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CHGS News April 2014
From the Director

Jews, Tutsis and the Paradoxes of Genocide Memory

 

Alejandro Baer

  

No nos une el amor, sino el espanto.

(We are not united by love, but by horror)

 

Jorge Luis Borges

(Argentinean poet)

 

Since Auschwitz it has indeed been possible to speak of a

German-Jewish symbiosis-but of a negative one. For both

Germans and for Jews the result of mass extermination has

become the basis of how they see themselves, a kind of

opposed reciprocity they have in common, willy-nilly.

 

Dan Diner

(Historian)

 

The above-cited quotes reveal a tragic irony. The Holocaust has bound forever "Germans" and "Jews" to the past. It has also opened an insurmountable gap that conditions the mutual relationship, as well as the passing on of group identity - of victims and of perpetrators stuck in a permanent position of culpability - to the next generations. Moreover, it perpetuates in time a binary division constructed by the Nazi ideologues: Germans vs. Jews.

 

Dan Diner's "negative symbiosis" - this communality of opposites - is not only an appalling legacy of the Holocaust, it represents a fundamental dilemma in post-genocide contexts.

 

This month of April we commemorate Yom HaShoah and also the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. Between April and July 1994, approximately 800,000 people defined as Tutsi were brutally slaughtered by members of the Hutu majority. Today's Rwandan Tutsi-led Government condemns and even outlaws the use of the vicious ethnic markers of Hutus and Tutsis. "We are all Rwandans" is the watchword. At the same time it insists on naming the events, in ceremonies, memorials and museums, the "Genocide against the Tutsi".

 

We often hear that memory helps societies that have suffered large-scale political violence come to terms with and overcome their past. But is remembrance of genocide always a unifying and healing force? By remembering the genocide, Rwandans may well be trapped in the paradox of perpetuating the divisions that they are trying to overcome.

 

Genocide memory is thus entangled in a problematic logic of questionable group identities and boundaries. According to the UN convention of 1948, genocides are "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such" (my emphasis). In other words, without defining a specific group that is targeted for destruction the crimes would not qualify as genocide. Rafael Lemkin coined the term with the objective to set international standards to prevent and punish these type of mass atrocities. But its public remembrance can be a mixed blessing.

 

Alejandro Baer
Eye on Africa

Every year in April...

By Wahutu Siguru

"Remember 20"  Banner in Kigali, Rwanda, by Ben Curtis AP

Every year in April, the international community recalls the genocide in Rwanda and the failure to intervene. This year, on the 20th anniversary of the genocide, we did the same in several sites and countries around the world. Here at the University of Minnesota, we held a three day-long event that brought together practitioners, scholars, activists and K-12 educators. We asked ourselves what we learned from the Rwandan experience and how these lessons can be used to prevent and intervene in future atrocities. I personally think the world has learned very little from the genocide in Rwanda and that we have failed to efficiently put to use our limited knowledge to prevent other atrocities.

 

Over the last several months, I have highlighted the on-going atrocities in the Central Africa Republic (CAR) and South Sudan and the abject failure of the UN, African Union (AU), French and other foreign troops in stopping these two atrocities. In that time things have only gotten worse in both countries. Instead of recognizing these failures we have been accosted by reporting that seems hell bent on reminding us of the fact that lessons have been learned. This can be seen in online news organizations such as Think Progress, who thought it more important to remind us that the U.S. had prevented "another Rwanda" and the New York Times reminding us that we are allowing 'another Rwanda' in CAR.

 

The on-going atrocities in South Sudan presents more damning evidence against the assertion that the international community has learned from Rwanda. Last week in Bentiu town the atrocities reached a new low. Rebels stormed the town, killing and pillaging as they went through it. The target group appeared to be anyone that was not from the Nuer community. As the government and rebels trade accusation as to who is responsible, the U.S. government again seems to be twiddling its thumbs and merely called the atrocity in Bentiu an abomination.

South Sudan Map Washington Post

 

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), like the UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR), has strongly condemned "the use of Radio Bentiu FM by some individuals associated with the opposition to broadcast hate speech," and tried to evacuate as many civilian as it could. What started as a rebellion against the government is now taking a more ghastly turn as the AU and UN debate what to do and how to do it. Perhaps what is even more instructive about this particular atrocity is the fact that the rebels used FM Radio to order the attacks. This in itself should send chills down our spines but also perhaps push the UN and AU to act more decisively.

 

So have we learned anything from Rwanda? Unfortunately there is no clear answer to this question. From where I sit though, I believe we have learned nothing at all. If we had, I strongly believe we would stop calling every other atrocity 'another Rwanda' and instead work on nipping them in the bud. For the dead in the town of Bentiu it will be hard to convince their families that Rwanda has taught us anything, seeing as the order to attack was given on the radio. For the Muslims being evacuated from CAR and for all those who have died and been maimed there, how do we look them in the eye and say "yes, Rwanda did teach us some useful lessons that we have applied in CAR."

 

The genocide in Rwanda happened, we let it happen, we need to stop focusing on trying to correct that mistake and focus instead on the current atrocities. This does not mean that the similarities in how the international community and the UN have behaved can be ignored, nor should they. We should think, however, very critically about the effect this has for the conflict. Lest we forget, for most people, Rwanda was a conflict that was particularly based on ethnicity and not political machinations or the fall of commodity prices in the global market. What we have in CAR and South Sudan is not and never was based on ethnicity. Both were a struggle for political power between the government and rebels groups that have now coalesced around religion and ethnicity respectively. These conflicts and related massacres are in no way "another Rwanda" and talking about them as such misses the point of the atrocities. 

 

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. 

Article

Seven Minutes in the Warsaw Ghetto: Representing the unimaginable through animated film

 

The October 2014 Volume of Short Film Studies features a piece by Jodi Elowitz, CHGS outreach coordinator entitled, "Seven Minutes in the Warsaw Ghetto: Representing the unimaginable through animated film."

 

Based on a real incident, Seven Minutes in the Warsaw Ghetto takes place in 1942 in Warsaw. Samek, an eight year old boy, peeks through a hole in the ghetto wall and sees a carrot lying on the sidewalk just on the other side. He tries to pull the carrot through the hole with a piece of wire, unaware that two SS officers are posted nearby and are following his every move.

 

Seven Minutes in the Warsaw Ghetto TRAILER
Seven Minutes in the Warsaw Ghetto Trailer

 

Elowitz's article argues that the film, as well as animated film more generally, is a legitimate artistic vehicle to represent and memorialize the Holocaust, and that the use of animation heightens the impact of and emotional response to the events portrayed in Seven Minutes in the Warsaw Ghetto.

 

The article can be accessed by visiting the University of Minnesota Library system by clicking here or by visiting Short Film Studies Journal 
 
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.  
Center Resources

'Portraying Memories' Update: Spotlight on Max and Edith Goodman

 

In February 2013, internationally recognized artist Felix de la Concha collaborated with CHGS to include Twin Cities Holocaust survivors in his latest portrait series, 'Portraying Memories.' Nine local survivors were invited to share their testimonies of survival as Felix painted their portrait. These sessions were video recorded and depict the portraits transformation from a blank canvas to the finished piece; this process of portraying provided a powerful and emotionally charged multidimensional representation of his encounter with his sitters.

 

One participant, Max Goodman, recounted being forced from his home in Romanian to a "Jewish colony" in the Transnistria Governorate, a combination of a concentration and detention camp. There he, his mother and sister were forced to live with 16 people in a 400 square foot house for two and half years. During this time one-third of the deportees starved, froze to death or died from disease. Max was forced to work in a slaughterhouse and periodically at other labor camps with hardly any food.

 

Portraying Max Goodman
Portraying Max Goodman

 

Max's wife, Edith Goodman, shared her own early life struggles as first Russians, then Hungarians and then Germans occupied her country. "They came one day and told my parents that we have to leave...they took us to the border...they searched and searched and they thought we had money and jewelry," she recalls. "I was a little girl and I was scared to death. I remember telling my father, 'Daddy, give them everything. I want to live.'"

 

Portraying Edith Goodman
Portraying Edith Goodman

  

Excerpts of the series' other Minnesotan participants are now available on the Center's youtube channel and can be viewed by clicking here.

 

Felix has generously donated the nine portraits of the Minnesotan survivors to be housed at the University of Minnesota to be utilized by CHGS for education, traveling exhibitions. His entire collection of 40 portraits and testimony will be included online on the new CHGS website coming this fall. 

 

To learn more about Felix de la Concha and his artwork visit his page on the CHGS Virtual Museum.  

Announcements

CHGS partners with international Holocaust institutions for a major conference in Madrid

 

 

 

 

On November 24-26, 2014, a conference entitled, Bystanders, Rescuers or Perpetrators? The Neutrals and the Shoah - Facts, Myths and Countermyths, will be held at Centro Sefarad-Israel in Madrid, Spain.

 

This conference is supported by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and sponsored by Centro Sefarad Israel - Madrid; Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies- University of Minnesota; Mémorial de la Shoah - Paris; History Unit of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland - Berne; Topography of Terror Foundation - Berlin; Living History Forum - Stockholm; Memoshoá/Association for the Education and Remembrance of the Holocaust - Lisbon and Tarih Vakfı/History Foundation - Istanbul.

 

The conveners are calling for scholarly papers on the policies of the neutral countries during the Holocaust and the public debate on them in these countries.

 

The conference will thus aim at addressing the following issues:  

  • The neutral countries' reactions to Nazi anti-Jewish policies and their own policies on Jewish refugees;
  • Their response to the German ultimatum of 1943 to either repatriate Jews with citizenship from their respective countries who lived in Nazi-occupied Europe or to allow their deportation;
  • The genesis and long-lasting effects of "rescue myths", the current state of the discussion regarding the neutral countries' positions during the Holocaust;
  • The dealing with the history of the Jewish persecution in state fact-finding commissions and committees of historians;
  • Approaches to Holocaust education in neutral countries.
  • Holocaust public memory (ceremonies, memorials, museums) and memory politics in neutral countries.

For more information, please click here.

Alejandro Baer honored with 2014 Public Sociology Award


The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies is pleased to announce that its director, Alejandro Baer, is the recipient of the 2014 Public Sociology Award.
 
Public sociology has a long tradition at the University of Minnesota as it continues to provide research and council to individuals and organizations who make good on the University's mission of engaged scholarship. The Department of Sociology's faculty and alumni have been national leaders in both public outreach and community engagement. To expand on this theme, in 2005 the department began to formally acknowledge individuals or groups who are continually reaching beyond the rigors of their research to engage a wider audience.
 
"[Alejandro's] commitment to bringing scholarly insights to the community and to establishing links between diverse scholars is quite extraordinary and exemplifies the true spirit of this award."

- Elizabeth Boyle, Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology.

IAS Collaborative Renewed

 

The Institute for Advanced Studies' (IAS) Collaborative,
Reframing Mass Violence: Human Rights and Social Memory, has been awarded funding to continue in the 2014-2015 academic year.

Begun in the fall of 2013, the collaborative hosted 10 lectures that explored the particular developments and transnational entanglements of social memories in Latin America and Southern Europe, revisiting their legacies of dictatorship, state terror, and grave human rights violations.

The collaborative will continue in the fall of 2014 to examine the contemporary processes of re-interpretation and re-framing of a) the atrocities themselves and b) the transitional justice models that were adopted in their aftermaths, but with a focus on post-Stalinist Europe.

Conveners of the collaborative include Alejandro Baer, Sociology and CHGS; Barbara Frey, Human Rights Program; and Joachim Savelsberg, Sociology.
Events

Exhumations, Memory, and the Return of Civil War Ghosts in Spain

A lecture by Francisco Ferrandiz


Thursday, May 8

3:00p.m. to 4:30p.m.

 

Speaker: Francisco Ferrandiz, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

 

Since 2000, the exhumation of mass graves from the Spanish Civil War and the Post-War years, mostly involving the largely abandoned graves of civilians killed in the Francoist rearguard by paramilitary groups, has become a central element in contemporary social and political debates in the country about the nature of the armed conflict and the dictatorial regime following it. Although exhumations have become a crucial tool for symbolic reparation and have triggered claims for justice for the crimes committed and now unearthed, the social process unleashed by their opening is way larger, and relates to the emergence of a fragmented and heterogeneous political culture focused on the memory of the defeated in the war.

 

In this talk, the complexity and dynamism of this process is analyzed, including from political and legal initiatives of great social and media impact to local actions on the ground, at times failed, ephemeral or almost imperceptible, but no less crucial. Regional differences, associated to uneven public memory policies, will also be considered.

 

This is the last IAS Collaborative event of the 2013-2014 academic year. The panel is cosponsored by the Human Rights Program and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

The Role of Visual Testimony in Survivors of the Mayan Genocide in Guatemala and Mexico

Guatemala Protest Brooke Anderson

Presentation by Marisol Soto, PhD candidate Department of Spanish and Portuguese

 

Thursday, May 1

Room 609 Social Sciences

3:00PM

 

The Holocaust Genocide & Mass Violence Studies Workshop (HGMV) presents its final session of the semester.


Soto's project examines the important role that photography plays in documenting and reporting human trafficking that targets indigenous populations.

Soto contends that genocides do not only result in direct violence against their victims, but also leave vulnerable communities of survivors that are targets of further violence. In addition she examines paradoxes resulting from the use of testimonies and archives outside the human rights community. 

In the fall of 2012, CHGS, the Human Rights Program and the Department of Sociology organized a research workshop for graduate students and faculty members of all departments in the Humanities and Social Sciences at University of Minnesota to foster interdisciplinary conversations on the subject areas of Holocaust studies, genocide and memory, peace and conflict studies, human rights, nationalism and ethnic violence, representations of violence and trauma, conflict resolution, transitional justice, historical consciousness and collective memory.
Community Events
Yom HaShoah Commemoration
Sunday, April 27
7 p.m.

Temple of Aaron
616 S. Mississippi River Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55116 

 

Featuring voices of Twin Cities Holocaust Survivors, the annual Yom HaShoah Commemoration honors the memory of the six million Jews and other victims murdered in the Holocaust. As is tradition at Yom HaShoah, Holocaust survivors are invited to light candles in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

 

The event is free of charge and open to the public. For more information, please e-mail susie@minndakjcrc.org.

 

Sponsors: the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, Children of Holocaust Survivors Association in Minnesota (CHAIM), Temple of Aaron, the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, and the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul.

Public Lectures

Flickering Images: The Holocaust in American Television and Film

 

In coordination with Genocide Awareness Week, held annually April 7-10, Gateway Community College in Phoenix, Arizona invited Jodi Elowitz to present on past and present representations of the Holocaust in American media.

 

 

In her presentation,

Flickering Images: The Holocaust in American Television and Film, Jodi shed light on how American television and film have influenced and shaped how American's perceive the Holocaust. Jodi noted that the Holocaust has become deeply entrenched in American cultural memory and yet our knowledge of the event is fragmented and often out of focus.

 

See Jodi's presentation below or by visiting CHGS' youtube page by clicking here.

 

Flickering Images:  The Holocaust in American Television and Film
Flickering Images: The Holocaust in American Television and Film

 

Book of the Month
Holocaust Memory Reframed: Museums and the Challenges of Representation
by Jennifer Hansen-Glucklich
280 pages
Rutgers University Press
March, 2014
 

 
Museum administrators and curators have the challenging role of finding a creative way to present Holocaust exhibits to avoid clichéd or dehumanizing portrayals of victims and their suffering.

In Holocaust Memory Reframed, Jennifer Hansen-Glucklich examines representations in three museums: Israel's Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Germany's Jewish Museum in Berlin, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. She describes a variety of visually striking media, including architecture, photography exhibits, artifact displays, and video installations in order to explain the aesthetic techniques that the museums employ. As she interprets the exhibits, Hansen-Glucklich clarifies how museums communicate Holocaust narratives within the historical and cultural contexts specific to Germany, Israel, and the United States.
 
For more information, please click here
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In This Issue
From the Director
Eye on Africa
Seven Minutes in the Warsaw Ghetto
'Portraying Memories' Update
The Neutrals and the Shoah: Call for Papers
Baer honored with Public Sociology Award
IAS Collaborative Renewed
Holocaust Genocide & Mass Violence Studies Workshop
Yom HaShoah Commemoration
Flickering Images: The Holocaust in American Television and Film
Book of the Month
University Libraries
Holocaust and Genocide Studies Librarian
Commnity Events
Walker Cinema: The Missing Picture
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