Prof. Dr. Rainer Spurzem
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Heidelberg Research Cooperations with Partners in Russia and the Ukraine

Press Release No. 60/2016
13 May 2016
The Volkswagen Foundation funds trilateral projects on black holes and investigation of crimes against civilians in the Second World War

The Volkswagen Foundation has awarded funding in the amount of 460,000 euros to two international research projects by Heidelberg University researchers. Astronomer Prof. Dr Rainer Spurzem is heading up a project designed to provide insight into black holes in galaxy nuclei using computer simulations. Historian Prof. Dr Tanja Penter is investigating crimes perpetrated in World War II against civilians in both German-occupied regions and liberated areas of the Soviet Union. The two projects were approved in the "Trilateral Partnerships" call for proposals. The funding programme aims to promote cooperation between researchers from the Ukraine, Russia and Germany.

The "Dynamical Mechanisms of Accretion in Galactic Nuclei" project revolves around computer simulations designed to map the processes in galactic nuclei. These central regions of galaxies contain, among other things, supermassive black holes that interact with stars and gas in the environment. "The high density of the stars in this space accelerates processes in which stars end up very close to black holes, where they are ripped apart by tidal forces. The black holes collect, or accrete, some of the leftovers,” explains Prof. Spurzem, a researcher at the Institute for Astronomical Computing, which is part of the Centre for Astronomy. Under his leadership, scientists from Heidelberg University, the National Academy of Sciences of the Ukraine and the Russian Academy of Sciences are studying the factors that affect the accretion process and how it occurs. The three-year project is being funded with approximately 215,000 euros.

The "Violence against Civilians on the Eastern Front of World War II" project is investigating crimes carried out by the German occupiers as well as local collaborators, Ukrainian nationalists, Soviet partisans, members of the Red Army and other representatives of the Soviet power machine. The victims as well as the perpetrators and “observers” will be examined from a variety of perspectives. "The violence of war will be studied in its direct local context as well as analysed as part of the history of the German war of extermination on the Eastern Front and Stalin's repressive wartime policies,” states Prof. Penter. In addition to the researchers from Heidelberg, historians from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and the National Academy of the Sciences in the Ukraine are participating in the project. Funding in the amount of approximately 245,000 euros is being provided over a two-year period.

The Volkswagen Foundation hopes that the "Trilateral Partnerships" projects will strengthen cross-border cooperation between researchers from Ukraine, Russia and the European Union. The call for proposals, which had no restrictions on topic, was directed to researchers from all disciplines. A total of nearly 8.6 million euros was approved for 39 research projects.

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