Yom HaShoah and the Meanings in History

“If Herodotus is the father of history,” wrote renowned historian Yosef Yerushalmi (1932-2009), “the father of meaning in history was the Jews.”  The upcoming Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) on April 8th, will give, like every year, this quote its proper significance.

Throughout the liturgical year-cycle the Jewish tradition looks back at the events in the history of the people of Israel not with a particular historical curiosity. Rather, it asks what the events of the past mean for us today. How can the past illuminate our present?

We now know much about the Holocaust. The Shoah has generated more historical research than any other event in Jewish history. Preserving the record of the disaster was a major concern for the survivors and those with whom they shared their worlds. However, survivors also struggled, from the very beginning, to extract some meaning from the events they had lived through and to convey relevant lessons for Jews and non-Jews alike.

Yom HaShoah pays tribute to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. It serves, at the same time, as a powerful landmark in the calendar that highlights the ongoing problem of genocide and mass atrocities throughout the world.

This year at CHGS we will commemorate Yom HaShoah by engaging in a cutting edge scholarly symposium on “Representing Genocide.”  Leading thinkers in the field will try to respond to a fundamental and urgent question: When and how can memories of past mass atrocities, embodied in journalistic, judicial and scholarly representations, lead to effective anti-genocide policies? What is the impact of memory on unfolding events of mass violence?

CHGS is grateful for the support received from colleagues, departments, centers and community donors to put together this important symposium.

We look forward to meeting you on April 5th and/or 6th at the University of Minnesota.

Alejandro Baer is the Stephen Feinstein Chair and Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. He joined the University of Minnesota in 2012 and is an Associate Professor of Sociology. 

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