UCL Hebrew & Jewish Studies


Robert Thompson

snapshot of Robert Thompson
Liberators, Occupiers, Pastors: Christian Encounters with Holocaust Survivors in Germany, 1945-1950

Supervisors: Prof Shirli Gilbert and Prof Michael Berkowitz


Rob’s research explores how Christians responded to the Holocaust in its immediate aftermath. Encounters with survivors of the Holocaust in post-war occupied Germany changed how ordinary Christians understood Jewish experience, and impacted their Christian faith.

Building on his MA research into British Christian army chaplains at the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, Rob’s PhD brings the insights of the study of lived religion to understanding of post-Holocaust Christianity. Through a case-study approach, Rob explores ordinary British and American Christians who encountered survivors in formative periods in the post-war Jewish experience: army chaplains, relief workers, officers in the occupation governments, and activists involved in Jewish emigration to Mandate Palestine. In doing so, he asks what Christians understood of Jewish experience of the Holocaust and its aftereffects, and how Christians responded, as well as what motivated them to such work. Rob uncovers previously untold stories and traces individuals’ life histories. This enables the study to explore the detailed ways in which some Christians were confronted in the aftermath of the Holocaust with Jewish story and experience, and to trace how their knowledge and their Christianity were impacted as a result. 

Rob’s research is funded by a Wolfson Foundation Postgraduate Scholarship in the Humanities. His earlier studies were conducted at the Universities of Oxford and Southampton, and his MA thesis was awarded Proxime Accessit for the Royal Historical Society’s Rees Davis Prize in 2020. Rob previously worked for four years as Senior Programme Manager for the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ). His contribution to Holocaust education and interfaith relations was recognised in 2018 with a 21 for 21 award. Rob is a Trustee of the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, and he founded and convenes the Holocaust and Religion Reading Group for PhD students and Early Career Researchers.