Social Research (45.4/2020) [ed. By Rass & Tames].

 International Migration, in: Handbook of Political Science, ed. By Dirk Berg-Schlosser, Bertrand Badie und Leonardo Morlino, London 2020.

[ed. with Ismee Tames]: Special Issue – Negotiating the Aftermath of Violence Induced Mobility in the Wake of the Second World War. Rethinking Sources, Methods and Approaches from the Intersection of War and Migration Studies in the Digital Age, Historical Social Research (45.4/2020).

[with Sebastian Huhn] The Post-World War II Resettlement of European Refugees in Venezuela: A Twofold Translation of Migration, in: Pisarz-Ramirez, Gabriele/ Warnecke-Berger, Hannes (Ed.): Spatialization Processes in the Americas. Configurations and Narratives, Bern 2018.

[with Frank Wolff] What is in a Migration Regime? Geneaological approach and methodological Proposal, in: Pott, Andreas, Rass, Christoph, Wolff, Frank (Ed.): What is a Migration Regime?, Wiesbaden 2018.

Temporary Labour Migration and State-Run Recruitment of Foreign Workers in Europe, 1919–1975: A New Migration Regime?, in: International Review of Social History (57/2012), S. 191-224.

[with Jens Lohmeier] Transformations. Post battle processes on the Hürtgenwald battlefield, in: Journal of Conflict Archaeology (6/2011), S. 179-199.

[with Florian Wöltering] Migrant entrepreneurs and the mobility of innovation. An evolutionary economic view of Aachen since 1790, in: Innovations, réglementations et transferts de technologie en Europe du Nord-ouest XIXe-XXe siècles, herausgegeben von Jean-Francois Eck und Pierre Tilly, Brüssel u.a. 2011, S. 209-234.

The Social Profile of the German Army’s Combat Units 1939-1945, in: Germany and the Second World War, VolumeIX/I: German Wartime Society 1939-1945: Politicization, Disintegration, and the Struggle for Survival, Oxford 2008, S. 671-770.

Please find a full bibliography here.



2017: Kalliope Award of the Deutsches Auswandererhaus at Bremerhaven for Migration Research.

2012: Shortlisted for the Hans Mühlenhoff Award for excellent teaching at Osnabrück Universität.

2010: Award for outstanding publication achievements of the Faculty of Economics at RWTH Aachen University.

2001: Wilhelm-Borchers-Award of RWTH Aachen University for excellent dissertations.