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CHGS News February  2013 
From The Director
Alejandro Baer
In this Spring semester - a wishful euphemism that acquires its true meaning as I experience my first Minnesota winter- CHGS is substantially expanding the reach and scope of its activities and programs.

Spanish writer Antonio Machado wrote in his famous poem, "se hace camino al andar" (the path is made by walking). Moreover, at CHGS this path is not made alone but jointly. Across campus and within the community, collaboration on attractive, valuable, and intellectually stimulating initiatives is under way.

Among the many upcoming events, I would like to highlight the fruitful teamwork with the Department of American Indian Studies and the panel discussion on the forced exile of the Dakota from Minnesota in 1863. In April the symposium Representing Genocide will bring together a group of outstanding scholars from the fields of sociology, law,history and media studies. We are also thrilled and honored to host, together with the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, internationally renowned artist Felix de la Concha during his residency in the Twin Cities, where he will carry out his project of interviewing and portraying Holocaust survivors and their children, the "second-generation."
In this edition of the Newsletter we are also proud to announce, in collaboration with the History Department, the call for applications for the Bernard and Fern Badzin Fellowship in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, which will provide opportunities to graduate students to pursue research in this field.


These are some of the exciting steps on a new path that the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies is walking and creating, with the support of friends and funders and the joint effort and partnership of units throughout the University of Minnesota. 


Alejandro Baer



Bak Memorial 1986  

                     Memorial (1986). Samuel Bak


The Art of the Empathizer

Witness and Legacy Revisited

By Jodi Elowitz


With the coming of the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, I was thinking about the Center's first art exhibition, Witness and Legacy, curated by founding director Stephen Feinstein, with the American Museum of Art in St. Paul Minnesota in 1995.  CHGS did not physically exist until 1997, but the roots of what it would accomplish were planted years earlier with this exhibition.


The artwork exhibited in Witness and Legacy traveled throughout the country until 2002 and is now available on the CHGS website in our virtual museum. The pages have been updated so that visitors can see the original exhibition and utilize the hyper links (where available) to visit the artist's sites to see how their work has developed over the last 18 years.  Many have continued to explore the Holocaust-some have moved on to other themes. 


Witness and Legacy was created as a commemorative exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and was conceived to examine a spectrum of Holocaust-related art from various mediums, as well as different perspectives:  that of the survivor-artist, the second-generation artist, and the empathizer. 


This generational approach allowed the viewer to see how various artists handled the subject matter based on their relationship to the Holocaust.  The survivor artist is a professional artist who was an actual witness to the event:  a victim of the Nazi regime. This art is considered "authentic" as it was created by those with actual memories of the event. The problem for all survivors in terms of creating art is how to translate the experience that cannot truly be understood by those who were not there.  This art tends to be about visual and metaphorical representations of the event. It is also can be a cathartic act, able to help heal the artist of the wounds created by their Holocaust experience. An example of a survivor-artist is Samuel Bak, a professional artist whose career began at the age of nine in the Vilna ghetto. Bak's work is steeped in memory, fragments and the need to repair what was destroyed by the Holocaust.


Second generation artists also carry the burden of the Holocaust.  As children of survivors they deal with their parents' traumatic experiences, either directly or indirectly conveyed.  Children of Holocaust survivors deal with their parents' memories and that which cannot be forgotten or lives that cannot be recovered.  As descendants they continue to feel a direct connection to the trauma they did not actually experience. Examples of these artworks can be seen on the Witness and Legacy page under art by second-generation artists.


The art of the empathizer is more complex and carries not only esthetic, but new certain moral and ethical implications. As we get farther and farther away from the actual event and the first-hand witnesses are gone, we will see more of these artists dealing with the Holocaust as a theme.  These artists are those who have no direct connection or memory of the event, but have been moved by it in such a way that they feel a responsibility to include it in their work.  The empathetic artists in Witness and Legacy use the Holocaust as a theme to connect to their Judaism or to current human rights issues. Some also use it to raise awareness of other traumatic events or genocides.  Whatever the intentions of the empathetic artist there have been times that their efforts have been seen as disrespectful and trivializing based on the fact they have no direct connection to the Holocaust. 


Abstract art has been used on many occasions to respond to the Holocaust.  Many artists have chosen to work with it in order to convey the horror of the Nazi crimes from a safe distance. For survivor artists it is to place a barrier between their experiences and the memory of those experiences. For others, especially the empathetic artist it can be a way of approaching a subject that they have no relationship with, conveying that distance through the abstraction.


Most recently a Swedish artist, Carl Michael von Hausswolff created great controversy over his abstract painting "Memory Works" which he claims he created using ashes that he collected (illegally) from the Majdenek death camp in Poland during a visit in 1989.  The abstract painting (he claims) represents all Holocaust victims suffering.  There are several issues with Hausswolff's intentions and motives, since the idea of using human ashes is ghoulish, disrespectful and unnecessary.  It makes the work seem false by sensationalizing the crime by use of actual human remains. 


The most troubling aspect and greatest objection to the work is the "stealing" of the ashes themselves.  Hausswollf's actions have been seen as no better than grave robbers, as every space of an extermination camp contains the remains of the dead. (At this time the state of Poland is considering an investigation.)


Is Hausswollf, who usually works with electronic recording equipment, truly interested in the Holocaust and paying tribute to its victims? Is he trying to make a statement about society's fascination with sensationalistic violence or the trend of using the Holocaust as a metaphor and symbol for everything we consider bad or evil in this world? What if he was a survivor-artist or second generation would we still question his motives or would he have a right to incorporate the ashes into his work because he had a direct connection to the event?


The question of artistic representations in connection to atrocities, and the Holocaust in particular, is not new. It began soon after World War II with Ardorno's often quoted dictum about "writing poetry after Auschwitz." This question is something we continue to wrestle with as the Holocaust continues to be represented in artistic ways that on many levels fail to satisfy us.  How often have we heard critics remark on representations that are not real enough, or as in the case of Hauswolff (whose use of what might be actual ashes) is too crude and disrespectful to be considered art? What Witness and Legacy did was to begin a conversation and an exploration of the Holocaust as a subject in art.  With the rise of the empathetic artist these questions will be something we will continue to ask, and explore. 


Jodi Elowitz is the Outreach Coordinator for CHGS and the Program Coordinator for the European Studies Consortium. She began her career at the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies in 1997 as an intern and graduate student under the tutelage of former director Dr. Stephen Feinstein.  She was the Director of Holocaust Education at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas and the Executive Director of the Tennessee Holocaust Commission. Jodi received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Humanities and her Master Liberal Studies degree at the University of Minnesota.



In our lifetimes, institutions like the International Criminal Court have fundamentally reshaped the sphere of international justice and accountability. Just a few decades ago, an international criminal indictment against a sitting head of state would have been much less likely or perhaps even inconceivable. Today, the President of Sudan is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).


The ICC traces much of its legacy back to the Nuremberg Trials, which held dozens of leaders of Nazi Germany accountable for their actions after World War II. Since then, temporary international tribunals have been created to respond to specific situations of mass atrocity and human rights abuses, such as in Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia. Some of these tribunals are still in place today, but they have been joined by the ICC, the world's first permanent, global court with jurisdiction over crimes seen as so egregious they are deemed crimes against all people.


We asked four leading experts to weigh in on some of the most controversial issues facing international criminal justice, including its potential interference with state sovereignty and its capacity to really curb human rights abuses.


Read the entire discussion on the Society Pages website by clicking here

CHGS Events

Nazicapi (Exile): 

The Dakota Exile: Impact and Resistance




Photo: Adrian Ebell 1862 Dakota Prisoners, Frances LaBathe Cabin. MN Historical Society.


"The Sioux Indians of Minnesota must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of the state."


Message of Governor Ramsey to the Legislature of Minnesota: September 9, 1862


A Panel Discussion Featuring: 

Iyekiyapiwiƞ Darlene St. Clair 

C̣aƞte Máza Neil McKay

Katherine Beane

Ṡiṡokaduta Joe Bendickson


Thursday, March 14, 2013

7:00 p.m.

275 Nicholson Hall

Free and Open to the Public


In May of 1863 1,300 Dakota were loaded onto steamboats and sent to Crow Creek reservation. Crowded onto the boats and weakened by imprisonment, many died on the voyage. The new reservation was desolate and food was scarce. In the first six months at Crow Creek more than 200 Dakota people died, most of them children. 


The panel will focus on the exile order, the efforts to rescind the order and its impacts, as well as how Euro-Minnesotans benefited from the Dakota exile. 


Sponsored by: The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, the Department of American Indian Studies, Institute for Global Studies and the Human Rights Program. 

Portrait Artist Felix de la Concha to Paint Holocaust Survivors in the Twin Cities
self portrait Felix de la Concha
                   Self Portrait. Felix de la Concha 
CHGS and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese is working with the artist Felix de la Concha an internationally recognized portrait painter whose recent work is known as Portraits with Conversation.  Felix will paint a portrait while recording a session with the sitter. The process takes about 2 hours and has produced some very powerful portraits.  Using this technique he has painted over 30 portraits of Holocaust Survivors.


Felix is coming to the Twin Cities between February 24-March 1, to work with Holocaust survivors and children of Holocaust survivors (second generation) in our community to paint a portrait and record the sessions.
The completed portraits will be donated to the University of Minnesota, where they will be displayed and used by the Center for education, traveling exhibitions and included on the CHGS Virtual Museum web pages.  

To learn more about Felix de la Concha and his artwork visit his new page on the CHGS Virtual Museum by clicking here
Call for Applications Bernard and Fern Badzin Graduate Fellowship in Holocaust and Genocide Studies Academic Year 2013-14 
The Badzin Fellowship will pay a living stipend of $18,000, and the cost of tuition, mandatory fees and health insurance. 
Eligibility: An applicant must be a current student in a Ph.D. program in the College of Liberal Arts, currently enrolled in the first, second, third, or fourth year of study, and have a doctoral dissertation project in holocaust and genocide studies. The fellowship will be awarded on the basis of the quality and scholarly potential of the dissertation project, the applicant's quality of performance in the graduate program, and the applicant's general scholarly promise. 
Required application materials: 1) A letter of application (maximum 4 pages single-spaced) describing the applicant's intellectual interests and dissertation research and the research and/or writing which the applicant expects to do during the fellowship year 2) A current curriculum vitae for the applicant 3) An unofficial transcript of all graduate work done at the University of Minnesota 4) TWO confidential letters of recommendation from U of MN faculty, discussing the quality of the applicant's graduate work and dissertation project and the applicant's progress toward completing the degree, sent directly to the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 
Deadline: All application materials must be received by the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies electronically no later than 3:00 pm on Friday, March 15, 2013. The awardee will be announced no later than Friday, April 26, 2013. 
Sponsored by the Department of History and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
Book of the Month
Perceptions of the Holocaust in Europe and Muslim Communities. Sources, Comparisons and Educational Challenges 

G. Jikeli, J. Allouche-Benayoun (eds.)


Perceptions of the HolocaustThe way people think about the Holocaust is changing. The particular nature of the transformation depends on people's historical perspectives and how they position themselves and their nation or community vis--vis the tragedy. Understandably, European Muslims perceive the Holocaust as less central to their history than do other Europeans. 


Yet while the acknowledgment and commemoration of the horrors of the Holocaust are increasingly important in Europe, Holocaust denial and biased views on the Holocaust are widespread in European Muslims' countries of origin.  



In this book, a number of distinguished scholars and educators of various backgrounds discuss views of the Holocaust, explore the backgrounds of biased perceptions but also highlight positive approaches and developments. Many of the contributions were written by people working in the field and reflecting on their experiences.


This collection also reveals that problematic views of the Holocaust in Europe are not limited to Muslim communities.


To preview this book click here.

In This Issue
Witness and Legacy Revisited
International Criminal Justice
Nazicapi (Exile)
Portrait Artist Felix de la Concha
Call for Applications
Book of the Month: Genocide Since 1945
University of Minnesota Library
Recent Library Acquisitions in Holocaust & Genocide Studies 
CHGS Artistic Responses

Witness and Legacy

Absence and Presence


Interdisciplinary Workshop for Graduate Students and Faculty

Secondary Educators

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