What follows is a statement given by CHGS Outreach Coordinator, Demetrios Vital at the 2017 Twin Cities Jewish Community Yom HaShoah Commemoration, coordinated by the Jewish Community Relations Council, and hosted at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park.

Demetrios spoke as a son of a survivor on the process of transferring memory across generations. Following his statements, he read the text of his father’s testimony as published in the 25th anniversary edition of Witnesses to the Holocaust, a book containing the testimony of Minnesota Holocaust survivors and liberators produced by the JCRC. That text is included below.

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I am deeply honored to be here with you all tonight. Thank you for having me and my father here.

I am the youngest son of Victor Vital. I am one of three children along with Rachel Vital Davis and Joseph Vital, and stand generationally between Victor and three grandchildren.

Victor Vital survived the Holocaust.

I’m one of many here who are children of survivors, or have family who survived, or who didn’t, and indeed even if we’re not directly related to those who experienced the Holocaust, we might all find access to stories and truly feel the impact of this history.

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Gas Chamber installationIn March 2006, performance artist Santiago Serra constructed a homemade gas chamber inside a former synagogue in the Cologne area and invited Germans to be symbolically gassed. Exhaust pipes from six cars were hooked to the building, which was then filled with deadly carbon monoxide and visitors entered the space wearing protective masks. What was the artist’s intention? Serra said his aim was to give people a sense of the Holocaust. The Jewish community was furious. It was considered a provocation at the expense of Holocaust victims, an insult to survivors and the whole community. “What’s artistic about attaching poisonous car exhaust into a former synagogue?” said writer and Holocaust survivor Ralph Giordano (1923-2014), “and who gave permission for this?”

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The following is an open letter to the organizers of an African Trade Forum event, who have announced that Maowia Osman Khalid, Ambassador of Sudan to the US, will be on campus for a panel co-hosted by the Carlson School of Management.

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USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research has decided to endorse the initiative of a group of seven scholars from different Latin American countries to study Holocaust Survivors in Latin America as part of its Interdisciplinary Research Week. Not an alien in the context of terrorscapes and transitional justice, Latin America has been a space of contested narratives regarding mass violence.

In countries like Colombia, realities of forced displacement, illegal prosecution, and war narratives have been ongoing historically, which has been widely documented and studied. However, there is still much to be discovered, especially as these narratives coexist with narratives of survival from the Holocaust. In this regard, Latin America has been related to the Holocaust mostly as an important space for refuge after WWII.

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One of the many key moments that led me to love the United States and its people happened in 1986. I was at a gathering of international students in Palo Alto, most of them with a European background just like me. The mood was very much anti-American, not the least because Reagan had just tried to kill Gaddafi by bombing Tripoli. He had missed the target but managed to create a lot of angst that WW III was about to break out. Everybody in the room was lamenting the ignorance of the Americans and political naïveté of their leaders in the harshest terms. I felt bad for the only American student in the group who got an ear full of unabashed Eurocentrism. After all, he was representing the host country and we didn’t really behave like guests, or, for that matter, like visitors from countries that had benefited from US protection as long as anybody in the room could remember. After everybody had unloaded, he just said, “You are probably right, the US is a big country, a lot of Americans don’t travel and don’t really know what’s going on outside the country, and sometimes we mess up.” He was the only one in the room who talked calmly, without drama and with a healthy shot of self-confidence. Back then, most Americans I talked to shared my fellow student’s relaxed and self-reflective form of patriotism. Possibly, because the lessons of the Vietnam War were still on everybody’s mind and the Cold War had not been won yet.

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This year at the Sociological Research Institute, hosted by the Sociology Department at the University of Minnesota, the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies took home a few awards. Congratulations!

The Genocide Education Outreach (GEO) program was awarded the Public Sociology Award, an annual award to acknowledge the work of individuals reaching beyond their research to make change outside the university.  CHGS’s GEO program pairs graduate students based on area of expertise with community organizations in need of genocide education support in that area.

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From Left to Right: Brooke Chambers, Alejandro Baer, Wahutu Siguru, and Miray Philips

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This past week, the Basque town of Guernica recounted the sorrow and devastation inflicted 80 years ago. On that fateful late afternoon of April 26th 1937, German and Italian aircrafts, at the urging of their ally, General Franco and his right-wing Nationalists, unleashed their bombs on unsuspecting civilians.

Just nine months before, Franco had led a coup against Spain’s Republican government dragging the country into a civil war. The Nationalists eventually triumphed and Franco ruled Spain for the next 36 years.

For a long time, the word Guernica stirred powerful emotions among Spaniards and Europeans who witnessed the destruction wreaked by Fascism. It was a crime against humanity that shocked the world, and was later immortalized by Picasso’s famous expressionist mural. However, the 80th anniversary has received rather scant attention in the US. In my classes last week, I tried to explain to my students why Guernica should remain historically relevant to citizenry across the globe.

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It seems, indeed, that the far right party in France is leading. The National Front (abbreviated “FN” for Front National in French) could possibly win the election after having lost in 2002 to Jacques Chirac. This is due to the fact that, in the last 15 years, France has become more conservative and protectionist, intensified by issues such as the migrant crisis and several terrorist attacks on French soil.

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Marine Le Pen, FN Presidential Candidate

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Congratulations to Alejandro Baer, Natan Sznaider, Bruno Chaouat, Lisa Hilbink and Ofelia Ferrán for publishing new books! Below are short descriptions of each.

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Brieanna was born and raised in northern Minnesota, and received her B.A. in Sociology from Augsburg College in 2011. After completing her M.A. in Sociology from Queen’s Universi3_Brie.jpgty in Northern Ireland, she served in AmeriCorps as a Promise Fellow, taught sociology at a community college in Oregon, and was the Family Liaison at an Ojibwe culture and language school last year. With broad interests in mass violence, collective memory, and settler colonialism, she returned to Minneapolis to pursue her Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Minnesota.

Brieanna writes for the CHGS blog on topics and events related to both American Indians broadly, and the Dakota and Ojibwe specifically. She is currently involved in a team project with Alejandro Baer examining over a century of local and national newspaper articles and their representations of the Dakota War of 1862; a timely undertaking, given the push toward revitalizing Fort Snelling and decisions to remove controversial art at the State Capitol. In addition, she is working on a side project with two other graduate students titled, “Imagining a “Final Solution” to “Never Again”: Experiencing Empathy through Digital and Non-Digital Games”.