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2016 - 2017 Events

Holocaust and the Burden of History 

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October 5: The Power of One: The Holocaust in Bulgaria – with Aaron Cohen

Aaron Cohen

On March 1, 1941, Bulgaria officially joined the Axis powers. The stage seemed set for the deportation of the local Jewish community. Thanks to the intervention of King Boris who refused to give in to the pressure of his German allies, thousands of Jews miraculously survived. Among them was Aaron Cohen, born in Plovdiv in 1929. Despite the dramatic events unfolding around him, Aaron spent a relatively normal childhood and youth, going to public school and preparing for the Youth Aliyah. In the fall of 1944, several weeks after the Soviet entry into Bulgaria, he emigrated to Palestine where he helped found Kibbutz Urim in the Negev. Eight years later, he moved to the United States. In this presentation he shares his remarkable story of resilience in adversity and the power of one person to make a difference.

Link: The Power of One

November 2: Mr. Rakowski – an Original Documentary by Jan Diederen, with Richie Rakowski

Sponsored by Laurayne Ratner

Mr. Rakowski Movie Cover

Many stories of Holocaust survivors focus on the familiar pain, guilt, and shame suffered by survivors. This is not one of them. Mr. Rakowski, an original documentary by the Dutch film-maker Jan Diederen, deals with the troubled relationship of Polish-born Sam Rakowski (1916) who survived Auschwitz and his son Richie (1952), a successful businessman residing in New York State. Sensitively and beautifully shot, the film illuminates the devastating impact of the transgenerational transmission of trauma. Acting as a vigilant mediator, Diederen’s camera enables a painful process of communication between two wounded beings that promises hope and reconciliation. The film screening is followed by a panel discussion with Richie Rakowski and Robert Schneider, a refugee from Nazi-occupied Europe and the co-director of “Think only of Today: The Impact of the Holocaust on Three Generations” (2014).

January 18: Out of Oswiecim: A Family’s Odyssey – with William Rosenbaum

Jakob Enoch Rosenbaum and family

Before Auschwitz, there was Oswiecim, a small town in Southern Poland that was home to Jews since the mid-sixteenth century. One of them was Jakob Enoch Rosenbaum, born in 1925 and Bar Mitzvah’d in 1938. After the outbreak of the Second World War, the Enoch Rosenbaum family was moved to the Bedzin ghetto where they endured a life of grueling forced labor, material hardship, and daily cruelty. Through one of the ironies of history, Jakob eventually ended up in Auschwitz, a few miles from his old home. In this presentation Jakob’s son, Del Mar-based William Rosenbaum, examines the story of Oswiecim/Auschwitz through the prism of his family history and shares some of the challenges of being a second-generation survivor.

Link: Out of Oswiecim: A Family’s Odyssey

February 13: The Voice of Your Brother's Blood: The Murder of a Town in Eastern Galicia – with Omer Bartov

Omer Bartov

For centuries Poles, Ukrainians, and Jews lived side-by-side in the East Galician town of Buczacz. The German conquest of the region in 1941 transformed a site of co-existence into a site of genocide. By the time the Soviets liberated the town in 1944, the entire Jewish population had been murdered by the Nazis, with ample help from local Ukrainians, who then also ethnically cleansed the region of the Polish population. In this talk Omer Bartov explores the dynamics of this instance of horrifying communal violence, illuminates its reasons, and discusses its erasure from local memory. One of the world’s leading authorities on the subject of genocide, Bartov was born and raised in Israel and studied history at Tel Aviv University and St. Anthony’s College, Oxford. He is John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History and Professor of History and Professor of German Studies at Brown University and the recipient of many awards. His numerous path-breaking books include Hitler's Army: Soldiers, Nazis, and War in the Third Reich (Oxford Paperbacks, 1992); Murder in Our Midst: The Holocaust, Industrial Killing, and Representation and Mirrors of Destruction: War, Genocide, and Modern Identity (both by Oxford University Press); Germany's War and the Holocaust: Disputed Histories (Cornell University Press); and Erased: Vanishing Traces of Jewish Galicia in Present-Day Ukraine (Princeton University Press).

Link: The Voice of Your Brother's Blood

March 8: A Mother’s Last Wish: Stories from the Bloodlands – with Pam Zimbalist

Sponsored by Judi Gottschalk

Hanna Gendler Rom Young and daughter Pam Zimbalist

At the time of the German invasion of the Baltic in June 1941, about 220,000 Jews lived in Lithuania. By war’s end, a mere 10,000 had survived. The rest were brutally murdered. In her memoir My Mother’s Last Wish, Hanna Gendler Rom Young tells the story of her childhood in the Jewish sector of Kovno, her years in the ghetto, and her incarceration in KZ Stutthof where she witnessed her mother succumb to starvation. For many years after, she was unable to confront the enormous losses she had endured. With the help of her daughter Pam, Gendler was finally able to honor her mother’s dying wish and to complete her memoir. How does one pick up the pieces of a shattered life? What is the impact of trauma on subsequent generations? And how does the child of a survivor come to terms with the omnipresence of an excruciatingly painful past? “I love people and I treasure life,” Gendler writes at the close of her memoir, “but I will always feel broken.” In this talk Pam Zimbalist shares the history of her mother and discusses her own role in bearing witness.

April 12: Archiving Atrocity: The International Tracing Service and Holocaust Research – with Suzanne Brown-Fleming

Sponsored by Daniel and Phyllis Epstein

Suzanne Brown-Fleming

The International Tracing Service, one of the largest Holocaust-related archival repositories in the world, holds millions of documents that enrich our understanding of the many forms of persecution during the Nazi era and its continued repercussions ever since. In this lecture based on her recently published book Nazi Persecution and Postwar Repercussions: The International Tracing Service Archive and Holocaust Research (2016), Dr. Suzanne Brown-Fleming provides new insights into human decision-making in genocidal settings, the factors that drive it, and its far-reaching consequences. The sources that the author has collected and contextualized here reflect the full range of behaviors and roles that victims, their oppressors, beneficiaries, and postwar aid organizations played beginning in 1933, through World War II, the Holocaust, and up to the present. Brown-Fleming is director of the Visiting Scholar Programs of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the author of The Holocaust and Catholic Conscience: Cardinal Aloisius Muench and the Guilt Question in Germany.

Link: Archiving Atrocity

May 3: The Burden of History: A Round Table Discussion – with Tal Golan, Judi Gottschalk, and Gershon Shafir

In recent years, the experience of the so-called second generation has come under increasing scholarly scrutiny. What does it mean to be the child of parents who were persecuted and often singled out for extermination? In this round-table discussion moderated by Deborah Hertz, professor of history and Herman Wouk Chair of Modern Jewish Studies, children of Holocaust survivors talk about their experience with transgenerational trauma. Tal Golan (Israel), Judi Gottschalk (USA), and Gershon Shafir (Israel) explore their personal experience as second-generation survivors and offer insight into their views on how the Holocaust has affected them and their family.

Link: The Burden of History

June 7: The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler’s Men

Eric Lichtblau

Thousands of Nazis—from concentration camp guards to high-level officers in the Third Reich—came to the United States after World War II and quietly settled into new lives. While some of them gained entry as self-styled refugees, others enjoyed the help and protection of the CIA, the FBI, and the military who put them to work as spies, intelligence assets and leading scientists and engineers, whitewashing their histories. For the first time, once-secret government records and interviews tell the full story not only of the Nazi scientists brought to America, but of the German spies and con men who followed them and lived for decades as Americans entrenched in their communities. In his highly acclaimed book The Nazis Next Door (2014) the investigative reporter and Pulitzer-prizing winning author of Bush’s Law: The Remaking of American Justice (2009) Eric Lichtblau tells the shocking and shameful story of how America became a safe haven for Hitler’s men.

Link: The Nazis Next Door

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