Tara Zahra

Professor of East European History
PhD 2005 University of Michigan

Social Science Research Bldg., room 503 – Office
(773) 834-2599 – Office telephone
(773) 702-7550 – Fax

Mailing Address

The University of Chicago
Department of History
1126 East 59th Street, Mailbox 85
Chicago, IL 60637

On Research Leave, 2013 - 2014


I am interested in transnational and comparative approaches to the history of modern Europe. The focus of my research and teaching is Eastern and Central Europe, but I also look westward to Germany and France, in an effort to integrate Eastern Europe into broader histories of Europe and the world. I am particularly interested in the history of migration and displacement; nationalism (and indifference to nationalism); and gender, childhood and the family.

My first book, Kidnapped Souls: National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900-1948 (Cornell, 2008) is a study of Czech and German nationalist mobilization around children from the Habsburg Empire to the Nazi occupation. It argues that indifference to nationalism was a driving force behind escalating nationalist tensions in the Bohemian Lands. Kidnapped Souls also situates Nazi Germanization policies in a longer history of local Czech-German nationalist agitation. Kidnapped Souls was awarded the Laura Shannon Prize in Contemporary European History, the Hans Rosenberg Prize of the Conference Group for Central European History, the Barbara Jelavich Prizes of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, the Czechoslovak Studies Association Book Prize, and the Austrian Cultural Forum Book Prize.

My second book, The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe's Families after World War II was published by Harvard University Press in 2011. The Lost Children tells the story of Europe's displaced and refugee children in Eastern and Western Europe from 1918-1951. Focusing on national and international activism around children after World War II, I explore how the reconstruction of families was linked to the development of new ideals of family, human rights, and democracy in postfascist Europe.

I am currently working on a new history of emigration from East Central Europe to Western Europe and the United States between 1889-1989, which will be published by Norton Press. I am particularly interested in how debates about and experiences of emigration shaped ideals of freedom in both Eastern Europe and “the West” over the course of one hundred years. After the Second World War, the “captivity” of East Europeans behind the Iron Curtain came to be seen as a quintessential symbol of Communist oppression. The Iron Curtain was not, however, built overnight in 1948 or 1961. Its foundation was arguably laid before the First World War, when Austrian Imperial officials began a century-long campaign to curtail emigration in the name of demographic power and humanitarian values.



Kidnapped Souls: National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900-1948 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008; Paperback, 2011)


The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe’s Families after World War II (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011.)



Introduction,” with Pieter M. Judson. Special Issue on National Indifference. Austrian History Yearbook 43 (2012).

“Going West,” East European Politics and Societies 25 (November 2011), 785-91.

“‘The Psychological Marshall Plan’: Displacement, Gender, and Human Rights after World War II,” Central European History 44 (March 2011), 37-62.

“Enfants et purification ethnique dans la Tchécoslovaquie d'après-guerre,” Annales. Histoire, Sciences sociales 66 (avril-juin 2011).

“‘A Human Treasure’: Europe’s Displaced Children Between Nationalism and Internationalism,” in Post-war Reconstruction in Europe. Past and Present (2011): 210 (supplement 6).

 “Imagined Non-Communities: National Indifference as a Category of Analysis,” Slavic Review 69 (Spring 2010), 93-119.

“‘Prisoners of the Postwar’: Expellees, Refugees, and Jews in Postwar Austria,” Austrian History Yearbook 41 (2010), 191-215.

“Lost Children: Displacement, Family, and Nation in Postwar Europe,” Journal of Modern History 81 (March 2009), 45-86.

“The Minority Problem: National Classification in the French and Czechoslovak Borderlands,” Contemporary European History 17 (May 2008), 137-165.

“Each Nation Only Cares for its Own: Empire, Nation, and Child Welfare Activism in the Bohemian Lands, 1900-1918,” American Historical Review 111 (December 2006), 1378-1402.

“Looking East: East Central European Borderlands in German History and Historiography,” History Compass 3 (2005) EU 175, 1-23.

“Reclaiming Children for the Nation: Germanization, National Ascription, and Democracy in the Bohemian Lands, 1900-1945,” Central European History 37, (December 2004), 499-541.

Recent Courses Offered


  • Twentieth-Century Europe
  • East Central Europe in the Twentieth Century
  • Nazism (junior colloquium)
  • European Civilization I & II


  • Nationalism and Transnationalism in East Central Europe

  • Unsettled Europe: Migration and Displacement in Modern Europe

  • Gender and Sex in Modern Europe (with Leora Auslander)

  • Historiography (with Emily Osborn)