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The Death Camp Eldorado: Political and Economic Effects of Mass Violence


Transfer and redistribution of wealth accompany most violent conflicts throughout the world, yet the local-level political and economic effects of this phenomenon remain unexplored. We address this omission by examining the long-term impact on the surrounding communities of the Nazi death camp Treblinka in Poland, where nearly a million Jews were murdered. The assets of murdered Jews sometimes ended up in the hands of the local population. We are able to identify the enduring impact of these property transfers on local economic and political outcomes because the exact location of Treblinka was exogenous to the characteristics of surrounding communities. We find that communities located closer to the camp experienced a real estate boom but do not exhibit higher levels of economic and social development. These communities also showed higher support for an anti-Semitic party, the League of Polish Families. Our findings speak to an important but overlooked challenge to post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation.

Corresponding author
Volha Charnysh is Fellow, The Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance, Princeton University. Address: Robertson Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544-1013. (
Evgeny Finkel is Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, Department of Political Science and The Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University. Address: 2115 G Street NW, Suite 419, Washington, DC 20052. (
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The authors thank Dominique Arel, Mark Beissinger, Carles Boix, Hannah Chapman, James Conran, Christoph Engert, Ryan Enos, Leslie Finger, Jeffry Frieden, Scott Gehlbach, Noam Gidron, Dani Gilbert, Henry Hale, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Iacob Koch-Weser, Yon Lupu, Marek Makola, Dani Miodownik, Sarah Parkinson, Grigore Pop-Eleches, Joan Ricart-Huguet, Martyna Rusiniak, Annelle Sheline, Anton Strezhnev, Jelena Subotic, Elina Treyger, as well as participants of workshops at Harvard, Hebrew University, GWU, Notre Dame, Princeton, Georgia State, Uppsala, and conference panels at ASEEES and APSA. We also thank Sabine Carey, members of the APSR editorial team, and five anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions.

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