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2017 - 2018 Events

The Possibility of Renewal: The Shoah Between Past, Present, and Future

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October 11: Like Shadows Walking: Liberating Treblinka with the Red Army – with Jacob Sandbrand [Cancelled]


Kolomyia is a town in the "bloodlands," the part of Eastern Europe that suffered the worst socio-political turmoil in the late 1930s and 40s. When the Soviets invaded Eastern Poland in September 1939, Kolomyia fell into their hands. Almost overnight, Jews became Soviet citizens. Among them was Jacob Sandbrand. Barely sixteen, he was forced to enlist in the Red Army and to take part in the push westward. In the summer of 1944, he helped liberate Treblinka, a name that has come to epitomize the horrors of the Holocaust. In this talk, Sandbrand shares his experience in the Red Army and relates how he ended up in the United States.

November 15: Tales Retold: Holocaust Survivors on Schindler’s List – with Jeffrey Shandler

Sponsored by Daniel and Phyllis Epstein

Jeffrey Shandler

How are Holocaust survivors’ life stories informed by other narratives with which they are familiar? Among the thousands of interviews conducted by the Shoah Foundation Institute’s Visual History Archive between 1994 and 1999, there are several dozens in which survivors discuss the film Schindler’s List. These include Jews rescued by Oskar Schindler, some of whom were later involved in the making of Steven Spielberg’s popular feature of 1993.  In the course of relating their life histories, survivors mention the film both in regards to their own story of surviving the Holocaust and as they reflect on the differences between experience of the past and its narration. In the process, surprising connections between memory and popular culture emerge. Jeffrey Shandler is a professor in the department of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University and a leading authority on Jewish culture past and present. His works include the groundbreaking monograph While America Watches: Televising the Holocaust; Jews, God, and Videotape: Religion and Media in America; and, most recently, Holocaust Memory in the Digital Age: Survivors’ Stories and New Media Practices.  

January 17: The Holocaust Litigations: Defining Guilt, Extracting Reparations – with William Lerach

Sponsored by Philip and Gayle Tauber

William Lerach

Eliminationist antisemitism may have been the main reason behind the Nazis’ lethal assault on European Jews, but there was also a profit motive: for some, the Holocaust was an opportunity for economic exploitation. This is the story of a small band of American lawyers who, 50 years after the fact, exposed the widespread complicity of major Swiss banks and multi-national German corporations in the Holocaust. Among the lawyers involved in this long-overdue attempt at Wiedergutmachung was William Lerach, a leading securities lawyer in the U.S. In this lecture, Lerach discusses the litigations that recovered stolen property worth several billion dollars. Besides his involvement in some of the largest law suits in recent years, he has pursued numerous high-profile human rights litigations, including suits for laborers in Saipan’s garment factories, American WW II POWs forced to work in Japanese weapons factories, and victims of the Holocaust. A member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, Lerach is the recipient of the prestigious Legacy Laureate award from the University of Pittsburgh. Patrick Patterson, a professor of history at UC San Diego, will provide an introduction and comments.

Link: The Holocaust Litigations

February 7: Face to Face with Demjanjuk: The Elusive Quest for Closure – with Martin Haas

In 2009 San Diego resident Martin Haas participated as a co-plaintiff in the Bavarian Superior Court case against the Ukrainian-born Ivan Demjanjuk, a US citizen who had participated in the mass-extermination of European Jews during World War II. What does it mean to come face to face with a man who was involved in the murder of one’s family? Does a belated reckoning such as the Munich trial permit true closure? In this talk, Haas relates the tragic history of his family and shares his experience in court. Born into a Dutch-Jewish family, Martin spent World War II in hiding with a Catholic family. In 1946 he was adopted by a distant relative and emigrated to Israel where he would earn a degree in electrical engineering and serve three years in the Israeli Army. He subsequently studied biophysics at UC Berkeley and obtained his Ph.D. in biology. In 1981 Haas joined the UC San Diego faculty as professor of biology and oncology.

February 28: East West Street: On the Origins of “Genocide” and “Crimes Against Humanity” – with Philippe Sands

Sponsored by William and Michelle Lerach

Philippe Sands

Lviv, Lwów, Lvov, Lemberg: one city, four names, multiple destinies. At various points between 1911 and 1942 Lwów was home to Rafael Lemkin, the man who coined the term genocide; the Nazi leader Hans Frank; and Leon Buchholz, the grandfather of Philippe Sands. The city is at the heart of East West Street, Philippe Sands’ extraordinary story of champions of human rights and their adversaries. Philippe Sands is a professor of law and director of the Centre on International Courts and Tribunals at University College London, and a key member of staff in the Centre for Law and the Environment. He is a regular commentator on BBC and CNN and writes frequently for leading newspapers. In 2003 he was appointed Queen’s Counsel (QC). His many publications include Lawless World: America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules; Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values; Environmental Law, the Economy and Sustainable Development (with Richard Stewart and Richard Revesz); and most recently, City of Lions (with Jozef Wittlin), an homage to Lviv. Philippe is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards such as the Henry Rolin medal for contribution to international law, an honorary doctorate in law from the University of Lincoln, and the Baillie-Gifford Prize as well as the Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize for East West Street. He is prominently featured in My Nazi Legacy, a documentary released in 2015.

Link: East West Street

March 14: Not like Sheep to the Slaughter: Vengeance or Justice? – with Michael and Bonnie Bart

Group photo of European Jews

European Jews have long been accused of having passively submitted to Nazi persecution in the Second World War. This charge belies the existence of several resistance groups including the “Avengers” of Vilna. Based in the Lithuanian Rudnicki forest, the organization included Leizer and Zenia Bart, the parents of San Diego resident Michael Bart (former Chair of the Community Holocaust Commemoration in San Diego). In the award-winning memoir Until Our Last Breath: A Holocaust Story of Love and Partisan Resistance, which won the  prestigious Christopher Award of 2009, Michael recreated his parents’ remarkable experi ence. A decade later, his wife Bonnie completed the books’ visual companion piece, the eight-part documentary Nekamah Freedom Fighters. The film is based on several journeys to Lithuania, interviews with eye-witnesses, and extensive research in the Visual History Archive of the Shoah Foundation Institute. At this workshop, Michael and Bonnie relate how the double project came about and what this experience means to them. Their talk will be supplemented by an excerpt from the film. 

Link: Not like Sheep to the Slaughter

April 11: Rising from the Rubble: Creating POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews – with Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett

Sponsored by Laurayne Ratner

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett

Facing the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes on the site of the Warsaw ghetto and prewar Jewish neighborhood, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews completes the memorial complex. At the monument, visitors honor those who died by remembering their death. At the museum, their lives – and the lives of those who came before and after – are honored through remembrance. This lecture explores the creation of POLIN Museum and its multimedia narrative exhibition, a journey of a thousand years, and its potential to be an agent of transformation that can move an entire society forward. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett is Chief Curat or of the Core Exhibition at POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. She is University Professor Emerita and Professor Emerita of Performance Studies at New York University. Her books include Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage; Image before My Eyes: A Photographic History of Jewish Life in Poland, 1864–1939 (with Lucjan Dobroszycki); They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood in Poland Before the Holocaust (with Mayer Kirshenblatt), and Anne Frank Unbound: Media, Imagination, Memory (with Jeffrey Shandler). Kirshenblatt-Gimblett received an award for lifetime achievement by the Foundation for Jewish Culture, the Yosl Mlotek Prize for Yiddish and Yiddish Culture, honorary doctorates from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and the University of Haifa, and the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland from the President of Poland.

Link: Rising from the Rubble

May 30: Against all Odds: Born in Mauthausen – with Eva Clarke

Eva Clarke

What does it mean to be born in a concentration camp, arguably one of the most inhospitable places on earth? Eva Clarke was one of three “miracle babies” who saw the light of day in KZ Mauthausen in Austria. Nine days after her birth, the Second World War ended. As a newborn, Eva’s chances of survival were extremely slim. Against all odds, she lived, making her and her mother Anka the only survivors of their extended family. In 1948, they emigrated from Prague to the UK and settled in Cardiff. Nowadays, Eva regularly talks to audiences, and her remarkable story has been featured in the British and American media. She and her mother are among the protagonists of Wendy Holden’s book Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope (Harper, 2015).

Link: Against all Odds

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