On good and bad memory
Can memory be a bad thing? Readers must have stumbled over a recent headline that said, "Plan to open a new Holocaust Museum in Budapest faces criticism - from Jews." Isn't creating such a museum, as any other project that raises awareness and educates on the Holocaust, always something praiseworthy?
Holocaust memory seems to be at a problematic crossroad. While it is remembered across borders, the story and the messages it entails vary. The Budapest case is a good example of how a memorial project can be motivated more by contemporary politics than by a genuine desire to convey historical truths. The Hungarian Jewish community, among others, fears that - in a context of growing nationalism - the museum will downplay the role of Hungarian collaborators and stress instead the Hungarian rescuers. Moreover, it is likely that the planned museum will put the Nazi genocide of Jews on the same plane as postwar communist persecution. In Eastern Europe, equating the Nazi genocide to Stalin's crimes is part of a generalized politics of victimization.
Yet, there are also memory politics involved where some groups emphasize the Holocausts' uniqueness. In Italy and Spain (former Nazi Germany's allies and sympathizers), highlighting the singularity of the Holocaust results very often in self-exculpation regarding the (Fascist and Francoist) crimes. The very uniqueness of the Holocaust, as invoked by conservative politicians at Holocaust Memorial Day ceremonies, allows them to draw a radical distinction between Nazism and Fascism (both in its Italian, a la Mussolini, and its Spanish, a la Franco, forms). It allows for memorializing without probing into one's own past.
The Holocaust, a symbol of absolute evil and supreme infamy, is also all too easily projected as a metaphor onto totally different phenomena. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for instance, has become a catch-all for analogies and equivalences with the Holocaust. Contemporary antisemites now claim that the main victims of the most radical case of genocide (Jews) have turned into the most recent and significant perpetrators. As European scholars have pointed out some of these arguments have now found their way into the Holocaust Memorial Day event itself.
A growing preoccupation in a memory culture gone global is that the Holocaust will be open to all sorts of distortions, abuses and instrumentalization.
But is there a correct memory of the Holocaust? The Holocaust has become the paradigmatic Never Again and the slogan can serve as a monument, a ceremony, a museum, a pledge. In all cases, it transcends time and place and constitutes a moral imperative, an ethics of avoidance. But its true meaning is disturbingly vague. What are the lessons of the Holocaust contained in its remembrance? The European Never again ("Never again fascism!") differs fundamentally from Jews', European or not, "Never again victims!". The former may urge towards non-violent action and disarmement while the latter may advocate to be on guard, armed or even strike preemptively.
The German-Jewish philosopher and sociologist Theodor Adorno provided a valuable insight that can lead us out of the quagmire of proper memory. He wrote that Hitler had imposed a new categorical imperative upon mankind. And this imperative was not remembrance per se, but to arrange thoughts and actions so that Auschwitz will not repeat itself. In other words, he suggested that we inquire into the forces that gave rise to the evil. Thus, when we commemorate or educate about the Holocaust and other genocides, we may have to take a step back in our identification with heroes or victims and, above all, shorten the distance we put between the perpetrators and ourselves.
Genocide and its Aftermaths:
Lessons from Rwanda
Undergraduate Student Conference: Call for Papers
Pete Driessen. Valentina's Nightmare. 1997
Conference: April 17, 2014
Call for papers deadline: February 28, 2014
The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, the Human Rights Program and the Institute for Global Studies are hosting three days of events to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994. The events will include a public conference (April 16th), a student conference (April 17th) and a K-12 teacher workshop (April 19th). The objectives of the commemorative events are to promote public understanding of what happened in Rwanda, analyze the immediate responses by the international community, and discuss the long-term implications for international policy and actions to prevent and respond to genocide.
The students' conference seeks to bring together undergraduate students (preferably advanced undergraduates) from different disciplines that are working on the Rwandan Genocide or other episodes of genocide and mass violence. To this end, we are seeking a broad range of papers that examine but are not limited to the following topics:
The Rwandan Genocide: Historical and socio-political paths leading to the genocide; the role of the international community, including the ICTR; the gacaca courts; testimonials of survivors; public memory; etc.
Genocide and the international community: Intervention or lack thereof in genocides and large-scale political violence; potential responses to genocide and mass violence; the role of neighboring countries, the UN and other countries.
Genocide and the media: International and local media coverage of genocide; hate media and genocide incitement; representations of mass violence and its (cognitive and ethical) limits.
Rape as genocide: Rape and other forms of gendered
victimization during or in the aftermath of mass violence; women-headed households; medical care; children of rape.
Justice and politics of reconciliation after genocide:The role and effectiveness of judicial processes and transitional justice mechanisms such as the ICTR, truth commissions and reparations.
Genocide and public memory: Memorials, museums and commemoration days/weeks; the politics of commemoration; the use of human remains in memorials and related issues.
Genocide and education: Teaching about genocide and mass atrocities; the representation of genocide in history and other textbooks.
Abstracts not exceeding 250 words and a 2 page CV should be sent to Wahutu j. Siguru by the 28th of February 2014. For more information, please visit the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies Symposia and Conferences page by clicking here.
The organizers will provide supporting funds to defray the costs of the participants whose paper are accepted for presentation. Out of state student presenters will be awarded up to $500 and in state student presenters will be awarded up to $200.
The conference was made possible by funding from the Ohanessian Endowment Fund for Justice and Peace Studies at The Minneapolis Foundation and is sponsored by The Institute for Global Studies, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and the Human Rights Program at the University of Minnesota.
Local Holocaust survivor and friend of CHGS
Gustav "Gus" Gutman dies at 78
|Felix de la Concha. Gus Gutman. 2013.|
It is with great sadness that the Center for Holocaust and Genocide announces the passing of Gus Gutman. We recently had the pleasure of working with Gus on the "Portraying Memories" project with artist Felix de la Concha. Gus was an enthusiastic participant, turning what is typically a 2-4 hour session into a daylong adventure involving a trip to the Shalom Home, where he introduced Felix to his good friend Walter Schwartz, so he could participate as well.
Gus was always full of energy, a wonderful storyteller and great to be around. We were very surprised to hear he was ill and extremely saddened to hear of his passing on January 11.
Although Gus was a child during the Holocaust, he spoke often about remembering the events of Kristallnacht (the Nazi pogrom) that took place throughout Germany and Austria on November 9,10, 1938. "I was just a small child in Hildesheim when my father held me up to see the smoke coming from our beloved synagogue. The experience was so embedded in my memory I even wrote a play, "Guests of the City," about my return to Germany with flashbacks to that time which was produced and performed in my home town Hildesheim in 2005 (I played my father)."
Portraying Gus Gutman
We are very fortunate that Gus's story will live on the CHGS website and that others will be able to view his painting session with Felix de la Concha. The portrait will also be on display in an exhibition planned for Spring of 2015, and website dedicated to all of Felix de la Concha's Holocaust portraits.
Gustav Gutman, 01/20/1935 - 01/11/2014: Obituary
Holocaust survivor Dora Zaidenweber's talk now available to view on CHGS YouTube Channel
Dora Zaidenweber and Falko Schmieder share a moment before she speaks to his class.
Zaidenweber shared her story with students in History of the Holocaust course taught by visiting scholar Falko Schmieder on November 21, 2013.
Zaidenweber was born Dora Eiger on January 24, 1924 in Radom, Poland. Dora and her family were sent to the Radom ghetto in 1941. She was transported to Auschwitz in July 1944 where she remained until January of 1945 when she was evacuated on a forced march to Betgen Belsen where she was liberated in April of 1945. She and her husband Jules settled in Minnesota in 1950.
A Conversation with Dora Zaidenweber
Recently Dora and her family published her father's memoir Sky Tinged Red which is Isaia Eiger's chronicle of his two-and-a-half years as a prisoner in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp during World War II.
More information about Dora and her family can be found by clicking here.
Eye on Africa: Seeds of genocide in the CAR: What we need to know
by Wahutu Siguru
Now the hard work begins. As countries such as Ivory Coast and Mozambique have taught us there is always a risk of an increase in violence rather than a decrease during transitions. As mentioned in my previous article , CAR was about a power struggle that had taken religious and regional undertones. The stepping down of PM Djotodia should not be taken to imply that there is a cessation of this struggle. With multiple players jostling for political power, it is incumbent on the observers to engage those pulling the nation apart. If all the parties and not actively involved in this transition, we may find ourselves in this very same situation a few months down the line.
A report by Emmanuel Braun and Tom Miles from Reuters stated today that there were 'Seeds of Genocide' in Central Africa Republic. To be clear, this same claim had been made last year by John Ging the director of the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs as well. With in mind, its safe to say that Mr. Braun and Mr. Miles did not make any news today about the situation in CAR, we have heard this before. What we need now is active engagement in the process to ensure peace and provision of safety and food during this transitory period.
Wahutu Siguru is the 2013 Badzin Fellow in Holocaust and Genocide Studies and PhD candidate in the Sociology department at the University of Minnesota. Siguru's research interests are in the Sociology of Media, Genocide, Mass Violence and Atrocities (specifically on issues of representation of conflicts in Africa such as Darfur and Rwanda), Collective Memory, and perhaps somewhat tangentially Democracy and Development in Africa.
"Documentary films are not synonymous with factual representation"
Interview with film producer, director Noemi Schory
by Verena Stern
Noemi Schory, a documentary film director and producer, was the Schusterman Visiting Artist in Residence at the Center for Jewish Studies 2013 Fall Semester. Schory taught The Holocaust in Film: Recent Israeli and German Documentaries Compared and spoke at various film screenings and events on campus and in the community. Schory produced the award-winning documentary film "A Film Unfinished" about the Warsaw ghetto in Poland, which was screened by CHGS on November 12th, 2013 at the St. Anthony Main Theatre.
How does film play a role in shaping Holocaust memory?
Film, fiction or documentary, has become the most important building block of memory-of historic knowledge. The images remain etched in our minds regardless of their veracity, their origins. The little boy from the Warsaw Ghetto, the emaciated prisoners near the barbed wire in Buchenwald (Margaret Bourke White) are iconic representations universally known. Fifty percent of all West German citizens watched the NBC mini series "Holocaust" in 1979 that was criticized by Elie Wiesel for being a soap opera. Today, the broadcast is still considered to have marked an absolute watershed in coping with Holocaust memory in Germany. We are now entering a phase without witnesses, where all that will be left are the images, and our common memory will be shaped exclusively by them and by the films, which will withstand the erosion induced by time.
Are there still limits of representation in Holocaust film?
The limits to representation start from what doesn't exist. There are no visual documents of the mass, industrialized extermination. It seems that the visual archives are endless; there are only two films, which show the deportation trains and none that show the reality of inside the trains. "The Auschwitz Album," shot by SS photographers, captures the arrival of deportees from Hungary and some images of the selection, but there are no known images of the daily life of the prisoners in the camps. There is or ought to be self-imposed limit on the use and repeated use of atrocity images (mostly shot after the liberation of the camps), which run the risk of desensitizing the viewer and humiliating the victims (exposing them once more). Repeated use also has the potential of turning the viewers off from dealing with the Holocaust.
How can (especially documentary) films be used for teaching the Holocaust? At what age would you recommend that?
Documentary films are not synonymous with factual representation; they often deal with memory, with the aftermath. Recognizable, three-dimensional accounts of daily life, of coping and the struggle to survive, can contribute to the emotional understanding. One of the neglected fields (partly because of scarcity of visual material) is the life before the Holocaust. I regard understanding the rich fabric of Jewish life in Europe (which was almost entirely wiped out), as of utmost importance but too little touched upon. We are used to see very old survivors telling their memories and are not aware that the experiences they talk about happened to them when they were young, sometimes very young. In a series of short films, which I recently directed, based on diaries, wills and other writings of victims, I insisted on finding voices of the same age as the writers of those documents. I think this brings home, on an emotional level, the enormity of dilemmas, fears and choices. The issue of age is one of the toughest ones to which I have no answer. In Israel since Holocaust Remembrance Day is a national day of commemoration marked by sirens and silence, children are exposed to it from a very young age, often leaving deep scars on their psyches or turning them off from dealing with it.I think that the teaching and for that matter Holocaust remembrance ought to lead to universal, humanistic values and not be its own aim.
How would you define the new/third generation of Israeli films about the Holocaust?
I think that in Israel (as elsewhere) the third generation moves in a more reflective and interpretative direction. The realistic testimonies have been recorded-the survivors are passing away. Emotionally, the third generation moves further away, towards more philosophical interpretations. "A Film Unfinished,"directed by a young director, Yael Hersonski, and produced by me, is an example for that, and so is "Numbered." Animated films, video art probing the limit of true and false memory - I believe that this is the direction for the future.
Verena Stern is the 2013/2014 BMWF Doctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Austrian Studies/University of Minnesota and a doctoral candidate at the Department of Political Science at the University of Vienna. She is writing her dissertation on migration of asylum seekers from Somalia to the European Union. Stern´s research interests include Human Rights and transnational migration.
CHGS director Alejandro Baer to lecture on Global Holocaust Memory and the New Antisemitism
Cartoon in Spanish daily ABC, January 28, 2005. Text: Palestinian, understanding the Jewish pain of the Holocaust, given the assassination of his whole family by the Israelis.
Wednesday, February 5
Beth El Synagogue
Research on contemporary antisemitism, as well as Holocaust education and commemoration reveals that the way people think about the Holocaust is changing. Rather than public discussions of the Holocaust discouraging hatred, in some cases the reverse is happening. This new phenomenon, sometimes called "memory envy," or "Holocaust skepticism," is channeling new resentments and hostilities. Professor Baer will shed light on the sources, functions and different contexts of emergence of a new antisemitism related to the globalization of Holocaust memory.
Professor Baer is the director and Stephen C. Feinstein Chair of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota. He has authored numerous articles addressing issues of genocide, memory, and antisemitism.
Sponsored by the Center for Jewish Studies, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Department of German, Scandinavian and Dutch, Jewish Community Relations Council.
War, Genocide, & Justice: Cambodian American Memory Work
A lecture by Cathy Schlund-Vials
Thursday, February 6
Dr. Schlund-Vials is an Associate Professor of English and Asian American Studies at the University of Connecticut at Storrs. She is the Director of the UConn Asian American Studies Institute and the Faculty Director for Humanities House. She was awarded the 2011 AAUP "Teaching Promise" award (at the University of Connecticut). In 2013, she was the recipient of the Association for Asian American Studies's "Early Career Award."
Her research interests include refugee cultural production, critical race theory, immigration law, human rights, and contemporary ethnic American literary studies.
She has recently completed her second book, War, Genocide, and Justice: Cambodian American Memory Work (University of Minnesota Press, Fall 2012), which is focused on genocide remembrance and juridical activism in Cambodian American literature, film, and hip hop.
Dr. Schlund-Vials is currently working on a third project, tentatively titled "Imperial Coordinates: War, Containment, and Asian American Critique," which engages a spatial reading of U.S. imperialism through Asian American writing about militarized zones, internment camps, and relocation centers.
Sponsored by: Asian American Studies, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota Press.
Panel Discussion: "Remembering the Holocaust in Literature, Film, and Theology"
Detail of the Museum's Children's Tile Wall-US Holocaust Memorial Museum
This panel discussion will touch on the role of memory in constructing identity and the ethical challenge that the Holocaust presents to the modern world and the Christian and Jewish communities. The evening will be primarily conversational, with audience participation through Q&A. The panel will feature:
Alejandro Baer, Associate Professor & Director, Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota
Victoria Barnett, Director of the Program on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Steve Carr, Professor of Communication at Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne, specializing in Holocaust Film Studies
Robert Ehrenreich, Director of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Petra Schweitzer, Professor at Shenandoah University specializing in women in the Holocaust
This program has been made possible by the Programs on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust, Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, with the support of the Hoffberger Foundation.
Special Screening of Granito: How to Nail a Dictator with filmmakers Pamela Yates and Paco Onís
Granito tells the stories of five main characters whose destinies are joined together by Guatemala's turbulent past. Even though the Guatemalan civil war spanned from 1960-1996, Granito focuses in on the early 1980s and its ramifications for the country.
Paco Onis is a partner at Skylight Pictures, and previously produced documentaries for PBS, National Geographic and a range of other programs.
Screening with filmmakers is part of the Reframing Mass Violence: Human Rights and Social Memory in Latin America and Southern Europe course which take place on
Thursday's from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in room 235 Notle Center. All lectures are open to the public.
The next lecture is February 20 with CHGS director Alejandro Baer on "The Collective Memory of Mass Atrocities. Traveling Ghosts of the Holocaust."
For the complete schedule please click here.
Organized by the IAS Reframing Mass Violence: Human Rights and Social Memory in Latin America and Southern Europe Collaborative. Cosponsored by the Human Rights Program, and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
Co-sponsored by the Film Society of Mpls/St. Paul.
Commemorating the Holocaust: The Dilemmas of Remembrance in France and Italy
by Rebecca Clifford
Commemorating the Holocaust: The Dilemmas of Remembrance in France and Italy reveals how and why the Holocaust came to play a prominent role in French and Italian political culture in the period after the end of the Cold War. By charting the development of official, national Holocaust commemorations in France and Italy, Rebecca Clifford explains why the wartime persecution of Jews, a topic ignored or marginalized in political discourse through much of the Cold War period, came to be a subject of intense and often controversial debate in the 1990s and 2000s.
How and why were official Holocaust commemorations created? Why did the drive for states to "remember" their roles in the persecution of Jewish populations accelerate only after the collapse of the Cold War? Who pressed for these commemorations, and what motivated their activism? To what extent was the discourse surrounding national Holocaust commemorations really about the genocide at all?
Commemorating the Holocaust explores these key questions, challenging commonly-held assumptions about the origins of and players involved in the creation of Holocaust memorial days. Clifford draws conclusions that shed light both on the state of Holocaust memory in France and Italy, and more broadly on the collective memory of World War II in contemporary Europe.
For more information please click here
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