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Two Tales of a German City

The Department of History proudly presents the 2022 Carroll Lecture:

“Two Tales of a German City: Big Data and Urban History from the Nazis to the ‘Economic Miracle'”
featuring Christoph Rass, Spring 2022 Carroll Visiting Professor

Tuesday, April 12, 2022
3:30–5:00 p.m.
Gerlinger Alumni Lounge, Gerlinger Hall (view on map)
refreshments served


Osnabrück is an average German city in Northwestern Germany and may be known best for hosting the peace agreement of 1648 that ended the Thirty Years War. Lauded at the “City of Peace,” it is also the hometown of pacifist writer Erich Maria Remarque, author of the famous World War I novel All Quiet on the Western Front.

In current times, however, Osnabrück is the first city in Germany whose 20th century social history is being told using large datasets gathered from historical sources. In a series of research projects, Christoph Rass and his team have digitized mass data on all soldiers from the town killed during the First World War. Rass has also researched regional Gestapo records during the Nazi period and registration files for foreigners moving to Osnabrück from 1930 to 1980. This data, analyzed and visualized with geographical information systems (GIS), opens new perspectives on urban history, social change, and key events in modern German history—events like World War I, Nazi rule, and the production of “Volksgemeinschaft,” or the path towards migration-induced diversity on unprecedented scales during the recruitment of “guestworkers” from the 1950s to the 1970s.

data graph of Gestapo activity

This map shows a time-cube visualization of Gestapo actions in Osnabrück 1933 to 1945. Red indicates areas of intense surveillance and repression.

data graph on settlement patterns

This map shows a time-cube visualization of settlement patterns for non-German migrants moving to Osnabrück from 1930 to 1980, representing the city’s path to a diverse society.

This lecture introduces the audience to the methods of data-driven research and provides insights into some of the stunning findings yielded by the groundbreaking possibilities opened up by digital history. The event is open to the public and free to attend. For questions, contact Fela McWhorter at

Christoph Rass

Dr. Christoph Rass is Professor for Modern History and Historical Migration Studies at Osnabrück University and board member of the Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies. In his research on migration, social change, organized violence and war he has pioneered digital methods and interdisciplinary work through many of his projects. His current work on the Gestapo card file index is funded by the German Research Foundation, funding for project on the Osnabrück foreigners register is provided by the Volkswagen Foundation.

Carroll Professorship

The Benjamin H. and Louise L. Carroll Visiting Professor in Urbanization was established by Louise Carroll Wade (1928–2016), the third-ever woman to become a professor in the University of Oregon’s Department of History. In 2000, Wade created the Carroll visiting professorship in honor of her late parents, Benjamin and Louise Carroll.

The position has previously been held by Carl Abbott, professor of urban history, and Wei Li, professor of Asian Pacific American studies. Christoph Rass joins the UO as a lecturer and instructor during the spring 2022 term, teaching a course on Europe and Migration and collaborating on research with associate professor Julie Weise, historian of migrations.