“We should try to keep them out”?

unnamedThe Twitter account @HistOpinion recently reminded us of the prevailing opinion on raising the immigrant quota for refugees who were fleeing Nazi Germany. Two-thirds of the respondents polled by Gallup’s American Institute of Public Opinion in July 1938 agreed with the proposition that “with conditions as they are we should try to keep them out.”

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Impressions after a semester of History of the Holocaust and a visit by Holocaust survivor IRENE BERMAN

My name is Joshkin Sezer. I am a history major who is starting his third year at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. In the Spring Semester of 2015, I enrolled in History of the Holocaust, instructed by Adam Blackler. Near the end of the semester, we got the chance to hear a talk from a Holocaust survivor, Irene Berman. She had just published a book detailing her experience as a child in Norway during the Holocaust and how her family managed to survive.

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Book of the Month: A Good Place to Hide: How One French Village Saved Thousands of Lives During World War II

A Good Place to Hide: How One French Village Saved Thousands of Lives During World War II

By Peter Grose

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A Good Place to Hide is the story of an isolated community in south-central France, Le Chambon, that conspired to save the lives of 3,500 Jews under the noses of the Germans and the soldiers of Vichy France. It is the story of a pacifist Protestant pastor who broke laws and defied orders to protect the lives of total strangers. Powerful and richly told, the book speaks to the courage of ordinary people who offered sanctuary, kindness, solidarity and hospitality to people in desperate need, knowing full well the consequences to themselves.

Congratulations to Yagmur Karakaya, Badzin Fellow for the 2015-2016 Academic Year

The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Department of History are pleased to announce the 2015-2016 Bernard and Fern Badzin Fellow in Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

c8e9469d-ec05-47ef-a3c4-e213f785d467Yagmur Karakaya is a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Minnesota. She is interested in collective memory, popular culture and narratives of history. Yagmur is currently working on her dissertation project on Ottomania, which focuses on contemporary interest in the Ottoman past in Turkey. She is interested in how different groups of minorities engage with the ways in which Ottoman past is recalled and how they situate themselves in this narrative. During her Badzin Graduate Fellowship year, she will focus on the commemoration of the Holocaust in Turkey, and the relative silence on the Armenian genocide situating both of these phenomena in the current political interest in the Ottoman past. This project will engage with current debates regarding memorialization and denial in the field of Holocaust and genocide studies within the context of Turkey. She will be focusing on two major non-Muslim minorities in Turkey: the Jewish and Armenian population, conducting interviews with the members.

Book of the Month: Holocaust Archaeologies: Approaches and Future Directions

Holocaust Archaeologies: Approaches and Future Directions

Caroline Sturdy Colls

83ad12b8-2014-4c34-ae74-f0d25a3b6358Holocaust Archaeologies: Approaches and Future Directions aims to move archaeological research concerning the Holocaust forward through a discussion of the variety of the political, social, ethical and religious issues that surround investigations of this period and by considering how to address them. It considers the various reasons why archaeological investigations may take place and what issues will be brought to bear when fieldwork is suggested. It presents an interdisciplinary methodology in order to demonstrate how archaeology can (uniquely) contribute to the history of this period. Case examples are used throughout the book in order to contextualize prevalent themes and a variety of geographically and typologically diverse sites throughout Europe are discussed. This book challenges many of the widely held perceptions concerning the Holocaust, including the idea that it was solely an Eastern European phenomena centered on Auschwitz and the belief that other sites connected to it were largely destroyed or are well-known. The typologically, temporally and spatial diverse body of physical evidence pertaining to this period is presented and future possibilities for investigation of it are discussed. Finally, the volume concludes by discussing issues relating to the “re-presentation” of the Holocaust and the impact of this on commemoration, heritage management and education. This discussion is a timely one as we enter an age without survivors and questions are raised about how to educate future generations about these events in their absence.

Remembering Kristallnacht: It starts with apathy

The following commentary appeared in a November 9, 2012 op-ed story in the Star Tribune. It can be found here

Yesterday and today mark the 74th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s state-instigated pogroms known as Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), a turning point in Hitler’s anti-Jewish policy. For most scholars, it marks the beginning of the period we now define as the Holocaust.

imagesNazi militants destroyed thousands of stores and Jewish homes, desecrated cemeteries and burned down hundreds of synagogues. German Jewish citizens were arrested, systematically humiliated and abused in public in every city, town and village of Germany and in the recently annexed Austria. The majority of German citizens were bystanders to the pogrom and did not try to prevent the vandalism and destruction.

The events of Kristallnacht teach a valuable lesson. They show that a modern society can become numbed to the fate of its minorities. Since Hitler’s rise to power in March 1933, Jews had been classified and categorized as “others.” They were demonized, legally discriminated against and spatially segregated. Non-Jewish Germans were increasingly convinced that the treatment of Jews was justified and did not concern them.

Already in April 1935, the Berlin rabbi Joachim Prinz wrote in the German Jewish weekly newspaper Jüdische Rundschau: “It is outside that the ghetto exists for us. In the markets, in the streets, in restaurants. The ghetto exists in every place. It has a sign. That sign is: no neighbors.”

A “successful” Kristallnacht was the precondition for Auschwitz. Subsequent anti-Jewish measures such as physical ghettoization and deportation to the forced labor and extermination camps in the East became possible. Response or resistance from within was no longer to be expected.

 Ethnic cleansing and genocide can happen when a community of mutual acceptance has been destroyed. It requires only a systematic program of detachment and distantiation, a process that sociologist Zygmunt Bauman has defined as the “social production of indifference.” Killing is only the last step.

Kristallnacht stands out as a warning of this lethal historical sequence, which always already lingers in an early seed called indifference.

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.