Thursday, March 21st, 2024


Please join us for a one-day academic workshop convening scholars and practitioners from around the world on the topic of Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh. The workshop is not public, but we are extending an invitation to any University of Minnesota faculty and graduate students who would like to join us and listen to any sessions. Please see the full workshop program, speaker bios, and abstracts below, and register here for any sessions you would like to attend. In addition, please join us for the public keynote lecture at 6pm on Thursday evening, delivered by Scout Tufankjian, an Armenian-American photographer who has multiple photo essays on Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh. Click here to learn more and register for the public keynote event.

Please contact Nikoleta Sremac with any questions, at

Organized by the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Presented with the Human Rights Center, Human Rights Program, History Department, Department of Political Science, Arsham and Charlotte Ohanessian Chair, and the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR).

Workshop Program

Thursday March 21st, 2024

Social Sciences Building Room 710

8:30-8:50 a.m.Breakfast and Registration
8.50-9.00 a.m.Workshop Opening and Welcome 

Mr. Joe Eggers
Interim Director, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota, USA

Professor Melanie O’Brien
Visiting Professor, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota; President, International Association of Genocide Scholars
9:00-10:30 a.m.Workshop Session 1 

Dr. Suren Manukyan
Head of Department of Comparative Genocide Studies, Armenian Genocide Museum and Institute, Armenia
“Preparing for Genocide: Anti-Armenian Narratives in Azerbaijani Education”

Professor Arman Tatoyan
Professor and Chair of the Human Rights and Social Justice Program, American University of Armenia, Armenia
“Human Rights Protection of People Forcibly Displaced from Nagorno Karabakh”
10:30-11:00 a.m.Coffee Break
11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.Workshop Session 2

Professor Armen T. Marsoobian
Professor of Philosophy, Affiliated Faculty in Human Rights, Southern Connecticut State University/University of Connecticut, USA
“The Azerbaijani-Turkic Erasure of the Indigenous Armenians of the Caucasus: Historical Origins and Denialist Consequences”

Dr. Artyom Tonoyan
Visiting Professor, Hamline University, USA
“Dispatches from a Burning Paradise: The Soviet and Russian Media on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict”
12:30-1:30 p.m.Lunch [Social Sciences Building 715]
1:30-3:00 p.mWorkshop Session 3

Professor Henry Theriault
Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Worcester State University, USA; Founding Co-Editor Genocide Studies International
“Group Structures and Self-Determination in the Face of Elimination”

Ms. Sheila Paylan
Senior Legal Advisor, Center for Truth and Justice, Armenia
“Recognizing the End of Nagorno-Karabakh Legitimizes Azerbaijan’s Criminal Means of Achieving It”
3.00-3.30 p.m.Coffee Break
3:30-5:00 p.m.Workshop Session 4

Dr. Elisenda Calvet Martinez
Associate Professor of International Law, University of Barcelona, Spain
“Transitional Justice in the Context of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict”

Professor Melanie O’Brien
Visiting Professor, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota, USA; President, International Association of Genocide Scholars
“International Criminal Accountability for crimes in Nagorno-Karabakh”
6.00-7.30 p.m.Keynote Lecture [St. Sahag Armenian Church]

Scout Tufankjian
Photographer, USA
“Artsakh: Once There Was and Was Not”


Conference Committee

Melanie O’Brien

Visiting Professor, Center of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota, (MN, USA)

Nikoleta Sremac

PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, University of Minnesota (MN, USA)

Joe Eggers

Interim Director of the Center of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota, (MN, USA)

Keynote Abstract

Scout Tufankjian, “Artsakh: Once There Was and Was Not”

Scout Tufankjian will speak about Artsakh and her people – before, during, and after the ethnic cleansing by the Azerbaijani government, and what is being done (and what still needs to be done) to support them, preserve their culture, and continue to fight for their rights.

Scout Tufankjian is an Armenian-American photographer based in New York City, best known for her work documenting both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns – including her 2008 NYT and LA Times bestselling book Yes We Can: Barack Obama’s History-Making Presidential Campaign. Her second book, There is Only the Earth, was the culmination of six years documenting Armenian communities in over 20 different countries. More recently, she has served as a temporary acting director of Committee to Protect Journalists’ Emergency Response Team and the Senior Afghanistan Consultant for Too Young to Wed. She has taught photography in Yerevan and Stepanakert, and continues to work as a freelance photographer and as a consultant for both RISC Training. She is currently working as the documentary photographer for One Nation/One Project, and on a new project with composer Mary Kouyoumdjian at the New York Philharmonic about the crisis in Artsakh. More of her work can be seen at

Abstracts and Biographies (in order of participation)

Suren Manukyan, “Preparing for Genocide: Anti-Armenian Narratives in Azerbaijani Education”

School education serves as a key component of state propaganda in Azerbaijan, shaping a unified narrative since the 1990s. Azerbaijani educational systems have systematically propagated distorted narratives demonizing Armenians, fostering hostility and ethnic animosity. Through textbooks, curricula, and state-sponsored propaganda, Armenian culture, history, and identity are marginalized, perpetuating stereotypes and prejudice. Armenians are dehumanized and depicted as perpetual enemies, fostering a climate of fear and aggression. This indoctrination has fueled the conflict in Artsakh, culminating in genocide of the Armenian population. This presentation will analyze Azerbaijani textbooks and educational activities, examining the propaganda disseminated among students and creation of genocidal society in Azerbaijan.

Dr. Suren Manukyan is the Head of the Vahakn Dadrian Department of Comparative Genocide Studies at the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute and holds the UNESCO Chair on Prevention of Genocide and Other Atrocity Crimes at Yerevan State University. He also teaches at the American University of Armenia. He was a Fulbright Scholar at the Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights at Rutgers University of New Jersey (2012-2013) and Kazan Visiting Fellow at California State University, Fresno (2021-22). Dr. Manukyan has extensive experience with the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS). His research deals with genocidal violence and perpetrators, focusing mainly on micro-level dynamics and the historiography of genocide. Dr Manukyan’s most recent publication is ‘The Historiography of the Armenian Genocide’, in The Handbook of Genocide Studies (Edward Elgar, 2023).

Arman Tatoyan, “Human Rights Protection of People Forcibly Displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh”

Human rights protection in (post) conflict zones is a widely recognized and challenging mission. Individuals in these areas face significant obstacles in the protection of their rights and often endure suffering due to political, economic, and other factors. The Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh, numbering over 150,000 people, has faced particularly severe challenges living amidst the hostility and discriminatory policies of Azerbaijani authorities, leading to isolation, mental anguish, torture, and other forms of mistreatment. This animosity persists and serves as a source of political leverage for Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani government has waged multiple violent conflicts against Nagorno-Karabakh with the ultimate goal of displacing (exterminating) the Armenian population. They imposed a 10-month blockade on Nagorno-Karabakh and eventually resorted to aggressive military attacks to compel people to flee their homeland. The central issue now is how to safeguard the human rights of these individuals (right to return, etc.) and ensure that universal human rights values are upheld in such dire circumstances.

Dr. Arman Tatoyan is a Professor and Chair of the Master of Arts in Human Rights and Social Justice Program at the American University of Armenia College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Dr. Tatoyan was the Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman) of Armenia and a member of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT); and has served as a Deputy Minister of Justice of Armenia and a Deputy Representative (Deputy Agent) of Armenia before the European Court of Human Rights. He was a member of the International review team under the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). Dr. Tatoyan is a licensed advocate and international expert of the Council of Europe in Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) countries. Dr. Tatoyan has extensive professional experience in the Constitutional Court and the Cassation Court of Armenia, as well as in civil society and international organizations (UN, OSCE, USAID, etc.).

Armen Marsoobian, “The Azerbaijani-Turkic Erasure of the Indigenous Armenians of the Caucasus: Historical Origins and Denialist Consequences”

The origins of the continuing destruction of the Armenian presence in the South Caucasus finds its historical origins in the beginning of the twentieth century and cannot be divorced from the nationalist ideology of Pan-Turkism. This ideological project reached its most violent apogee in the 1915-1923 Armenian Genocide but did not end there. The century long campaign of genocide denial by successive Turkish governments has fueled the revisionist historical narrative that pervades the Azerbaijani genocidal project of the Aliyev regime. This has culminated in the erasure of the indigenous Armenians of Artsakh, a region of immense historical importance for Armenian civilization.

Armen T. Marsoobian is Professor of Philosophy, Southern Connecticut State University, affiliated faculty, Human Rights Institute, University of Connecticut, Senior Research Scholar, Department of Middle East, South Asian, and African Studies, Columbia University, and Editor-in-Chief, Metaphilosophy. He served as First Vice President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars and publishes on topics in genocide studies, human rights, moral philosophy. He co-edited and authored eleven books, including Genocide’s Aftermath: Responsibility and Repair, Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Genocide and Memory, and Fragments of a Lost Homeland: Remembering Armenia. He organized exhibitions of his family’s photography archive in Turkey, Armenia, Great Britain, United States, and Greece.

Artyom Tonoyan, “Dispatches from a Burning Paradise: The Soviet and Russian Media on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict”

In his much celebrated book, The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know About Itself, that traces the development of the European news market in the Early Modern period, British historian Andrew Pettegree makes the observation that “[by] the time of the French and American revolutions at the end of the eighteenth century, news publications were not only providing a day by day account of unfolding events, they could be seen to play an influential role in shaping them”. This “events-shaping-news-shaping-events” palindromic paradigm has continued ever since, albeit the width and the depth of this dialectical interplay is in many ways dependent on the dominating political system within which events grow to become both news and newsworthy. Taking Petegree’s observation as a point of departure, the presentation seeks to unpack the coverage of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the Soviet and Russian press while underscoring the powerful role of the media in shaping the perceptions and the dynamics of the conflict, while being shaped by them.

A native of Gyumri, Armenia, Dr. Artyom Tonoyan is a sociologist and Visiting Professor of Global Studies at Hamline University, in St. Paul, Minnesota. His research interests include sociology of religion, religion and politics in the South Caucasus, and religion and nationalism in post-Soviet Russia. His articles have appeared in Demokratizatsiva: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, Society, and Modern Greek Studies Yearbook, among others. He has been a frequent guest on the BBC, Deutsche Welle, France 24, and other outlets. He is the editor of the recently published volume Black Garden Aflame: The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict in the Soviet and Russian Press.

Henry Theriault, “Group Structures and Self-Determination in the Face of Elimination”

A central issue raised by the destruction of the Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and the violent dispersion of its population over the 1988-2023 period is the right of political self-determination for groups not already in possession of a state. Much attention has been given to legal analyses of whether Artsakh Armenians had and/or have that right. While an important avenue of investigation, it leaves open the question of whether relevant law is itself just, that is, whether Armenians should have that right and law should reflect this ethical imperative. An ethics-based approach to political self-determination that includes territorial statehood turns on three key issues.  First, what if members of other groups also live in the territory that is claimed?  Second, is a “rights”-based framework actually appropriate to this issue? Finally, under what conditions can a non-state group without a recognized government be considered to have a unified political will that can legitimately express a claim of political self-determination on behalf of the group? This presentation will address each of these issues through an oppression-focused framework, which holds that threats to the continuity of a group – including existential threats – must be taken into account in assessing the validity of self-determination claims by that group.

Henry Theriault is Associate VP for Academic Affairs at Worcester State University, after teaching in its Philosophy Department 1998-2017. Specializing in Continental as well as Political Philosophy, Theriault researches denial, prevention, victim-perpetrator relations, reparations, and mass violence against women and girls. He has lectured around the world and published numerous journal articles and chapters. He is lead author of the Armenian Genocide Reparations Study Group’s 2015 Resolution with Justice and, with Samuel Totten, co-author of The United Nations Genocide Convention: An Introduction. Theriault served two terms as IAGS President, 2017-21. He is founding co-editor of Genocide Studies International.

Sheila Paylan, Recognizing the End of Nagorno-Karabakh Legitimizes Azerbaijan’s Criminal Means of Achieving It”

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which started on 20 February 1988 is now said to have “ended” on 1 January 2024, on which day the de facto Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh is considered to have ceased to exist. There are serious problems with accepting such a conclusion, particularly given the illegitimate means that Azerbaijan used, especially over the last three years, to achieve that purported “end”. This presentation will shed light on the dissonance which arises from accepting the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as “ended” or “over” without further ado. It will explain the danger in accepting that the conflict has been resolved in the way that it has and that the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic no longer exists.

Sheila Paylan is an international criminal lawyer, war crimes investigator, human rights and gender expert. She spent more than 15 years advising judges and senior officials of various UN-backed international criminal tribunals, including for Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. From 2019 to 2021, she was appointed by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to a Team of International Experts to help investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Based in Yerevan, she regularly consults for a variety of international organizations, NGOs, think tanks, and governments. She is currently Senior Legal Advisor to the Center for Truth and Justice, where she provides expert advice on strategies to seek justice and accountability for such violations, particularly before the International Criminal Court.

Elisenda Calvet Martinez, Transitional Justice in the Context of the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict”

After Azerbaijan’s takeover of Karabakh in September 2023, around 100,000 Karabakh Armenians have fled their homes and sought refuge in Armenia. Azerbaijan has said that it will treat the remaining Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh just like any other minority population, but fears of ethnic cleansing of ethnic Armenians in the region remains. As the tension in the region seems far from over, it is important to keep documenting the human rights violations not only for accountability purposes, but also to know the truth of what happened and help determine the type and form of reparations. The inclusion of transitional justice issues in the context of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict is important as it represents the commitment of the parties to the armed conflict to promptly address the atrocities that have occurred and places the victims and survivors at the centre. The establishment of mechanisms of truth, including the search of missing persons and fact-finding processes, justice, accountability, return of prisoners of war and displaced persons from the conflict, and reparation of victims are essential and need to be done with the support of the international community.

Dr. Elisenda Calvet Martínez is Associate Professor of International Law, co-director of the Legal Clinic for the Fight against Impunity and deputy Vice Dean of Research and International Relations of the Faculty of Law at the University of Barcelona (Spain). She has worked for the Spanish Red Cross, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. Her main lines of research are transitional justice, enforced disappearances and genocide. She is a member of the Executive Board of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS).

Melanie O’Brien, “International Criminal Accountability for crimes in Nagorno-Karabakh”

Conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region has resulted in allegations of a range of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide crimes. This paper discusses some of the alleged international crimes committed in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, focusing on the arguments for the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh qualifying as the genocide crime of ‘inflicting conditions of life designed to bring out physical destruction’ of the Armenian people; and the September 2023 ethnic cleansing of Nagorno-Karabakh as the crime against humanity of deportation. It explores options for accountability for such crimes, noting that the international community has had little interest in ensuring accountability for crimes committed during this conflict, despite ‘justice’ being one of the main concepts of transitional justice. The paper will address the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction in this particular situation, and offer critique as to potential jurisdictional fora and legal solutions, with some suggestions for specific options for accountability and justice for any international crimes committed during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Dr Melanie O’Brien is Visiting Professor at the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota, and President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS). Her work has been cited by the International Criminal Court; she has appeared before the ICC as an amica curia and been an expert consultant for several UN bodies. Recent achievements include a 10-year service medal from the Australian Red Cross & a Research Fellowship at the Sydney Jewish Museum. Dr O’Brien’s usual role is Associate Professor of International Law at the University of Western Australia; her most recent book is From Discrimination to Death: Genocide Process through a Human Rights Lens.

On January 31st, 2024, Professor John Packer delivered the Center’s annual Holocaust Remembrance Day Lecture, titled “Remembering, Learning, and Applying ‘Never Again’ as the Essential Lesson of the Holocaust.” In this interview, Professor Packer discusses the UN’s human rights and genocide prevention approach, the role of NGOs in peace mediation, and preliminary measures in the context of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)’s South Africa v. Israel case.

John Packer is the Neuberger-Jesin Professor of International Conflict Resolution, Faculty of Law, and Director of the Human Rights Research and Education Centre at the University of Ottawa. Before taking up his position at the University of Ottawa in 2014, John was the Constitutions and Process Design Expert for the UN’s Standby Team of Mediation Experts, advising in numerous peace processes and political transitions around the world, focusing on conflict prevention and resolution, diversity management, constitutional and legal reform, and the protection of human rights including minorities. In a 30-year career, John has contributed to peace processes in over fifty countries and has advised numerous inter-governmental organizations, governments, communities, and other actors.

In your talk yesterday, you spoke about how when you started working at the UN, there was a lack of a mechanism or institution for dealing with human rights issues. Why did it take so long for the UN to adopt a more formal human rights approach?

My impression is that the line of globalization has intensified in a sharp curve up and specifically in my lifetime. Historically, we were hindered by natural frontiers. There aren’t many natural frontiers anymore. We can now communicate across oceans in real-time. Social organizations are bumping up against this integration and these organizations are less and less suitable for it. This is heavily influenced by the preoccupation of those within each state with their own competitive position. Rather than cooperative, the competitive element is predominant. That explains the opposition of states to the deep cooperative operation that is imperative for things like climate change. It is inescapable. 

The same for human rights. Human rights are not as simple as trade, which is transactional. Trade is conceptually easier and much more compelling. We can do a quick calculation and determine if it is a win-win scenario. Human rights involve much more complicated aspects of the human condition: social belonging, cultural attributes, and sentiments. Human rights are not easily tradable. There are certain things I cannot negotiate on with you. If I am a believer in Islam and I will not trade that with you, where do we go from there? Finding a way forward together becomes more complex and has implications for other elements we are trying to protect, like our economic well-being and so forth. It is not surprising that politicians and diplomats will try to stop more integration as a risk reduction and aversion policy.

I’d like to ask specifically about the institutions that work to stop genocide. You mentioned in your talk that the position of Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide is finally in existence, but that you are disappointed by the current Advisor. Could you elaborate? What is being done wrong?

The good thing is that they exist so they can therefore be activated. We have had more than a hundred years with an institution that can adjudicate international disputes. And the Genocide Convention has a special provision. States have agreed that if they do have a dispute, it will go to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). This means that the chances of implementing a non-violent dispute resolution, and potentially in time [to prevent genocide] is not just an imagined idea but concretely a possibility. That is a different thing than using it, however. 

Unfortunately, until about five years ago, there had only really been three references to the Genocide Convention in the ICJ. It had hardly been used, and that was not because there were no genocides. States were hesitant to contest things with other states and had fears of reciprocal problematic aspects. So it is fascinating that there are now a handful of cases, because we actually have many more cases than are being investigated. Tigray we could talk about, and many other cases. With the way the law works in general, we need the mechanisms to exist and be accepted. But a real key point is the habituation of it. Why do you stop at a stop sign when you drive a car? It’s not because you are worried about getting a penalty. You really stop because you are just used to doing it and you have a major self-interest in doing it. We are creating a global system. The law of international cooperation is evolving.

It is very important to develop confidence in these institutions so that those who do use them do so in a very able and effective way. I helped establish the Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. The idea was to have some mechanism that could help states be proactive and early in addressing situations with the prospect of genocide. This requires that they use these mechanisms. I find it shocking that the current Special Adviser on Prevention has said little about China and has been silent so far on what is going on in Israel-Palestine. How is it that the dedicated mechanism is silent? If you create a mechanism which is supposed to build confidence, and that mechanism is AWOL at the time of need, that does the opposite of inspiring confidence. These institutions are still pretty fragile. There is an extra weight of responsibility on people in those positions and institutions, and they really must carry that responsibility proactively. 

You mention proactivity and timeliness.  The ICJ has just released preliminary measures and Israel is accused of genocide and a final ruling will take years. Are strategies to avoid human rights violations effective and timely enough?

The provisional measure makes more impact than an ultimate decision. An ultimate decision is by definition ex post facto. So we will have a historical record and point the finger of blame. And what will be very important at that point if there is a finding of a breach of the Genocide Convention is there would be a turn to the question of reparations. But what does it mean to repair? We are talking about things that are by definition irreparable. In this kind of atrocity, you don’t want to get to the commission stage; you want to stop them from happening. The premium was on prevention or at least stopping worse from continuing to happen. We know that the immediate people will be destroyed. Those who are sympathetic will be emboldened to work on their own and will say that international institutions aren’t worth a penny and will find their own means. That is a recipe for war and long war and nasty war. 

I am still favorable towards all of this. The provisional measures have been ordered and rely on the parties to fulfill them. To oversee this brings us to implementation mechanisms and ultimately enforcement. In international law, the Court doesn’t have a sergeant of arms or a police force, so it goes to the [UN] Security Council. That will probably not be effective either, and then it will come back to states. What will be very interesting is what states will do and will be permitted to do in fulfilling the judgment of the Court. And that is a potential Pandora’s box. Because if we have states that are divided willy-nilly in taking steps, the problem could be exacerbated, not reduced. 

I know that you are on the board of numerous NGOs, including Human Rights Watch. Could you briefly explain the importance of the role of NGOs in the peace process and in addressing human rights violations? How do they fit in with the UN and other state-based organizations in the peace process? 

The role of NGOs has grown. There is something called the mediation support network of nongovernmental organizations that specialize in this work. There is a lot of work done in what we call Track 2 and Track 3— so not official mediative processes, but non-official people with influence in society at a local level. For sustainable peace, we need these things to link up. Not only official structures, good law, leadership, and so forth, but you need the people on a local level to live together. NGOs have more latitude, flexibility, often more ingenuity, and more appetite for risk. There are problems for NGOs, however. Problems with funding, recognition, and other things. My basic sense is that the world is facing so many problems that, why should we be against anyone who wants to help? I think it is good to have and I want us to have a more robust NGO system. It is irrepressible. People want solutions and are organizing. I am privileged and honored to sit on some of their boards. 

**Editor’s note: This interview excerpt has been edited for clarity and brevity. Find the complete interview here.

Abby Zumbrunnen is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota, majoring in Political Science and Biology, Society, and Environment.

Ryken Farr is a second-year Honors undergraduate at the University of Minnesota. He’s pursuing a History B.A. with a concentration in Holocaust history and is the recipient of the Leo and Lillian Gross Scholarship in Jewish Studies. In addition, Ryken is a student worker with the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

Ryken chose to focus his academics around Holocaust history because it was a topic that he had a prior interest in but was not being taught about extensively in the classroom. Having been at the University for almost two years, he says it’s been enriching to learn more about the history of the Holocaust in the classroom, through his own research, and work like the CHGS’s.

Ryken’s research project focuses on nuanced consequences of the propaganda and advertising distributed by Zionist organizations and US-based fundraising groups targeting Jewish displaced persons after the Second World War. In his research, he explores how Jewish displaced persons, often Holocaust survivors, were treated in these campaigns meant to help them and what other consequences may have arisen from choices these organizations made. Last summer, Ryken traveled to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York City, NY, for on-site archival research with support from the Office for Undergraduate Research and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Moving forward, he hopes to use this initial research as a starting point for other research projects with the OUR, research abroad in Germany, and work for his Honors Thesis, to be completed during his senior year.

Working with CHGS has been very beneficial for Ryken: He’s been able to work on various projects related to the history of genocide and mass violence, which in turn have been great companions to my classroom study of the Holocaust. He’s appreciated the opportunity to learn more about other examples of genocide in history, as well. Working with CHGS has given Ryken the ability to connect with other scholars in the field, the Center’s faculty, and graduate students, which are great relationships to have as he continues to pursue a career in this field.

After Russia’s full-scale attack on Ukraine in 2022, one of the most common associations that Russians will evoke in both Ukrainians and in many peoples all over the world will not be Dostoevsky, ballet, or caviar, but rather genocide. 

Although Putin’s occupation forces commit many crimes, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, genocidal actions against Ukrainians are increasingly being discussed. 

Here I reflect on whether it is possible to talk about genocide now and how Russian actions differ from genocides in the past. Based on a careful analysis of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention), determine two possible types of genocide and justify which of them is used by Russia as a tool of imperial assimilation policy.

The ‘Cemetery’ of shells that Russia used to attack the city of Kharkiv, Ukraine in 2022. 
Photo credits to Kostiantyn & Vlada Liberov

What Is Genocide and How to Prove It?

Genocide is a systemic and organized crime. It cannot be done accidentally or carelessly. Usually, it is more complicated and difficult to prove than war crimes or crimes against humanity. In order for an act to be legally recognized as genocide, two key conditions must be met and proven:

  1. the criminals’ purpose is the intention to completely or partially destroy an ethnic, national, racial or religious group as such;
  2. the perpetrators had to commit one of the actions against the victims – murder, inflicting serious bodily or mental injuries, creating conditions impossible for survival, forcibly transferring children to another group, or taking measures to prevent childbirth.

Exactly the combination of these two points constitutes the content of the concept of genocide. If at least one of them is not proven, then it is about some other crime, not genocide.

Despite the fact that Russians and its army have repeatedly committed crimes described in the second point, and the entire world has witnessed this, the first component of genocide – the intent – must be proven in a tribunal or court. Until then, we can talk about genocidal acts and signs of genocide, but the court must determine it decisively. 

That is why it is very important now to collect evidence, to document appeals of Russian politicians, and actually to record the genocidal program and incitement to it, which are spread by Russian state propaganda. Equally valuable material is the testimony of the Russian military, who talk about officers’ criminal orders and, in general, about the inhumane atmosphere and setting in the Russian occupation army.

Representative Genocide

The Holocaust is considered the first systematically recognized and condemned genocide in history. After WWII, that term received international legal status, and the Nazi racial policy, which goal was total extermination of the Jews, was recognized as the greatest crime. The author of that term, Raphael Lemkin, had studied for many years the crimes, in which one group aimed to destroy another (especially those long before WWII). However, until 1948, the crime of genocide did not yet exist.

Unfortunately, genocides did not stop even after the Holocaust. Terrible massacres, in which some groups completely or partially destroyed others, broke out in Africa in 1994 (against the Tutsi in Rwanda), in Europe in 1995 (against the Bosnians of the former Yugoslavia), and then in Asia in 2017 (against the Rohingya in Myanmar).

Speaking coldly and somewhat generalized, the ‘standard’ genocide is usually called the one whose purpose is murder, complete or partial extermination. Not intimidation, assimilation, or pacification, but destruction. Actually, the Holocaust, which served as the final basis for the legal formation of the term genocide, was conceived by the Nazis precisely as ‘the final solution of the Jewish question’. That is the complete physical destruction of all Jews without exception. It is quite legitimate to call such genocide ontological or existential because it is designed to irrevocably end the existence of a certain group.

However, there is one important detail here: genocide is not always aimed at killing members of another group.

The Peculiarity of the Russian Genocidal Policy

Given that a nation or religion is not something physically visible and immutable, and that, for example, the forcible transfer of children from one group to another is not physical murder, it can be argued that genocide is also the forcible compulsion to renounce oneself, from their identity and community.

For example, if a person was stolen at a young age and given to be raised in another group, he or she has practically no chance to learn about his or her origin and affiliation. Likewise, a certain religious or national group is de facto exterminated if its representatives are forced to renounce their faith or national affiliation under the threat of death or torture and are scattered among other groups.

All of these things have been happening to Ukrainians on the territories temporarily occupied by the Russians since 2014, and especially brutally after the start of the full-scale Russian-Ukrainian war in 2022.

Moscow’s occupying forces and administrations encourage collaboration in every possible way. They forcibly issue Russian passports and demand public loyalty from the captured local population. This is actively facilitated by Ukrainian political collaborators and Russian agents of influence, who seek to serve themselves in front of the ‘new homeland’ and often demonstrate greater Russianness than the Russians themselves.

Simultaneously, Russians give money and government positions and publicly glorify in the propaganda media those renegade Ukrainians, who are loyal to Russia and ready to renounce their citizenship, homeland, and language. Here, as an example, we can name such odious figures as Oleg Tsarev, Kateryna Altabayeva, Serhiy Tsekov, Olga Bas, Nataliya Poklonska, Serhiy Aksyonov, Volodymyr Saldo and many others.

The destruction of Ukrainian group identity takes place on the ideological basis of so-called “Ruscism.” This is an ideology of Russian military expansionism mixed with ultranationalism, a cult of personality (Putinism), and elements of nostalgia for the Soviet Union.

A clear and unambiguous rejection of Russian identity and the manifestation of belonging to the Ukrainian nation in almost all cases ends for a person on the occupied territories with imprisonment, torture, and physical destruction. The whole world saw this clearly in Bucha, Borodyanka, Izyum, Kherson, and many other settlements that were temporarily captured by Russians and then liberated by the Ukrainian Army in 2022-2023. Similar things have happened, albeit not so massively, but continuously with Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars in Crimea since 2014. However, that time the international community did not react to it properly.

Such behavior of Russians in this war is de facto assimilative genocide. They act not like the Hitlerites, who did not give Jews or Roma people any choice but death. They act ‘more generously,’ because Putin offers Ukrainians a choice: death or joining the Russian group. In this way, they destroy the Ukrainian national group according to all the criteria defined by the Genocide Convention. At the same time, they expand their national group.

Such a strategy is not something new in world history, as it was a common behavior of empires when the metropolis seized new provinces and demanded obedience and loyalty from them. Modern Russia was never able to build democracy and returned to its usual imperial form of existence, which is characterized by violent expansion of territories, assimilation of conquered peoples, and brutal destruction of all dissenters who refuse to participate in their imperial project.

To be fair, Russia is not the first empire to use genocidal practices or war crimes as a form of assimilation. The Spanish Empire (via extermination of the peoples of Latin America), the British Empire (via extermination of the Boers), the Kaiser’s Germany (via extermination of the Herero and Nama people), the Japanese Empire (via mass murders of the Chinese) and many others were guilty of this in previous eras.

But Russia is the first to do this systematically and openly in the 20th – 21st centuries after the UN adopted the Genocide Convention. Today, millions of Russians under Putin’s leadership have begun to systematically implement and justify the imperial practices of aggression wars and assimilative genocide. While the peoples of other former empires of the world are trying to explore their past, recognize the crimes of imperialism, and atone for the evil done to other peoples, Russia seeks to return to the era of empires, colonies, provinces, and dominions. At the same time, they used the material for building empires – corpses and broken destinies of the non-imperial peoples.

Thus, the real touchstone of the degree of humanity and civilization of our era will be how the world will react to the new imperialism and the inherently imperialist practice of Russian assimilative genocide.

Dr. Anton Drobovych is the Head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, the national governmental institution in Ukraine since December 2019. Before that, he directed the educational programs at Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (2019), was an expert at the think-tank ‘Institute of Social and Economic Research’ (2017-2019), and served as Advisor to the Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine (2016). In 2014, he defended his Ph.D. thesis and until 2019, he worked at the Departments of Cultural Studies and Philosophical Anthropology at the National Pedagogic University. In 2018, he finished his second education and received a Master’s degree in Law. In addition, he is an alumnus of Aspen Institute Kyiv, and the author of more than 50 scientific publications, as well as five educational courses and programs in philosophy, cultural studies, and history of culture. He has published a number of expert materials on social development, education, and culture for the leading Ukrainian media. Since February 24, 2022, he has served as a soldier of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

The Center learned of the recent passing of Dora Zaidenweber. Dora Eiger Zaidenweber was born on January 24, 1924 in Radom, Poland. She remembers Germany’s invasion of Poland as being “like something you would see in a movie, but never think would happen to you.” In 1941 Dora and her family were forced into the ghetto where she met her husband Jules Zaidenweber. Dora was later transported to Auschwitz before being evacuated on a forced march to Bergen-Belsen. She was liberated on April 15, 1945 and later reunited with Jules, her father and brother. The Zaidenwebers settled in Minnesota in 1950. Dora was among the Center’s earliest supporters when it was founded in 1997.

Dora has always believed in speaking about her experiences and has educated many young people, teachers, and individuals about the Holocaust. If there is a lesson in the Holocaust, Dora believed it was that if you do nothing and ignore the persecution of others, you are no different than those who perpetrate the crimes. Even this last spring, Dora found time to testify at a Minnesota Senate committee hearing on Holocaust education and a class here at the University.

Dora left a lasting impression on the students she connected with, as evidenced by their reflections:

“I enjoyed listening to every single part of your story, to me you are a strong woman, a true warrior. I couldn’t stop thinking about my family and my own mother, your strength is unbelievable. Thank you for letting us know that in moments like the ones we are going through today, we more than ever need to be loud and resist!! On my way back home I couldn’t stop thinking about your experience in Auschwitz. As an immigrant in the United States I know what it’s like to feel unwelcomed and although there are times I feel like some things are impossible, your story has motivated me to keep fighting and striving for the better of our community.”

“I went home and I cried that day. Hearing your story and processing it was difficult for me. But despite that, I’m thankful for having this memory passed on to me. I strongly believe that the best way to combat darkness in our world is to confront it, not avoid it. If we can be strong enough to do that then we can then use it against itself through education. That’s what you’ve done, and that’s the lesson I hope everyone took away from your visit.”

“I thank you endlessly for coming to our class. Sometimes in academia, it’s hard to remind yourself that people truly and wholly suffered at the hands of other people. Studying the Holocaust and genocide is one thing – being faced with a personal story, hearing real emotion, having actual experience is an entirely new realm of learning. I will never forget your presentation, you have left me with so much to think about, and truly struck my soul with your words.”

Sharing his memories of Dora, former CHGS Director Alejandro writes:

“One of my favorite memories of the UMN is when, after Dora and Rosanne spoke in the lecture hall, we went to the CHGS library room with whoever wanted to come from the class. Here, the students conversed with Dora over tea and cookies, shared something about themselves, and the shyer ones opened up. Dora listened carefully and asked about their career paths and backgrounds (“So you are an immigrant like myself!” she once said to a Somali student). Dora also had a wonderful sense of humor. Since I am soft-spoken and she had severe hearing difficulties, the comical situations were always served. I remember emailing home a picture of one of those warm and animated moments when students circled Dora with bright and smiling faces. My mom replied the next day: “You look so happy,” she wrote. Indeed, I am very fortunate to have had the chance to connect Dora and Rosanne with students over the years. Those visits and conversations profoundly impacted them, as they did on me. Thank you, dear Dora, and hasta siempre.”

Dr. Hassan Abdel Salam often invited Dora to speak to her class. He shares:

Dora was a shining light. I asked her – begged her – to come to several of my classes. She was the highlight of my human rights classes. Dora came to several classes as a guest lecturer in a course entitled “Global Islamophobia.” One of the goals of the course is to examine the links and similarities between antisemitism and Islamophobia. Dora’s presentations were memorable because of her presence – her indomitable spirit expressed through her warmth, sincerity, and deep-seated decency. Students are mesmerized by her first-hand accounts of genocide, the stories of her family in Europe, her struggles when she arrived in Minnesota after the Holocaust, and her continued activism to deepen her understanding of the Holocaust. I remember my students’ captive attention, the many questions one after the other, the flower one student brought, and the feeling that our mere togetherness in class was a stand against hatred and bigotry.

The last class she attended was last semester in the Spring 2023 semester. I would tell students that Dora was a co-instructor of the course. I will miss her. I feel an emptiness that I cannot ask Dora to come to class. I will miss Dora’s laughter and warmth – and the feeling of solace I get from listening to her instructive and inspiring stories. Despite enduring great struggles and suffering, her warmth, charisma, and effortless generosity persist. I hope to continue to learn from Dora and that her influence endures in my students and my continued instruction and work to achieve greater understanding and kindness despite our differences. For now, I grieve the loss of my co-instructor.

The Center has collected a number of Dora’s memories, which are available to listen to via our digital collections, including testimonies from Dora and her late husband, Jules, and her interview with Felix de la Concha for the Portraying Memory project.

Dora, along with her daughter, Rosanne, have embodied the concept of Never Again. Her passing will leave a hole in the Twin Cities community, but her legacy will live on.

The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies is concerned over the recent re-escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh (also known as Artsakh), in which Azerbaijan shelled civilian areas of Nagono-Karabakh, resulting in the deaths of over 200 people, with over 400 injured, and 7000 fleeing their homes as Azerbaijan has occupied villages. The attacking of civilian-populated areas is a war crime, violating one of the fundamental rules of international humanitarian law that requires protection of civilians. 

This violence comes in the context of the blockade of the Lachin Corridor, the road linking the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia, which Azerbaijan has blocked since December 2022. 120,000 ethnic Armenians have been unable to leave Nagorno-Karabakh. Those that managed to get out early in the blockade are not permitted to return, indicating ethnic cleansing of the area. Humanitarian aid is desperately needed for those living in the enclave, as food, medicine and fuel have depleted as Azerbaijan blocks entry for any supplies. Electricity is intermittent, and only as much as the citizens of Nagorno-Karabakh can get working themselves. Azerbaijan has blocked gas supplies too. No electricity and gas has been a serious issue during the freezing winter, and so it is hoped there will not be another winter like this. A long line of trucks filled with humanitarian aid sits on the Armenian side of the Lachin Corridor. For some time, not even the International Committee of the Red Cross has not been permitted to enter and bring in much-needed supplies such as food and medicine. This is contrary to Azerbaijan’s obligations under international humanitarian law, including Article 10 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

With a history of many risk factors of genocide, and early stage genocidal actions by Azerbaijan, including hate speech against Armenians, destruction of Armenian cultural heritage sites (such as churches), and the commission of war crimes in recent conflict flare-ups, the situation has been clearly escalating. It is evident that Azerbaijan is targeting the Armenians of Nagorno-Karbakh as an ethnic and/or national group, both of which are protected groups under the Genocide Convention. However, since the blockade of the Lachin Corridor, the deliberate starvation and denial of access to healthcare demonstrates an intent not just to ethnically cleanse Nagorno-Karabakh of Armenians, but to physically destroy them. Denial of food and healthcare only leads to death, and these actions are a crucial part of genocide, which we have seen in other genocides including the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, the Cambodian Genocide and the Rohingya Genocide. It has also been made clear to Azerbaijan by the International Court of Justice that the blockade of the Lachin Corridor produces a real and imminent risk to the health and life of the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, so Azerbaijan is aware of this and continues the blockade. This is in addition to those killed in this week’s and previous bombings.

Azerbaijan is killing by bombing, starvation and denial of healthcare. Thus, using the definition of genocide, we see an intent by Azerbaijan to destroy, in whole or in part, an ethnic and/or national group (Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh).

Azerbaijan has now claimed it will provide food and fuel to Nagorno-Karabakh. It has also said it will open the Lachin Corridor to allow people- but not to return- which will ethnically cleanse the area of Armenians and likely result in the destruction of remaining Armenian cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh. It is greatly hoped that the promise of food and fuel will be fulfilled, because the only other option is either the ethnic cleansing of the Armenian population from Nagorno-Karabakh, or the genocide by starvation and illness of those who remain.

CHGS urges states and the United Nations to take action against Azerbaijan, to prevent further deaths of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, by sanctioning Azerbaijan authorities, calling for a UN peacekeeping operation in Nagorno-Karabakh, and setting up truth-telling and investigative mechanisms to investigate and monitor any past and present human rights abuses and international crimes in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Rachel is a third-year PhD candidate in the department of German, Nordic, Slavic & Dutch. She received her BS in Commerce & Business Administration and her BA in Foreign Languages and Literature from the University of Alabama in May 2017. She then spent a year abroad in Augsburg, Germany before returning to the University of Alabama to earn her MA in Germanic Studies in May 2020. She moved to Minneapolis in August 2020 in pursuit of her PhD in Germanic Studies with a minor in Moving Image Studies.

Her dissertation research analyzes the remediation of documentary footage and photographs from the Holocaust in literary and media projects made in the United States, Germany, Austria, and Israel from the late 1980s to today. She analyzes these projects as interventions in contemporary conversations surrounding the Holocaust, specifically in terms of memorializing and reviving narratives from the past. She also explores how these remediations have the ability to negotiate questions of voice and witnessing in the 21st century both on an individual and global scale, allowing for transnational discourses that broaden the efforts to create an effective framework for discussing other political and historical issues in the past, present, and future.

In addition to her dissertation research, Rachel is interested in representations of minorities in German-language cinema, as well as the documentation (or lack thereof) of issues surrounding German colonialism, specifically in the context of present-day Namibia.

In the spring semester of 2023, she is working as an RA for the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Nathan and Theresa Berman Upper Midwest Jewish Archives on their ongoing project to highlight and present in-depth stories of Holocaust survivors settling in Minnesota.

The first month of the calendar year happens to include the first of many events to remember the victims of genocide perpetrated by the Nazis and their collaborators. Various events occur around the world, in numerous languages, and have their origins in different geographies, political ideologies, and cultural-linguistic milieus. 

But like every year—for personal and professional reasons—deciding what to say for International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27th) or the more Zionist-laden Yom Hashoah (April 18th), while avoiding what hasn’t already been said, is a challenge. Personally, and as a Jew, I certainly “remember” in a diverse set of ways, and I openly talk about these practices. From regular write-ups for the Center in my professional capacity, to the reading group I run with former students—as we read Yiddish literature in the original on a weekly basis—individual and collective memory acts take place. 

But every year, coterminous events and life experiences inevitably end up shaping the direction of these memory acts, too. This year was no exception. 

The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies often receives requests to contextualize historical figures, events, etc. pertaining to episodes of genocide and mass violence. Although meaningful outreach work, I experience immense frustration (that I suspect will only increase over time)—at not only the ways that firsthand accounts of genocide survivors are confined to archival sources, but also at how a siloing of approaches to the subject matter erases meaningful connections—not only to the present but also to marginalized stories left untold. Without memory politics (and certainly without historiography—or, the study of the study of history), what are left are universalizing narratives we pretend are divorced from a particular moment in time and locale. 

Furthermore, this universalizing tendency often asserts overly moralistic stances (i.e., “we teach about X individual or X event, because it teaches us to do/not do Y [moral lesson]”), which rarely take into account the very real, complex, individualized, and human grappling with the past, which I argue is vital to pedagogy, research, and outreach.  

There is of course understandable hesitance from educators, community and religious leaders, etc. (and even academics) to address what are deemed the more difficult, perhaps “political” or controversial dimensions of a particular “subject” (i.e., a person, an event, etc), namely how certain actions or events in the past might not be confined to the past after all, and what are the moral complexities of human in/action. It is all too easy to cherry pick the details around particular people, places, and events, especially if we did not take part in someone’s actions, witness the events as they occurred, or take part in an event’s implementation. However, simply viewing events within a well-defined, well-confined historical vacuum (and with ingrained and unexamined biases) often leads to rigidly deciding whom (and what) gets highlighted about events half a world away. In turn, more inclusive, more nuanced, and more personal(ized) approaches are often shut out. 

To be clear, I am certainly not advocating for introducing the full breadth of a particular subject “too soon” in a student’s career; there are obvious reasons why such approaches would be unacceptable. I should also be clear here, that a “moralistic” element of history instruction is not what I solely take issue with. Of course, one of the reasons we study the past is to see how it directly implicates us in the present. There is much to glean from this rationale. At the same time, as well-intentioned as these approaches may be, teaching a particular subject that is full of morally complex actors, while also pretending we can “safely” confine the subject matter culturally, temporally, and geographically to another time and place, both advertently and inadvertently prevents a needed, individual(ized) response, and the needed responsibility to grapple with our own subjectivity. This is certainly why the study of historiography is so important, to ensure that we see how the “study of the study of history” has changed across time and space. Furthermore, we learn to understand what narratives might have been left out, and how those ellisions or changes have in turn been cemented structurally. 

The way we teach (and don’t teach) something, as it is directly linked to a lack of historical memory and historiography, has direct implications—certainly for the current political climate in the United States—and for what has unfortunately been coined the “culture wars.” The consequences of weak leadership in many of our country’s vital (but weakened) democratic institutions, a public distrust of experts, the decline of governmental regulation regarding civil rights and liberties, and longstanding bigotries have all merged to now threaten the bodily autonomy of millions when it comes to racial and gender justice, as well as sexual autonomy. We have seen this recently with current attempts nationwide to silence ethnic studies proponents, who are reframing the orthodoxies of US history to finally center marginalized voices—notably regarding slavery and the ongoing genocide of indigenous groups. 

Similarly frightening effects of our current moment also include the increasing restrictions to abortion access that have been passed on state levels at alarming rates, something that had been occurring for years even before the Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Association decision. The anti-trans and anti-drag bills entering legislative dockets across the United States are too numerous to count.  

It’s thus not only important that we as scholars/educators convey how these battles for equality have yet to be “won” outright (even with victories there have been setbacks in the fight for equality). We should also be getting students of all ages (and that includes members of the general public) to see what parallels (and what differences) exist in their own lived experiences, and in turn how this denial of human rights implicates them. 

Although I am not the first scholar to point out the problems educators, marginalized groups, and activists in the United States are facing when teaching histories of racial and gender justice, sexual autonomy, and LGBTQ+ rights, I am also concerned—as someone largely working outside American and Anglophone spheres—that the distorted study of our own past absolutely shapes the way Americans learn about the rest of the world (or don’t). As noted historian Dominique Kirchner Reill has recently written, it would be naive to think that the backlash against the teaching of various subjects, the banning of books, etc. in United States K12 schools in 2023 does (and will) not affect the ways students study and address global histories and cultures. 

A critical intervention of some kind against these measures will by no means be a cure-all for the ongoing structural and moral ills of the United States (i.e., voter disenfranchisement, structural racism, the stripping of bodily autonomy and individual rights, healthcare or lack thereof, etc). However, I argue that, it is for this very reason that we must highlight more personal experiences that push back against universalizing narratives, to instead map out the needed ethical frameworks we need right now, and in real time. I sadly fear these more personalized narratives are even more imperiled due to the very structural and moral issues I hint at. Without these narratives, however, we will individually and collectively fail to expand (much less retain) rights achieved through hard-won battles. 

How does this play out when discussing historical events of genocide and mass violence, particularly at the K12 level, but also at the university level? For the remainder of this essay, I will reflect on several examples that I hope will shed light on some of the paradigm shifts I am advocating for. 

“To Be Human in History”

It was both odd and fortuitous timing that I recently rediscovered a post by Angelika Bammer, Professor of Comparative Literature at Emory University. Prior to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Bammer visited the University of Minnesota to speak about her recent book, Born After: Reckoning with the German Past (Bloomsbury, 2019). Bammer writes, “to be a human in history” is to understand how the pasts we inherit (but do not directly experience) shape the self. Bammer, born to German parents in the immediate aftermath of World War II, saw how the Nazi years shaped her life (and her children’s), even if she had not been alive to witness them herself. Also significant, is how Bammer notes the central role of feminist theory in her work, not only in how lived experiences and “the personal” are central to her own scholarship, but how feminist theory itself provides analytical toolkits for “emotionally honest” scholarship — “a dimension of rigor that conventional scholarship all too seldom lacks.” 

This dimension of rigor that Bammer cites is in fact a central role of the humanities in academic scholarship—whether those in STEM and the social sciences find value in it, or not. This does not mean that the humanities have nothing to answer to, historically speaking. Many personal, lived experiences remain largely invisible in the majority of these fields, and are still structurally excluded from sites of power within higher education (including from the apparatuses governing tenure). I certainly implicate the humanities as a whole for these deficits. The concern that I have, however, stems from the continuing derision, dismissal, and underfunding of the arts and humanities. If humanities fields are not around to value the personal, what segment of academia actually will? 

The answers to this question have direct implications to the study of history, as well as the nature of our society as a whole. It is not only a “dimension of rigor” that we forfeit at all levels of education without key awareness of the personal; as educators we also relinquish the responsibility to reshape our professions, our fields, and our world with necessary critical voices and new approaches, and in turn: we forfeit the responsibility to reshape outdated, immoral, and unjust systems. If students are already entering college and are often unaware of the world(s) that they have inherited, and of their own political and ethical agency surrounding the past (especially when it comes to race, gender, and sexuality), where and when do we rectify this, and when teaching about instances of genocide and mass violence later on? 

“The Unethical and the Unspeakable” 

Before I continue, I must say that it is not simply my Jewishness that informs my own approaches to teaching, outreach, etc. regarding genocide and mass violence. It is also my queer identity as a gay man that profoundly shapes my own approaches to German Jewish and Yiddish literatures and cultures, and in turn minority language rights and visibility when discussing comparative topics within Holocaust and Genocide Studies. I am constantly at odds with the US public’s unspoken orthodoxies around these subjects, in the ways these orthodoxies erase pre-World-War-II Jewish cultures and politics beyond Zionism, as well as gender and sexuality in memory politics. It is indeed acknowledging “the personal,” which confronts these orthodoxies and transgressively subverts forms of scholarly and cultural (including racialized, gendered, and heteronormative) gatekeeping that are also in academia. 

We can all work outside given norms and buck any orthodoxies we so wish, but other, more sinister forms of gatekeeping at sites of power will often silence these attempts. It is at these moments, when gatekeeping is most pronounced, and in this historical epoch in which we find ourselves that we should be cognizant of the actual lessons we need to be teaching. 

These reflections came to a head when I attended a talk via Zoom at the Dornsife Center for Advanced Genocide Research at the University of Southern California. Carli Snyder (PhD Candidate at CUNY Graduate Center and Visiting Research Fellow at the USS Shoah Foundation) gave a brilliant talk entitled, “Questions of Gender and Sexuality in Interviewer Trainings and Holocaust Survivor Testimonies.” What Snyder, through her groundbreaking and important intervention has made clear, is that histories of genocide are not universal, nor are they confined to set start and end dates, and the traumatic effects of such moments are not confined to one particular generation of eyewitnesses. Instead, it is up to scholars, educators, students, and activists to grapple with what histories emerge anew through greater contextualization of the objects in question, and namely with the ways gendered histories of violence are central to eyewitness testimony. 

For Snyder, the “objects” not only include oral history interviews that were conducted for the Visual History Archive, but how they were conducted for an archival repository such as the VHA, when they were conducted (i.e., the individual and collective moment between 1995 and 1998 when the bulk of the VHA interviews were recorded), who conducted them, and what the subjects discussed. These might seem like obvious research questions that have long been answered, but Snyder (and many others including myself) can assure you that they have not; universalizing narratives have a way of erasing particularities, and obscuring the very political nature of historical objects as they speak to us today. Furthermore, attempts to give voice to “the particular” (i.e., through civil rights, gender equality, and so forth) are, as I have argued, ongoing and not at all a given in our current moment. 

For example, Snyder is researching the work of Joan Ringelheim, who was and remains a pioneering figure in the collection of Holocaust testimony. Snyder demonstrated how Ringelheim was one of the first to point out in the 1980s that Holocaust histories were often “condensed” into a “universal” or “gender-neutral” framework, or a “universal human perspective,” and did not take into account the differences in experiences according to gender. First as an independent scholar and later at the Holocaust Memorial Museum as Director of the oral history division, Ringelheim coined what she called “the Unethical and the Unspeakable,” which she had presented on at a conference, “Women surviving the Holocaust” in 1983. Ringelheim conducted circa 20 interviews in the late 1970s and early 1980s with women survivors, who addressed issues such as sexual assault, strategic sexual relationships, pregnancy, abortion, menstruation, and sexuality. 

During her talk, Snyder showed how the format of Ringelheim’s interviews was one of collaboration and exploration—on the part of both the interviewer and the interviewee. Ringelheim’s groundbreaking approach to documenting the oral histories of women was, however, only one dimension of an intervention that is still continuing; Snyder sees this when some of Ringeheim’s interviewees later provided oral histories for the Shoah Foundation in the 1990s, and in turn how markedly different they were. Rarely do subjects interviewed by Ringelheim mention with the Shoah Foundation the experiences they had pertaining to gender and sexuality. Not to mention, if survivors ended up providing information about their gendered experiences, the sexual violence they were subject to, or anything about their sexuality in general, it often came through the interviewee volunteering the information — not on behalf of the interviewer conducting the oral history. 

This should immediately raise numerous questions for scholars, educators, and students. What do we make of an archival record of oral histories and testimonies that, though extensive, has left out, excised, deemed less valuable, etc. certain topics and human subjects according to gender and sexuality? The Visual History Archive, for example, contains over 50,000 interviews with survivors of genocide and mass violence, survivors who are the subject of not only their VHA interview, but likely other interviews, public talks, etc. Although an incredibly rich archive that generations of scholars will certainly be researching, it should be made apparent that these interviews are simply not static “objects;” they are the very real products of “the personal.”  Taking this into account, how then does gender and sexuality more broadly factor in (or not) to these 50,000+ interviews? And the ways histories of the Holocaust are taught more broadly? What might we glean if we take a deeper dive into the material? Can we discuss and teach with these materials differently? 

Queer Intergenerational Trauma

Also around the time Snyder’s talk took place, I stumbled upon an article on social media from The Advocate concerning the German Bundestag’s recognition of LGBTQ+ victims by the Nazis on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Although this was not the first time a German government official acknowledged Queer and Trans victims of the Nazi regime, the President of the Bundestag acknowledged, publicly for the first time, that Germany’s collective memory culture has a responsibility in acknowledging the histories of all groups persecuted by the Nazi state. 

These are fairly recent developments within a larger, complicated (and contested) past. It was only in 2017 that the German government annulled the convictions of 50,000 homosexual men tried by the Nazis, as well as those tried and convicted in the postwar (West German) era under Paragraph 175. The annulment finally made victims of persecution under the law eligible for reparations. Unfortunately, many men who had been convicted had passed away by that time. Furthermore, accounts from individuals persecuted for their sexuality by the Nazis and in the postwar Germanies are sparse. According to this German-language documentary approximately 80% of men sent to concentration camps for homosexuality (5,000 – 15,000 men) did not survive the camps at all, having faced brutal treatment by guards and other inmates alike. 

The Nuremberg Trials had also refused to address crimes against homosexual men due to the Paragraph 175’s continued enforcement after 1945 (and those found guilty under the Nazis remained imprisoned). As a result, Holocaust and Genocide studies research took decades to give this topic its due. Although anti-sodomy laws largely targeted same-sex relations between men, lesbians in Imperial, Weimar, Nazi, and postwar Germanies (particularly in West Germany), also faced incredible oppression due to deeply sexist and patriarchal norms governing society. The experiences of lesbians who faced discrimination and erasure, and whose lives were also destroyed in various ways from the 19th century onward, remain understudied. Histories of those who today would identify as trans and non-binary, who were often the subjects of early sexology, hardly exist in the secondary literature at all. These norms also largely erased women’s sexuality from public discourse as a whole. Not to mention during the Nazi era, racial hierarchies and misogyny restricted women’s sexual autonomy completely. 

Even as homosexuality was partially decriminalized in both East and West Germany by the late 1960s, only political activism over multiple decades led to recognition of the persecution under the Nazis and in the postwar era. The Nazis further strengthening of Prussian-era Paragraph 175 in 1935, the flight of many queer and trans people from Germany after 1933 facing marginalization elsewhere, and West and East Germany’s further criminalization of homosexuals who remained imprisoned after the war, demonstrates how histories of persecution are fluid, and continue to affect subsequent generations. It should not be surprising that, like with gendered differences in experience of genocide survivors, the uneven (and often invisible or unavailable) archival record regarding (Queer) sexuality is structural in nature, also. 

So back to Snyder: in her talk, Snyder cited a profound example that illustrates many of these histories, which lie within oral testimonies just beneath the surface. Language politics and code switching (for those studying minority language politics), Jewish migration within Europe, the role of communal organizations for Jews living in poverty, etc. all appear in Rachel Goldman Miller’s testimony within the first segment of the oral history interview. These dimensions of the testimony could be discussed at length. However, Goldman Miller’s experiences, as they relate to Snyder’s talk on gender and sexuality, are (though graphic) also vital to her story. 

Goldman Miller was adopted by an American Jewish soldier, who sexually molested her. Goldman Miller was then kicked out of the house after the soldier’s wife discovered the abuse, and was sent into foster care. In her interview, conducted in 1994, Goldman Miller recounts these instances of sexual abuse and exploitation in her own words, and in turn how these episodes fit into a larger history of her trauma, both personal and collective regarding gendered experiences of genocide. 

Also striking are the ways that Goldman Miller threads other familial details into her oral history (e.g., details about her grandchildren) before suddenly interjecting to say: she “had a second Holocaust.” Viewers of the oral history will have noticed that Goldman Miller wears a ribbon from the AIDS Walk Los Angeles. It is here that Goldman Miller mentions her son, Mark, who had died of AIDS complications two years prior, and who becomes the subject of his mother’s interview for over 20 minutes. It is this traumatic episode that Goldman Miller goes on to say (again) that her son’s death was “her second Holocaust.” It is clear that Goldman Miller struggles to continue with her “testimony” without first going into further details about her son’s life, and how she and her husband cared for him up until the moment he passed away. 

It is incredibly important to recognize that, had the interviewer not allowed Goldman Miller to continue uninterrupted, this particular narrative would be absent from the archive today. 

It is profound for a Holocaust survivor to say in her oral testimony that, “[HIV/AIDS] is another Holocaust that we have to do something about; there are many kinds (Tape 4, 27:32).” We should sit with the uniqueness of this statement. This is not only an important dimension to the interviewee’s story pertaining to the Holocaust; the history of HIV/AIDS activism and familial support that comes to light is significant, considering that many who fell sick and died faced intense marginalization from their families, their employers, etc. Goldman Miller goes on to also mention the Rwandan Genocide, taking place coterminously with her interview, which is an important reminder to 2023 viewers that Holocaust survivors were not viewing their own histories in a vaccuum. 

If survivors of genocide are making these parallels, why aren’t we? Why are we siloing the narratives pertaining to the Holocaust from other genocides? What is our responsibility as listeners, researchers, instructors, and students? 

This interview is a horrific example of the difficult subject matter often left out of universalized histories of genocide, but it also uncovers the ways in which an interviewee such as Goldman Miller writes her son into her own narrative, into a history that he did not witness but perhaps felt to some extent as a child of a Holocaust survivor and a gay man (as others with those lived experiences did). And in turn: Goldman Miller writes herself into that of her son’s history of marginalization and mass death. This is apparent when Goldman Miller goes through photographs (a common and incredibly rich element to the Visual History Archive interviews) depicting her family (including of her children and grandchildren), relatives who were murdered during the Holocaust, gravestones in Paris with French and Yiddish inscriptions, etc. For those familiar with the Visual History Archive, material objects often enter into the interviews, and Goldman Miller includes her son’s panel from the AIDS Quilt into the recording, thereby entering into a larger historical narrative and dialogue regarding state violence and and public inaction toward marginalized groups. 

I have published past blog articles for CHGS related to Queer and Trans histories, and the politics of memory during the AIDS crisis. As activists in the 1980s and 1990s (many of whom happened to be related to Holocaust survivors) saw parallels to their own lived experience as they refashioned and reclaimed symbols, such as the rosa Winkel (pink triangle) for their own use, and pointing out that the past is not only in the past. If one thinks about how the majority of the VHA interviews were conducted in the mid-1990s, one can only surmise how other genocide survivors hint at and refer to other global conflicts and instances of genocide occurring around that time. How can we possibly, and ethically, confine the Holocaust to 1933-1945? And more importantly, how can we continue to separate out these events separate from one another when memory links them together? 

I am certainly not advocating for reductive, side-by-side comparisons when teaching about episodes of genocide and mass violence. But how can we better include topics around race, racism(s) and racialization, gender, and sexuality when we teach about historical events—as they connect us to our pasts, and especially as they circulate in survivor narratives we teach in our classrooms? What are survivors saying to, and about, us? 

What I propose as a simple starting point, is to always view our focus on specific historical events through the lens of our contemporary world and its politics—not as a depoliticized figment of a distant time or place. Students should then think about: what politically is taking place both in the United States and globally? Why should we (really) be studying this topic in 2023? What orthodoxies might need to be placated for more inclusive studies of such events—and not only of the events themselves, but also of ourselves, as we are responsible for grappling with this subject matter? Although historical narratives elsewhere might differ from what we encounter in the United States, race, (and, to echo Snyder) gender, and sexuality are embedded in survivor narratives about the Holocaust, and we are ethically responsible for making sure that that embeddedness is discussed and centered. 

Select Academic Resources: 

Hájková, Anna. ‘Den Holocaust queer erzählen,’ Sexualitäten Jahrbuch, 2018, pp. 86-110.

Huneke, Samuel Clowes. “Heterogeneous Persecution: Lesbianism and the Nazi State,” Central European History 54.2 (2021): 297-325

——. “Death Wish: Suicide and Stereotype in the Gay Discourses of Imperial and Weimar Germany” New German Critique 46.1 (1 February 2019): 127-166. 

——. States of Liberation: Gay Men between Dictatorship and Democracy in Cold War Germany. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2022.

Marhoefer, Laurie. Sex and the Weimar Republic: German Homosexual Emancipation and the Rise of the Nazis. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015.

——. Racism and the Making of Gay Rights: A Sexologist, his Student, and the Empire of Queer Love. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2022. 

——. “Lesbianism, Transvestitism, and the Nazi State: A Microhistory of a Gestapo Investigation, 1939-1943.” The American Historical Review 121, no. 4 (2016): 1167–95.

Newsome, Jake. Pink Triangle Legacies: Coming Out in the Shadow of the Holocaust. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2022. 

Ringelheim, Joan. “The Unethical and the Unspeakable: Women and the Holocaust.” Simon Wiesenthal Center Annual. 1 (1984) 69-88. 

——. Women and the Holocaust: A Reconsideration of Research. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 10(4), 741-761.

Schenker, Noah. Reframing Holocaust Testimony. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015. 

USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive (VHA) Please note: public access to the entire archives is limited. To view the entire collection of oral testimonies, please contact the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies or (for Minnesota residents) the University of Minnesota Libraries for further information. 

Goldman-Miller, Rachel. Interview 40. Interview by Rose Shoshana Finkelstein. Visual History Archive, USC Shoah Foundation, August 02, 1994. Accessed February 01, 2023.

Publicly-Available Digital Resources: 

Bibliography on LGBTQ+ Communities Before, During, and After the Holocaust (compiled by Dr. Jake Newsome)

Bibliography on Lesbian and Trans Women in Nazi Germany (compiled by Dr. Anna Hájková)

Lesbians under the Nazi Regime (published by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Gay Men under the Nazi Regime (published by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum) 

Bibliography – Gays and Lesbians (published by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Long Road to Legal Reform – from the Arolsen Archives

Subject Guide – German-Language Materials Held in the Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies (University of Minnesota Libraries – Archives and Special Collections) 

From Deutsche Welle: A History of Persecution in West and East Germany

Meyer Weinshel completed his PhD in Germanic Studies at the University of Minnesota. He is Head of Programming, Publications, and Research at the Center for Austrian Studies, and the Collections Curator for the Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies. From 2021-2022, he was a Co-PI (and later postdoctoral researcher) for the Minnesota Human Rights Archive project (MHRA). He also taught German studies coursework in the UMN Department of German, Nordic, Slavic & Dutch (GNSD) from 2015-2020, and served as a visiting lecturer of Yiddish studies in the Ohio State University’s Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures in 2021. From 2018 to 2020, he was also involved with various Yiddish pedagogy initiatives at the Yiddish Book Center (Amherst, MA)—including the piloting of their new textbook, In eynem, working for the Book Center’s Steiner Yiddish Summer Program, and designing and teaching Yiddish community-education courses with Jewish Community Action (Minneapolis, MN). In addition to subject specializations in genocide studies, German studies, Yiddish studies, and Jewish studies, he also researches LGBTQIA+ histories, memory, translation, and migration.

Today, we remember those who lost their lives 29 years ago during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. 

Lasting only 100 days, April 7th, 1994, marked the beginning of the Rwandan Genocide in which over 800,000 ethnic Tutsi and moderate Hutu were killed as the international community and UN peacekeepers stood by. Emboldened by state-sponsored propaganda and armed with rudimentary weapons, ordinary Rwandans of Hutu ethnicity were mobilized into killing militias. Scholars have estimated that the rate of killing was four times that of Nazi Germany and carried out by 175,000 to 230,000 Hutus. Much has been written about the causes and courses of this tragic event, as well as commemoration practices in Rwanda. But today, in honor of the lives lost, I would like to share with you how some Rwandans work to prevent future genocide in the land of a thousand hills.

Twenty-nine years after the conclusion of the genocide, there is now a whole new generation of Rwandans born after 1994. Over the course of five months in 2022, I had the privilege to interview history teachers, education experts, and parents in Rwanda to learn how older generations who experienced the violence teach this newer generation about their nation’s history. The teachers I spoke with emphasized the importance of learning and teaching history to younger generations. Many teachers discussed the importance of learning about Rwanda’s history to create a better future, increase knowledge of Rwandan culture, and prevent future violence. For example, one teacher remarked,

 “[The] history of Rwanda was characterized by the evils and wrongly taught. So, we studied wrongly; they gave us information that is not true about the history of Rwanda. And for me, I said I must change [that] … and this is my contribution to my country, to change this bad history.” 

Before the genocide, schools had been sites of structural violence, where anti-Tutsi propaganda was disseminated and discrimination enforced. And during the genocide, many schools were actual sites of violence. Given this history, teachers understood how easily history may be used and manipulated to mobilize populations into violence. Thus, teachers expressed a commitment to teaching youth about the causes and consequences of genocide.

While in Rwanda, I met with local organizations and individuals dedicated to preventing genocide and promoting peace. I met with PeacEdu Initiative, a local organization that works with communities to foster reconciliation and prevent genocide through peace education. Here, survivors and those who committed genocide crimes come together to learn about genocide and gain new skills. 

I was also fortunate to attend trainings where teachers throughout the country volunteered their time to learn about peace and human rights education. Many of these teachers ran peace and human rights clubs during the weekends at their schools. Finally, I spoke with parents, many of whom placed their faith in education to prevent future violence. As one parent stated,

“…we need now to put reconciliation first and foremost. We shouldn’t be stuck in our zones of thinking [that] we are divided or different. But rather, we should learn about the history and get lessons from it which will help bring national unity.” 

This parent’s comment reflects the sentiments of many others. In fact, many parents who taught their children about the genocide emphasized the importance of reconciliation and national unity. Holistically, parents aimed to teach their children that national identity must be prioritized over all other identities.

I am encouraged by the commitment of teachers, parents, and local communities in Rwanda to ensure younger generations know about genocide. Today, on a day of sorrow and remembrance, I hope you, too, are inspired by their commitment to foster unity and reconciliation in the hope of a more peaceful future. 

Jillian LaBranche is a PhD student at the University of Minnesota in the Sociology Department. She currently holds the National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship. Her doctoral research examines how parents and teachers in Sierra Leone and Rwanda who experienced mass violence educate younger generations about their nation’s sensitive history. She has broad interests in Genocide Studies, Comparative Methods, and Memory Studies.

Editor’s note: This is the second in our collected statements in response to SF 2442, a bill currently being debated in the Minnesota legislature. If passed, the bill would mandate Holocaust and genocide education in middle and high schools across the state. Please see the earlier post by CHGS Interim Director Joe Eggers for background and context on the bill and Joe’s statement in response. Below is a statement submitted by George D. Dalbo, UMN Ph.D. and High School Social Studies Teacher.

University of Minnesota

Twin Cities Campus

Department of Curriculum and Instruction

College of Education and Human Development

March 20, 2023

Chair Cheryl Youakim

Republican Lead Ron Kresha

Members of the Education Finance Committee;

“Why have we never learned about this before?” This question was asked by a high school junior in my Genocide and Human Rights course just last week as we began learning about the Cambodian Genocide. The student, a second-generation Hmong-American whose family members experienced mass violence and came to the United States as refugees, is often frustrated that, until my course, her education has excluded most of the genocides we are covering in the course. Quite frankly, as her teacher, I am also frustrated and disheartened that most of my students have little knowledge of these events and the broader patterns of genocide. Thus, I am writing to support HF 2685 and Holocaust and genocide education in the State of Minnesota. As both a middle and high school social studies teacher and a scholar in the field of Social Studies Education, I have seen firsthand through my teaching and research the power of Holocaust and genocide education. 

I am currently nearing the completion of my 17th year as a classroom teacher. I have taught social studies at every grade from 5th through 12th in public, charter, and private schools in urban, suburban, and rural communities in Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as two years in Vienna, Austria. As a teacher, I have seen firsthand the unique power of Holocaust and genocide education to engender attitudes of tolerance, justice, and citizenship within a pluralistic democracy. While students often come into my class curious about the topics, they leave inspired to seek a better world both locally and globally. I have also seen how teaching about genocide and mass violence, especially cases that are often absent from middle and high school social studies classes, can affirm students’ (and their families’) identities and lived experiences, as is the case for so many of my students from communities that have experienced mass violence. This is so important for Minnesota, as new and existing refugee and migrant communities seek to see themselves reflected in education and the state more broadly. Importantly, learning about Indigenous genocide provides opportunities for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students to better understand the history of the state and begin to imagine and work towards a more just future. 

However, like most social studies teachers, I came to the profession with little awareness of other genocides and limited knowledge of the Holocaust. Early in my career, when a principal asked that I develop and teach a high school elective course on the Holocaust, I began to seek out professional development opportunities, largely through the University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (CHGS). Through CHGS’s summer institutes, I was exposed to other cases of genocide, such as those in Armenia, Ukraine, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia. Importantly, I also learned from scholars and community members about the genocide of the Dakota and Ho-Chunk and the violence perpetrated against the Ojibwe. Soon my Holocaust course expanded to include these and other cases of genocide. HF 2685 stands apart from Holocaust and genocide education in other states in its support of funding for professional development for teachers, who will seek out and use these opportunities to create meaningful learning experiences for their students. 

In 2022, I completed my Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and Social Studies Education, with a minor in Human Rights, at the University of Minnesota. Broadly, my research examines genocide education in high school social studies classrooms and curricula. My dissertation joins a growing body of research that shows the benefits of Holocaust and genocide education. My research also shows the power of legislation in strengthening and advancing Holocaust and genocide education in states which have adopted mandates. In Wisconsin, a newly implemented Holocaust and genocide mandate has spurred tremendous growth in professional development opportunities for teachers, and I have received dozens of requests to share my syllabus and resources with middle and high school teachers who are developing and teaching their own courses or weaving genocide into their existing social studies courses. Specific legislation places importance on the topic. 

I drafted all of the language related to the Holocaust and genocide in the 2021 Minnesota K-12 Social Studies Standards. While I laud the work of the standards committee in securing and expanding genocide education in Minnesota for years to come, I also recognize the limitations of the state’s teaching and learning standards. HF 2685 provides additional, essential safeguards and opportunities to secure and expand genocide education. Naming specific genocides matters. It ensures genocide education about and, importantly, beyond the Holocaust, including Indigenous genocide. Likewise codifying this language in legislation expresses an enduring recognition of the importance and commitment to genocide education within the state. 

HF 2685 is an important piece of legislation for Minnesota’s teachers and, especially, students. For students, this legislation will advance attitudes of tolerance, justice, and citizenship within a pluralistic democracy, affirm their and their families’ identities and lived experiences, and provide a step towards truth-telling in terms of Indigenous genocide within the state. For teachers, this legislation supports professional development opportunities and resources to ensure appropriate and responsible education. The community support for this legislation speaks to the importance of genocide education for Minnesotans of many different backgrounds. Perhaps, the most powerful call for such legislation is from my students when they ask: “Why have we never learned about this before?” This question speaks to the pressing need for such legislation. 


George D. Dalbo, Ph.D. 

High School Social Studies Teacher