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CHGS News March 2014
From the Director

The Gasthof scandal: play-acting as Nazis is no innocent game


Alejandro Baer


Last week CHGS and several other centers and departments at the University of Minnesota voiced their concern and condemnation regarding a Nazi-themed dinner that took place in the Minneapolis restaurant Gasthof zur Gemütlichkeit. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) and the Minnesota Rabbinical Association (MRA), also responded to this disturbing event and sent a public letter to the restaurant's owner.


The news and photographs of the gathering - Nazi flags and men clad in SS and Wehrmacht uniforms - were shocking. But even more worrying was to discover how many people, who posted their comments on the Star Tribune website or emailed and voice-mailed the Center, were ready to defend the Nazi re-enactors and the restaurant that hosted the party. Their response reveals an astounding lack of common sense and a failure to understand the gravity of the case.


How "innocent" was this re-enactment? Were the participants and the restaurant owner really unaware of the implications and effects of the symbols they were displaying? One hopes that all of Gasthof's cards will soon be on the table.

Alejandro Baer
"We need to understand that both Holocaust and Genocide Studies have a place."  
Interview with Professor Phillip Spencer
by Verena Stern and Wahutu Siguru
P. Spencer
Professor Philip Spencer is Director of the Helen Bamber Centre for the Study of Rights, Conflict and Mass Violence, at Kingston University. The Centre, which he founded in 2004, provides a focus for research and teaching in these areas. His own research interests include the Holocaust, comparative genocide, nationalism, and antisemitism. He is also Director of the University's European Research Department.


Professor Spencer was a panelist at the CHGS and the Center for Austrian Studies' discussion on "Antisemitism Then and Now" and gave a lecture on "The Recurrence of Genocide Since the Holocaust", both of which took place at the University of Minnesota December 5 & 6, 2013.


Is there a necessary divide between Holocaust Studies and Genocide Studies?


The field generally was dominated by the study of the Holocaust; that is the genocide about which we know the most. There are complicated reasons why this is the case, but there is massive literature about the Holocaust, which significantly outnumbers literature about any other genocide. Historically, the study of genocide emerged out of Holocaust Studies, and scholars or survivors of the Holocaust became interested in genocide more generally. Some people argue that the Holocaust distorts our understanding about other genocides because it is not a typical case. So one answer was to set up an alternative to Holocaust Studies: Genocide Studies, which is actually challenging the place of the Holocaust, sometimes with a polemical edge, especially in North America. So then you argue we need to move beyond this unhealthy competition, which is a kind of competitive victimology, which is not sensible or right. One should not compare suffering. It´s not about suffering, it is about the nature of a conscious genocidal project. It has a distinctive specificity because of the particularity of the project; Antisemitism as ideology is an important factor.


What is your approach?


We need to understand that both Holocaust and Genocide Studies have a place. But we need to do this by rethinking the place of the Holocaust in the history of genocide. Genocide is both intent and outcome, and the Holocaust is part of the history, it was preceded and followed by genocides. The most influential way of thinking about this now is that we shouldn´t privilege one over the other and we need to think in a more sophisticated way about structure and intent. That view would lead you to thinking that we don´t need to privilege the Holocaust, that we shouldn´t have something called Holocaust and Genocide Studies. My approach is to say, yes, there are important ways of which to say the Holocaust was part of a bigger genocidal story, but the Holocaust also has particular features, which make it a central event in the history of genocide.


If you think about the history it is unlikely that the Genocide

Convention would have been possible without the Holocaust. The Holocaust provided the language and the law to talk about genocide.

How and when should there be intervention? 


I try to distinguish the elements necessary for genocide to take place. If you had the intent, the desire, and the fantasy to commit genocide, what would be possible to carry it out? But what I am most interested in are motives and the motivation of states and their populations to intervene and when they are reluctant to become involved. The question of how and when intervention should take place had to be reconsidered at the end of the 1990s, after Rwanda and Yugoslavia. We are reasonably clear now, with what authority the interventions should take place, but we are less clear on the timing. We can take the research on likelihood and proportion, but we do not know about political will. 


How do people move from being bystanders to rescuers? 


There is quite limited literature on rescuers, especially compared to a lot of literature on perpetrators. Most of it is indeed psychological, about distinguished moral virtues of helpers, their feeling that they just had to help.


But I think it is also important to note that people are not always heroes from day one to the end. Rather, people can move around, become one and the other at different times of a genocide.


What is interesting is the research about the political aspect of what makes people more likely to help others, like resources, capacities and pressures. The question of under what circumstances could people become rescuers raises a valuable contribution to stopping genocides.

Eye on Africa

Perpetrators sentenced in Europe

By Wahutu Siguru

Kigali Museum
Photos from the Kigali Genocide Memorial, Rwanda. Photo by Steve Terrill. AFP/Getty Images. 

As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Genocide in Rwanda questions surrounding justice, commemorating the victims, and lessons learned take center stage. With regards to justice, events in Germany and in France in the past two months demonstrate that persistence and international cooperation often work to ensure justice is served to those affected by genocide and mass violence. Two trials have just ended in these two countries that will certainly put Hutu fugitives living in Europe on edge.   


Last month, a German court sentenced a former Rwandan mayor to a 14-year jail term. Onesphore Rwabukombe stood trial for organizing, ordering and monitoring a church massacre in Kiziguro. The church massacre led to the death of 1200 people seeking shelter. He was found guilty of not only ordering the attack but also organizing the collection and dumping of dead Tutsis


The case was the first of its kind in Germany; no other German court had brought charges against a Rwandan perpetrator living in Germany. Two other cities, Dusseldorf and Stuttgart, are now trying Hutu extremists and their supporters.


This month a French court sentenced Pascal Simbikangwa to a 25-year jail term for his role in the genocide. Pascal, an intelligence officer and cousin to president Habyarimana, was considered a ruthless operative during the genocide. He is credited with supervising the notorious roadblocks in which Hutu perpetrators demanded to see the identity cards of all that went through them. He was also accused of having taken part in organizing the genocide and distributing weapons to the Interahamwe (Hutu paramilitaries). What makes Pascal's case even more fascinating is that both his mother and wife were Tutsi, a fact he brought up during his defense


France and Germany join Belgium, Sweden and Norway in prosecuting Hutu perpetrators living within their jurisdiction. The trials point to a widening of prosecutorial reach and reduce the number of countries where genocidaires can seek refuge. The international policing organization (Interpol) has also issued a red alert for approximately 100 Rwandans in Europe who may have been involved in the genocide.


These events mark the beginnings of the first of hopefully many steps in the pursuit of justice for the approximately 800,000 dead. It should not be lost in the euphoria that these two powerful players in the genocide received a combined total of 39 years in jail; significantly less than what the respective prosecutors were asking for, as well as far less than what most of those tried in Rwanda and at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) received for comparatively similar charges. While 14 and 25-year sentences are considerably long prison terms and better than none, this is neither sufficient nor is it a strong enough signal to other perpetrators residing in Europe.


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. 


Aftermath: The Fragility of Holocaust Memory in Poland as depicted in film

by Jodi Elowitz
Jedwabne memorial
Jedwabne Memorial, Poland. Google Map

Standing on Polish soil is to stand upon the fertile ground of memory. Poles see themselves as a people who have struggled to maintain their national identity amidst occupation and oppression. The Polish past is negotiated on a daily basis between the generations of Poles who lived (or grew up) during World War II, those who lived during the Soviet regime, and those who have come of age after the fall of Communism. All three of these groups have grown up with the narrative of Poles as rescuers, resisters and martyrs. This idea was shaped during the Soviet years and reinforced through Polish popular culture.


Immediately after World War II Polish cinema began this narrative with the first film to deal with Auschwitz, Wanda Jakubowska's The Last Stop (Ostani etap), 1948. Jakubowska, who wrote and directed the film, was a former inmate of the camp. Filmed in Auschwitz, the narrative was crafted to be a story of resistance and solidarity of the inmates against Fascism. Jews were folded into a national victimhood. Jakubowska highlights this by equating the Jewish prisoners and the Polish prisoners in the struggle against the Nazis - the Jews are not singled out as the intended targets of mass extermination. Communism, with Stalin at its helm, is the hero of the film and reinforces the Soviet - created narrative about Poles as victims and martyrs during World War II.


The Polish film Aftermath (Pokłosie) fundamentally challenges this narrative. And the reaction to the film is a prime example of the fragility of Holocaust memory in Poland. Aftermath is based on Jan Gross's book Neighbors. Neighbors received much attention in Poland when it was released in 2001, as it exposed a horrible truth about the actions of the Poles against their Jewish neighbors in the town of Jedwabne. After years of believing the Nazis were responsible for the murder of the town's Jews it was brought to light by Gross that, in fact, it was the Polish neighbors who committed the murder. Gross's revelation caused much pain amongst the Polish people, as it forced them to take a closer look at their historic narrative and understand their role in the destruction of Polish Jewry.


Aftermath continues what Gross started. Over seven years in the making, it is not a Holocaust film; it is a film about the paving over of history, of hiding an uncomfortable truth about a past in a narrative that absolves the witnesses of the crime they helped to commit or of choosing to remain silent in the face of this crime.


Aftermath - U.S. Trailer
Aftermath - U.S. Trailer


This film touched a nerve with Polish nationalists and right-wing political factions, as well as the general public, who labeled the film anti-Polish. They prompted a media barrage of anti-semitic rhetoric and propaganda against it's director, Wladyslaw Pasikowoki, and one of the lead actors, Maciej Stuhr, equating his role of one of the brothers trying to uncover the past to betraying Polish nationalistic honor. Immediately after the release of the film mainstream Polish weeklies ran covers of Stuhr, including one with a Star of David scrawled across his face, calling him "a Jew."


This is not the first time a film has angered the Polish populace. In 1985, Claude Lanzmann's SHOAH was televised on Polish TV to scathing reviews, as it was criticized for making Poles look ignorant, cruel and willing accomplices to the Nazis. While it is not uncommon in European Holocaust film history that locals resent outside filmmakers telling them how to remember their past, Aftermath is a Polish film made about Poles for Poles. There are no Jews in the film; instead the film focuses on two Polish brothers who unwittingly discover the truth of what happened to the Jews that lived in their town, which causes much discontent among their fellow Polish neighbors. 


No film about the Holocaust or the actions of Poles towards Jews during the war will bring about a change in the memories that have been crafted over time. More careful and deliberate dialogues will need to take place, but, as has been shown many times over, it is often popular culture that directs the discussion towards exploring history and its unfolding through memory narratives. If Aftermath is allowed to be seen by Poles once the initial reaction has played out, it could be used as a catalyst for examination and opening a productive and process of self-awareness and responsibility.

The European Studies Consortium, the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Institute for Global Studies, the Center for Jewish Studies, the Department of French & Italian, the Center for Austrian Studies and the Film Society of Mpls/St. Paul will present the Twin Cities premiere of Aftermath at the International Film Festival on April 10 & 16, 2014.
For tickets and information please click here.
Jodi Elowitz is the Outreach Coordinator for CHGS and the Program Coordinator for the European Studies Consortium. Elowitz is currently working on Holocaust memory in Poland and artistic representation of the Holocaust in animated short films.  
Twin Cities Premier of Claude Lanzmann's The Last of the Unjust
Last of the Unjust Movie Poster
Sunday, April 13
1 p.m.
Part of The Film Society of Mpls/St. Paul International Film Festival 
Introduction by Bruno Chaoaut, Chair, Department of French & Italian, former director CHGS.
For tickets and information please click here
1975. In Rome, Claude Lanzmann filmed a series of interviews with Benjamin Murmelstein, the last President of the Jewish Council in the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia and the only "Elder of the Jews" not to have been killed during the war. A rabbi in Vienna, following the annexation of Austria by Germany in 1938, Murmelstein fought bitterly with Adolf Eichmann, week after week, for seven years, managing to help around 121,000 Jews leave the country and preventing the liquidation of the ghetto. 2012. Claude Lanzmann, at 87 - without masking anything of the passage of time on men, but showing the incredible permanence of the locations involved - exhumes these interviews shot in Rome, returning to Theresienstadt, the town "given to the Jews by Hitler", a so-called model ghetto, but a ghetto of deceit chosen by Adolf Eichmann to dupe the world.


The Last Of The Unjust Movie Official Trailer 1 (2013) - Documentary HD 
The Last Of The Unjust Movie Official Trailer 1 (2013) - Documentary HD


We discover the extraordinary personality of Benjamin Murmelstein: a man blessed with a dazzling intelligence and a true courage, which, along with an unrivaled memory, makes him a wonderfully wry, sardonic and authentic storyteller. Through these three periods, from Nisko in Poland to Theresienstadt, and from Vienna to Rome, the film provides an unprecedented insight into the genesis of the Final Solution. It reveals the true face of Eichmann, and exposes without artifice the savage contradictions of the Jewish Councils. 

Jodi Elowitz, Outreach Coordinator for CHGS wrote about the film in the December newsletter, to read her article click here

Sponsored by the European Studies Consortium, Institute for Global Studies, Center for Austrian Studies, The Center for Jewish Studies, the Department of French & Italian, and The Film Society of Mpls/St. Paul. 

Laughter in the Dark: Newly Discovered Songs and Sketches from the Terezín/Theresienstadt Ghetto, 1942-44

Terezin Painting Bloch
Ferdinand Bloch, Terezin Cabaret PT3958 Herman's Collection, Terezin Memorial, @Zuzana Dvorakova. Used by permission, Terezin Memorial

A Lecture by Lisa Peschel, University of York's Department of Theatre, Film and Television, with musical performances by Ryan Lindberg, Emily Zimmer and Peter Vitale

Thursday, April 3
7:30 p.m.
Lloyd Ultan Hall Ferguson Hall 

Free and open to the public


Terezin was a unigue "ghetto-camp" located in Czechoslovakia during World War II. Over 140,000 Jews were deported there between November 24, 1941 and May 9, 1945. The camp was used for propaganda purposes by the Nazis and in turn created an atmosphere in which art and culture took place in spite of the harsh living conditions.


Jewish prisoners at the Terezín concentration camp and ghetto performed cabaret and comedy sketches for their fellow prisoners and their Nazi captors. Some of these scripts were lost for over 60 years before Lisa Peschel, a graduate of the University of Minnesota, discovered them during interviews with some of the camp survivors.


Twin Cities performers Ryan Lindberg and Emily Zimmer will present a selection of the lost songs and sketches, many which have not been performed since World War II.

The performances will be interwoven with spoken explanations by Peschel. She will outline how the plays came to light and their role in helping prisoners deal with life in the ghetto.


CHGS has several primary source documents from Terezin archived on our website. To learn more about Terezin please click here


Sponsored by: Center for Austrian Studies, European Studies Consortium, Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies and the Center for Jewish Studies.

Genocide and its Aftermaths: Lessons from Rwanda 

Valentina's Daughter
Valentina's Daughter, Peter Driessen 1997

A Series of Events to Commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Genocide in Rwanda

April 16, 17 & 19, 2014


Sponsorship made possible in part by the Arsham and Charlotte Ohanessian Fund at the Minneapolis Foundation and the Institute for Global Studies, University of Minnesota.



The Institute for Global Studies, in partnership with The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Human Rights Program, is hosting a series of events to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994. The events will include a public conference, a student conference, and a K-16 teacher workshop. The objectives of the commemorative events are: promoting public understanding of what happened in Rwanda, discussing the immediate responses of the international community to the violence, and analyzing the long-term consequences that the cataclysmic failure to prevent the genocide had on international policy and action.


The Public Conference, April 16


Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey School of Public Affairs


The public conference is designed to bring together research and praxis. Academics, activists and diplomats will lead a public exploration of what we have learned from the Rwandan genocide and how we have been affected by, and should use, that knowledge to create more effective methods of intervention. Themes of the panels include: representations of atrocity, immediate aftermaths, transitional justice and its impacts, and preventing genocide and mass atrocity. This event will be free and open to the public. 


For the current schedule please click here.


Adama Dieng
Adama Dieng, UN Special Advisor on Preventing Genocide

Key Note Speaker: Adama Dieng, UN Special Advisor on Genocide Prevention


Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey School of Public Affairs


A legal and human rights expert, Mr. Dieng has throughout his career contributed to strengthening of the rule of law, fighting impunity and promoting capacity building of judicial and democratic institutions. He has also contributed to the establishment of several non-governmental organizations in Africa and to strengthening African institutions. Mr. Dieng was the driving force behind the establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, as well as the draft African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption. 


For complete information, please click here

Badzin Fellowship Call for Applications Extended
Silhouettes in memory of Jews deported from the Grunewald Station. Sculptur  
New deadline: Friday, April 11


Bernard and Fern Badzin Graduate Fellowship in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 2014-15

The University of Minnesota's Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Department of History invite applications from current doctoral students in the UMN College of Liberal Arts for the Bernard and Fern Badzin Graduate Fellowship in Holocaust and Genocide Studies for the academic year 2014-15. 


The Badzin Fellowship will pay a stipend of $18,000, the cost of tuition and health insurance, and $1,000 toward the mandatory graduate student fees.


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/or 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 at, no later than 3:00 pm on Friday, April 11, 2014. The awardee will be announced Friday, April 25, 2014.

Guest Lectures

IAS Collaborative: Upcoming Public Lectures

The IAS Collaborative, Reframing Mass Violence: Human Rights and Social Memory in Latin America and Southern Europe, presents:

Brazilian Truth Commission: Is It Time to 'Reframe' the Gross Human Rights Violations? 



Thursday, March 27
3:00p.m. to 4:30p.m.

Glenda Mezarobba, United Nations Development Project Representative for the Brazilian Truth Commission, provides an overview of the Brazilian Truth Commission and reflects on the meaning and the implications of the work of countries, like Brazil, to revisit their legacies of dictatorship (1964-1988). She presents possibilities of these contemporary processes to re-interpret and re-frame the atrocities themselves and to improve the quality of Brazil's democratic institutions.



The Evolving Memory of Argentina's "Disappeared"

Thursday, April 10


Northrop, Best Buy Theater


Speaker: Emilio Crenzel, Sociology, University of Buenos Aires

Response: Leigh Payne, Global Studies, University of Oxford and University of Minnesota


The panel sheds light on the most substantial transformations and the continuities in Argentina's social memory of its recent past and discusses the processes that led Argentina's Truth Commission Report Nunca Más (1984) to become the canonical way the disappearances and the country's political violence is publicly remembered, and how its meaning has been modified by new interpretations in the last two decades.

Other University of Minnesota faculty participants on the panel are Ana Forcinito (Spanish and Portuguese Studies) and Alejandro Baer (Director, CHGS).


Both panels are cosponsored by the Human Rights Program and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.


The Reframing Mass Violence Collaborative explores the particular developments and transnational entanglements of social memories in societies, revisiting their legacies of dictatorship, state terror, and grave human rights violations in Latin America and Southern Europe.

Book of the Month
War Crimes, Genocide, and Justice
by David M. Crowe
496 pages
Palgrave Macmillan 
January 2014

Book cover

In this sweeping, definitive work, leading human rights scholar David M. Crowe offers an unflinching look at the long and troubled history of genocide and war crimes. From atrocities in the ancient world to more recent horrors in Nazi Germany, Cambodia, and Rwanda, Crowe reveals not only the disturbing consistency they have shown over time, but also the often heroic efforts that nations and individuals have made to break seemingly intractable patterns of violence and retribution - in particular, the struggle to create a universally accepted body of international humanitarian law. He traces the emergence of the idea of 'just war,' early laws of war, the first Geneva Conventions, the Hague peace conferences, and the efforts following World Wars I and II to bring to justice those who violated international law. 
He also provides incisive accounts of some of the darkest episodes in recent world history, covering violations of human rights law in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cambodia, Guatemala, the Iran-Iraq war, Korea, Tibet, and many other contexts. With valuable insights into some of the most vexing issues of today - including controversial US efforts to bring alleged terrorists to justice at Guantánamo Bay, and the challenges facing the International Criminal Court - this is an essential work for understanding humankind's long and often troubled history.
For more information, please click here
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In This Issue
From the Director
Interview: Phillip Spencer
Eye on Africa
Holocaust Memory: Aftermath
Premiere: The Last of the Unjust
Laughter in the Dark
Lessons from Rwanda Conference
Badzin Fellowship
Public Lectures
Book of the Month
University Libraries
Holocaust and Genocide Studies Librarian

Summer Academy 2014: Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum 


2014 CHGS Summer Institute for K-16 educators 


Karski Institute for Holocaust Education, Summer Certificate Program 

Campus Events

War, Genocide & Justice: Cambodian American Memory Work

Symposium on "Figural Jews"

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