Kai Johann Willms, M.A.


Graduiertenschule für Ost- und Südosteuropastudien
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Maria-Theresia-Straße 21
D-81675 München

Tel.: +49 (0)89 / 2180 - 9592

Doctoral project

Historians as Mediators of Cultural Transfer. Polish Historiography in American Exile, 1939–1989

The growth of transnational ties is not only an object of historical research, it also has a formative influence on the process of historical writing itself. So far, however, the framework for the history of historiography has mostly been the nation state. The project therefore sheds light on a group whose work can be understood as an ideal subject of investigation for a transnational history of historiography: Polish historians who, as a result of the occupation of Poland in the Second World War or as a result of the Communist takeover thereafter, had emigrated to the United States. Those, according to the project’s guiding hypothesis, acted as mediators of a cultural transfer: On the one hand, they selectively adopted methods and concepts of their new academic environment, thereby transforming their image of Polish history. On the other hand, as experts in the context of the Cold War, they exerted influence on the American image of Eastern Europe. By analyzing this transfer, the project examines the significance of intellectual border crossers in the Cold War and raises the question to what extent historiographical production is facilitated as well as limited by the writers’ social context.

Curriculum Vitae

2010 to 2013 B.A. studies in History and Political Science in Freiburg, 2014 to 2016 M.A. studies in Modern European History in Berlin and Warsaw. 2016 Master’s thesis on the topic "'Détente' versus 'Solidarity'? Media Representations and Political Resonances of the Polish Crisis 1980–1983 in the Federal Republic of Germany", winning the Johann Gustav Droysen Prize of the Department of History at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. 2011 to 2016 scholarship holder of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation, 2012/2013 student assistant at the Chair of Modern and Eastern European History of the University of Freiburg. Since December 2016 research assistant at the Institute for the Culture and History of the Germans in Northeastern Europe, Lüneburg; from April to September 2017 scholarship holder of the Humboldt Research Track Scholarship. Since November 2017 member of the Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies.

Positions, Assignments and Memberships


Articles and Book Chapters

With Martin Wagner, Susanne Quitmann und Helge Jonas Pösche: Die Atombombenabwürfe auf Nagasaki und Hiroshima im August 1945: "Global Moments"? Teil 1. In: Zeitgeschichte online (13.04.2017). URL: http://www.zeitgeschichte-online.de/thema/die-atombombenabwuerfe.

Further Publications

Zus. mit Jane Freeland: Physical Violence and State Legitimacy in Late Socialism – Final Conference, 27.02.2014–01.03.2014, Berlin. In: H-Soz-Kult (23.06.2014). URL: http://www.hsozkult.de/conferencereport/id/tagungsberichte-5436.

Biopower and Physical Violence – Embodied Experiences in Communist Europe, 24.01.2014, Potsdam. In: H-Soz-Kult (15.04.2014). URL: http://www.hsozkult.de/conferencereport/id/tagungsberichte-5308.