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CHGS News May/June 2014
From the Director

Deadly Antisemitism:

A Wake-Up Call from Brussels

 

Alejandro Baer

  

 

"The Jews are our misfortune!" (Die Juden sind unser Unglück!). This was always the tag line on the cover page of Der Stürmer, a Nazi weekly tabloid published between 1923 and 1945. The editor of this incendiary paper, Julius Streicher, was tried and sentenced to death on October 1st 1946 at the Nuremberg Tribunal. The judgment against him read, in part:

 

"... In his speeches and articles, week after week, month after month, he infected the German mind with the virus of anti-Semitism and incited the German people to active persecution..."

 

There is a Spanish saying that reads "muerto el perro, se acabó la rabia", which is used to express that it is much easier to kill the dog than to cure the rabies. Indeed, many trusted that with the defeat of Nazi Germany and its allies the problem of antisemitism would have been eradicated once and forever, that societies were now ultimately vaccinated against the recurrence of this scourge.

 

We know this was not the case and the killings in April in a Kansas Jewish Community Center or the deadly attack in Brussels' Jewish Museum last weekend are only the most recent reminder that antisemitism is also a present-day reality.

 

As perplexing and incomprehensible as these crimes may appear, there is a rationale and an ideological structure behind them. Understanding them enables us to identify the threat of antisemitism at its first manifestations, and to treat the cases with the seriousness they merit, before it is too late.

 

Different from racism and negative or prejudiced attitudes towards a variety of groups or minorities, antisemitism is characterized by its abstractness and by the degree to which it is disconnected from any real inter-group relations. As the study released this month by the Anti-Defamation League shows, antisemitism is on display in countries without Jewish populations. Furthermore, individuals can harbour antisemitic views without ever having met a Jew.

 

Sociologist Theodor W. Adorno wrote that for the antisemite of past and present, Jews are neither a minority nor a religious community. They are the "negative principle as such." In this explanation lies the core of its lethal nature. The Nazis believed firmly that the extermination of the Jews was a precondition to the world's well-being. The killer of Kansas City's JCC and the man who pulled the trigger in Brussel last Saturday (regardless of whether this perpetrator is also a neo-nazi, a right wing religious extremist or a Muslim fundamentalist) saw the Jews as the incarnation of evil and as the cause of their own, their country's and the world's misfortune.

 

The dogmatic aphorism in Julius Streicher's Nazi tabloid and these recent killings should serve as a reminder that the path that leads from antisemitic incitement to fatal antisemitic action is often short. There is no shortage of warning signs - the most recent one: far-right parties with strong antisemitic leanings making substantial gains in last Sunday's EU Parliament elections. Unfortunately, for the victims, warnings signs always come too late.  

 

Alejandro Baer
Breaking News

Alleged Nazi commander living in Minneapolis may face German prosecution

Source: AP

 

In June 2013, it was revealed after an investigation by the Associated Press that local Ukrainian immigrant and retired Minnesota carpenter, 95-year-old Michael Karkoc, allegedly served as a top commander of a Nazi SS-led unit accused of burning Polish villages and killing innocent civilians during WWII. Evidence surfaced that Karkoc entered the United States illegally in 1949 by concealing his role as an officer and founding member of the infamous Ukrainian Self Defense Legion.

 

Debate ensued regarding whether - almost 70 years after the events - justice could be served and, if so, where and delivered by whom? CHGS maintains its firm belief that not pursuing justice is a betrayal to the victims. The prosecution of Nazi criminals and their allies, regardless of their age, serves also as a valuable means by which to remind the world of the horrors of the Holocaust and to confront those who would deny or willingly forget the past.

 

This May, Germany's highest criminal court ruled that, even though Karkoc's alleged crimes were against non-Germans and not committed on German soil, his role in a SS-led office "served the purposes of the Nazi state's world view." This gives Germany legal jurisdiction over the matter and, as such, the case has been referred to Munich prosecutors who will examine the evidence again to determine whether to charge Karkoc and seek his extradition from the United States.

 

To see Director Alejandro Baer's comments on the ruling on KSTP channel 5, please click here. 

Announcements
Paula Sofia Cuellar announced as the 2014-2015 Bernard and Fern Badzin Graduate Fellow in Holocaust and Genocide Studies
 
The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Department of History are pleased to announce the Bernard and Fern Badzin Graduate Fellowship in Holocaust and Genocide Studies has been awarded to Paula Sofia Cuellar.
 
 
Cuellar's research project will focus on genocide of indigenous people in El Salvador and Paraguay in the twentieth century. She suggests that during the military dictatorships of General Maximiliano Hernández in El Salvador (1931 to 1944) and of General Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay (1954 to 1989), the genocide of indigenous people characterized national security policies in both countries.

Cuellar's academic education includes a LL.B. Degree from the Central American University "José Simeón Cańas" and includes a Master´s Degree in Human Rights and Education for Peace from the University of El Salvador and a LL.M. Degree in International Human Rights Law from Notre Dame. She also has a Postgraduate Diploma on Human Rights and Democratization´s Processes from the University of Chile and several diplomas on constitutional law and transitional justice courses. She is currently working towards a minor in Human Rights and an advanced degree in History at the University of Minnesota.

Wahutu Siguru the recipient of the Badzin Graduate Fellowship in 2013-2014 will receive a $9,000 fellowship extension for Spring semester of 2015 to continue his research. Siguru seeks to answer the questions about what frames and memories journalists (especially African journalists) rely upon when reporting about mass violence, specifically on Darfur. Siguru hopes to show how the way conflict situations are represented have consequences on how suffering and victimization are understood and what types of responses they will inspire in terms of possible interventions (humanitarian, legal or military). 
  
 
The Badzin Fellowship pays a living stipend of $18,000, and the cost of tuition, mandatory fees and health insurance. 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 is 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.
 
Articles

What is the Holocaust?

Why we need to get it right.

By Jodi Elowitz

Photo

 

Over the years I have asked educators to provide me with a definition of the Holocaust. Much to my surprise no matter what state I was in, whether it was Minnesota, Tennessee or California, I have heard several different answers. Numbers of dead ranged from 6 to 12 million and several victim groups were covered under the term.

 

A few weeks ago the Rialto School District in California had written and distributed an assignment to eighth graders asking them to debate whether the Holocaust was an actual event in history or a hoax perpetrated on the public to raise funds for Israel. They asked students to look at newspaper articles to form their answers. With the thousands upon thousands of primary source documents (mainly left by the perpetrators themselves) available, they thought opinion based articles were the best method towards the students forming their own ideas under the guise of increasing the students' critical thinking skills.

 

So how are these two events related? And why does it matter that we have only one definition of the Holocaust? We can debate whether the term "Holocaust" is the most fitting to describe the event, but there is no debate to what it signifies. Holocaust is the term that defines the destruction of the six million European Jews by the Nazi's and their collaborators between 1933-1945.

 

How we define the Holocaust is important to how we teach it. If we continue to add other groups to the equation, such as Homosexuals, Communists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Poles, the Handicapped and the Sinti-Roma (Gypsies), it takes away the fact that the Nazis and their collaborators specifically planned and attempted to carry out the complete destruction of European Jewry. This is not to say that these other groups did not suffer greatly, nor should they be forgotten in the study of the Third Reich, as their persecution is also important to our understanding of the Holocaust.

 

The Nazis came to the Final Solution by problem solving and perfecting persecution. The extermination camps profited greatly from the knowledge gained during the T4 program use of gas vans and shower rooms to murder the mentally and physically disabled. It should also be noted that the T4 program was discontinued due to public outcry, something that did not happen for the Jews.

 

Every decade we move further from the event, the more we water it down the further damage we do. Singly defining the Holocaust as an event that took place against Jews does not negate the Holocaust as an event that has universal implications.

 

Genocides are "any acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:." If everything is equal, and all victims of Nazism are included under the term Holocaust, then the historical specificity of the genocide of six million European Jews is blurred. This of course plays right into what Holocaust and genocide deniers want you to believe. That it did not happen the way it has been written, history is arbitrary and events can be debated on opinion rather than fact, just like in Rialto. This is why we need to get the definition right, for if we truly want to ignore what made the Holocaust unique then we not only dishonor the victims of that genocide but all others, doing a disservice not only to them but to ourselves. 
   

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.

Eye on Africa

The girls shall not be brought back by twitter...

By Wahutu Siguru

Source: Michelle Obama joins in the campaign with this picture on her Twitter account

 

As an African studying in this country, it often heartens me how much regular people in the U.S. generally care about issues on my home continent. From issues in South Sudan, to Central Africa Republic to Darfur and now Nigeria, there has always been heart-warming concern shown. It is for this reason that this month's post has been rather challenging to write as it seeks to interrogate some of the ways this concern has largely played out.

  

Over the past few weeks, we have been inundated with news about the missing girls in Nigeria. The girls, almost 300 of them, were abducted by a separatist group known as Boko Haram. The outpouring of emotions by people all around the world through social media was heart-warming but also raised several questions for me. Many, including politicians, begun a social media campaign on several platforms that sought to raise awareness of what was happening in Nigeria (#bringbackourgirls). What is perturbing about this sort of activism is the fact that it, like many campaigns of this nature before, it appeared to be a fad in which celebrities, media personalities and even politicians participated in. A fad that has now died down and left us with a sense of not knowing the complexities of the situation in Nigeria. Who was it meant for? Was it directed towards Boko Haram? If so, why would Boko Haram care about what you and I have to say on the Internet? Was it meant to alert foreign governments so that they would offer help to Nigeria to rescue the girls? Was it meant for you and I, to let us know of the situation in Nigeria?

 

To put my frustration into context I have to go back to 2012 when the Kony2012 video and the ensuing #StopKony social media campaign were started by Invisible Children. This campaign was heavily criticised not only by scholars but also by Ugandans in Uganda and Africans more generally who argued that it misrepresented the situation on the ground and failed to put the fight against Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony into its proper political context. Ugandans also lambasted the video and subsequent campaign as having exaggerated the extent of Kony's power and influence while ignoring the very real needs for health care services and the reintegration of former child soldiers into society and schools, as well as ignoring the politics that led to the formation of the LRA in Uganda. Invisible children blatantly represented the situation as one simply between good and evil.

 

This brings me to the #bringbackourgirls campaign. Nigeria is Africa's largest economy with a population of approximately 170 million. This year alone they spent $ 2.1 billion on their military and this was a reduction from last year. I say this to highlight that this is not some hapless backwater country in the middle of nowhere. Yet for some reason, Boko Haram was able to waltz into a school, burn it to the ground and kidnap young girls. What do we know about Boko Haram after the hue and cry? How is it that this rag tag group of belligerents were able to abduct these girls with this amount of military presence in the region? The truth is we don't know and the campaign never addressed these issues in any meaningful way, instead it focused on the simple message of asking that the girls be returned. Somehow we are meant to believe that a social media campaign will do the trick? It is this that frustrates me when looking at social media campaigns. 
 
Source: (AP Photo/ Gbemiga Olamikan) (Gbemiga Olamikan/AP)  
 
This is not unique to Nigeria either. As I have been talking about in this column, the same phenomenon has been playing out in Central Africa Republic and South Sudan as well. A recent psychology study finds that social media campaigns often raise moral outrage but not necessarily engagement by everyday citizens. Instead once people realise just how complex the situation is and that Africa, like the rest of the world, is complicated and messy they tend to lose interest in 'doing something.' This is not to say that there is no place for social media campaigns. It is a recognition that no amount of tweeting, retweeting, liking or reposting is going to bring back the missing girls. As we feel good about ourselves for being engaged citizens and 'doing something' Joseph Kony is still a free man, Central Africa Republic is still fighting, so too is South Sudan and the girls in Nigeria are still missing. The world is messy and there is no magic potion to solving its problems. Sometimes killing the monster will not solve the problem nor is the problem always solely the monster's responsibility.  
 

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. 
Featured Scholar

Daniel Schroeter awarded Ina Levine Invitational Scholar Fellowship 

 

 

 

One of the less known dimensions of the history of World War II was how Jews living under French colonial rule in North Africa were devastated by the fall of France and the establishment of the French collaborationist government of Vichy in 1940. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, DC has in recent years amassed a considerable archive related to the Jews of North Africa during the war and has encouraged scholars to research this subject.

 

In June 2010, Daniel Schroeter, the Amos S. Deinard Memorial Chair in Jewish History at the University of Minnesota, and a member of the CHGS Faculty Advisory Board, co-taught a research workshop at the USHMM and began studying their voluminous collection of documents. He will be returning to Washington, DC, having been awarded the Ina Levine Invitational Scholar Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the USHMM for the 2014-2015 academic year.

 

During Schroeter's residency at the USHMM, he will be conducting research for a book on the subject of Vichy and the Jews in the protectorate of Morocco. Jews under French colonial rule were legally classified as indigenous Moroccan subjects of the sultan, a ruler whose power was limited and controlled by the French administration. The anti-Jewish laws, instigated by the central Vichy government in France, and promulgated in Morocco by the French protectorate authorities as royal decrees signed by the sultan Mohammed Ben Youssef, revealed the racism and discrimination inherent in the colonial system and the ambivalent position of the Moroccan monarchy and the Muslim population towards the Jews.

 

Research conducted at the Center will focus on the legal, social, and economic impact of the Vichy regime on the Moroccan Jewish communities, the response of the Muslim leaders and population to the anti-Jewish measures implemented in different parts of the country, and the contested politics of remembrance of World War II in Morocco.

 

For more information on Daniel Schroeter, please click here.

Conferences

Genocide and its Aftermath:

Lessons from Rwanda

 

On April 16, 17 & 19, the Institute for Global Studies, the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Human Rights Program held a series of events to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 1994 genocide that took the lives of an estimated 500,000-1,000,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The events included a public conference, a student conference, and a K-16 teacher workshop.

 

The commemoration began with the public conference, Genocide and its Aftermath: Lessons from Rwanda, featuring an opening address by Taylor Krauss, founder of Voices of Rwanda, an organization dedicated to filming testimonies of Rwandans to ensure that their stories inform the world about genocide and inspire a global sense of responsibility to prevent human rights atrocities. Krauss theorized that the final stage of genocide is to eliminate its trace, erase its history, so that it is made complete. As such, Krauss has been working since 2006 to film the testimonies of survivors to remind us what aftermath really means. He shared excerpts of three of these testimonies, demonstrating survivors' essential need to remember. Krauss concluded his address stressing that listening is not a passive act, it demands a response, reminding the audience that many nations still harbor perpetrators of this horrific crime.

 

Opening Remarks - Taylor Krauss
Opening Remarks - Taylor Krauss

 

The first panel, Rwanda 1994 and its Representations, examined the failure of nation-states to intervene in Rwanda, the response of the human rights community, the use of commemoration to promote peaceful coexistence and the narrative on 'lessons learned' surrounding genocide today.

 

Panel 1: Rwanda 1994 and its Representations
Panel 1: Rwanda 1994 and its Representations

 

The second panel, Immediate Aftermaths: Justice, Redress and Memory, addressed the impact of the Rwandan genocide on developing international criminal law and defining what constitutes genocide. The role of memorials in changing social constructs, providing remembrance and giving hope to survivors was also analyzed.

 

Panel 2: Immediate Aftermaths: Justice, Redress and Memory
Panel 2: Immediate Aftermaths: Justice, Redress and Memory

 

The final panel, Long-term Implications: Impact, Prevention and Intervention, dealt with the implications of interventions, or non-interventions, into genocides, as well the effectiveness of resulting transitional justice mechanisms. The panel also provided a critical examination of the practice of tying intervention to the designation of genocide.

 

Panel 3: Long-term Implications: Impact, Prevention and Intervention
Panel 3: Long-term Implications: Impact, Prevention and Intervention

 

Finally, Adama Dieng, UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, delivered the evening keynote address. Dieng addressed the past failures to intervene in the crime of genocide, acknowledging that the United Nations and its member states have not been as effective as they could have been. He emphasized the need to build and support prevention and response institutions and to understand the price of inaction. "When powerful minds put their strength to justice...justice will prevail," affirmed Dieng. Furthermore, the failure to address past atrocity crimes, Dieng asserted, leads to a high risk of future crimes, adding that there should be no tension between peace and justice but that they are instead mutually reinforcing. 
 
Keynote Address:  Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide

Keynote Address: Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide

 

For more information on the public and student conferences, the K-12 Educator's Training, along with speaker biographies and other resources, please click here.
In Memoriam

Minnesota Holocaust Survivors Pass Away

 

This May, CHGS is sad to announce the loss of two friends, Margot De Wilde and Fred Baron.

 

Margot DeWilde

 

Margot De Wilde was born July 17, 1921, in Berlin, Germany.  Margot lived in Holland at the time of the Nazi occupation in the late spring of 1940. Margot worked in the underground by delivering false passports and identification cards to Jews to aid them in leaving Holland. Margot and her husband were arrested when attempting to escape using these underground papers via train to Switzerland. Both were sent to Auschwitz where Margot's husband later died.

 

Margot endured and survived the infamous Nazi medical experiments that were performed in Auschwitz under the supervision of Dr. Josef Mengele. She was transferred near the end of the war to Ravensbrück concentration camp and was liberated at a satellite camp near the demarcation line of the British and Russian troops. After the war Margot returned to Holland and was reunited with her mother, father and brother who had survived the war in hiding.

 

Margot immigrated to the United States in the 1960s and was an active speaker in the community for more than 30 years before retiring from public speaking in 2010. In 2009 Margot's story was published in the book Margot 47574: The Story of an Auschwitz Survivor.

 

Margot passed away at the age of 92 on May 1, 2014.

 

To read a tribute to Margot by CHGS Program Coordinator, Jodi Elowitz, please click here.

 

 

Fred Baron was born in Vienna in 1924. He was 15 when the German's annexed (Anschluss) Austria in 1938. Fred's father had died while his sister was sent to England as part of the Kindertransport in 1939. Meanwhile, he and his mother sought shelter and lived in hiding. In 1941 they managed to escape to Hungary. Fred was arrested in Hungary and imprisoned for a time while his mother was sent to an interment camp. In June 1944 he was deported to Auschwitz.

 

After time in various labor camps, he was liberated by the British Army at Bergen-Belsen; in terrible health he was taken to Sweden for medical care. At the hospital he met his future wife Judith, who was also a Holocaust survivor, and was reunited with his sister. He resettled in Minnesota in 1947, attracted to the large Swedish population.

 

With Judith he raised a family, started a successful business and was a great supporter of the community. He had a kind and gentle spirit and a very optimistic outlook on life. He spoke often about his experiences and generously supported Holocaust education.

 

Fred died at the age of 91 on May 23, 2014.

 

Both Fred and Margot will be sorely missed.
Book of the Month
Bringing the Dark Past to Light: The Reception of the Holocaust in Postcommunist Europe
 
 
 
By John-Paul Himka (Editor, Introduction), Joanna Beata Michlic (Editor, Introduction)                                              
792 pages
University of Nebraska Press (July 1, 2013)
 
Despite the Holocaust's profound impact on the history of Eastern Europe, the communist regimes successfully repressed public discourse about and memory of this tragedy. Since the collapse of communism in 1989, however, this has changed. Not only has a wealth of archival sources become available, but there have also been oral history projects and interviews recording the testimonies of eyewitnesses who experienced the Holocaust as children and young adults.
 
This volume of original essays explores the memory of the Holocaust and the Jewish past in postcommunist Eastern Europe. Devoting space to every postcommunist country, the essays in Bringing the Dark Past to Light explore how the memory of the "dark pasts" of Eastern European nations is being recollected and reworked. In addition, it examines how this memory shapes the collective identities and the social identity of ethnic and national minorities.
 
For more information, please click here
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In This Issue
From the Director
Breaking News
Badzin Fellowship
What is the Holocaust?
Eye on Africa
Featured Scholar
Lessons from Rwanda Conference
In Memoriam
Book of the Month
Community Events
May 30 opening of critically acclaimed Polish film Ida
Student Opportunities
Course offerings for Fall 2014
University Libraries
Holocaust and Genocide Studies Librarian
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