204Professor Vidal, who taught at the University of Minnesota from 1972 until his retirement in 2003, is widely known as an innovative, original, and productive scholar in the field of Latin American studies. The collective impact of his work and influence opened up new fields of intellectual inquiry to which he contributed through his high intellectual standards, independent spirit of inquiry, and unwavering commitment to human rights.

In the 1980s, Professor Vidal undertook a line of research that continued to expand the canon of literary studies and at the same time responded to the tragic reality of Chile, Argentina, and neighboring countries. He began to analyze subaltern or marginal literatures, and questions of authoritarian and military discourse, as they emerged and were answered in plays, songs, films, and other modes of popular culture, as well as in the practices which constitute and transform everyday life. This research resulted in the publication of several books, among them Dar la vida por la vida: la Agrupación de Familiares de Dentenidos Desaparecidos  [A Life for a Life: The Families of the “Disappeared”] (1982), El movimiento contra la tortura “Sebastián Acevedo”: Derechos humanos y la producción de símbolos nacionales bajo el fascismo chileno [The “Sebastián Acevedo” Movement against Torture: Human Rights and the Production of National Symbols under Chilean Fascism] (1986, with an updated version published by Mosquito Editores in Chile in 1996).

Professor Vidal linked, in a profoundly humanistic way, the practice of literary criticism with the defense of human rights. He will be greatly missed by the academic community.

203Dr. Günther Jikeli is a research fellow at the Moses Mendelssohn Center for European-Jewish Studies at Potsdam University. He is the co-director of the International Institute for Education and Research on Antisemitism (IIBSA). He earned his Ph.D.at the Center for Research on Antisemitism in Berlin and has served as an advisor to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on combating antisemitism. In 2013, he was awarded the Raoul Wallenberg Prize in Human Rights and Holocaust Studies by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation and Tel Aviv University. 

Recent reports indicate that antisemitism is on the rise in most European countries. How do you explain the causes?

Historically, antisemitism has often come in waves and we are now witnessing a global rise. This has multiple, overlapping causes. Holocaust memory is stirring resentment against Jews, while at the same time the Holocaust is being diminished and equated to all sorts of incidents. Additionally, many people in Western Europe have developed an obsession with Israel, encouraged by a media that disproportionately focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and often disseminates a Manichean view upon it. A study from Germany showed that 90% of those who harbor hostile feelings against Israel also harbor anti-Semitic feelings. Another major factor for the rise of antisemitism in Western Europe is open hatred against Jews among large sections of Muslim minorities, which is all too often tolerated. In Eastern Europe, on the other hand, we can observe the rise of revisionist and ultra-nationalist parties, whose aim is to honor historical leaders of their country who fought against Stalinism. The problem with that is they were mostly Nazi collaborators and often directly responsible for the mass killings of Jews.

How do you distinguish between anti-Israel sentiment and antisemitism? 

It depends what the “anti-Israel sentiment” is. If this is criticism of the Israeli government for a particular decision then there is a clear difference to antisemitism. If Jews, and only Jews, are denied a viable nation-state as a people, then it is hard not to see the bias. The dissolution of the State of Israel or a “one state solution” would seriously put all Jewish Israelis (and probably also Israeli Arabs) into danger. Willfully ignoring this threat can be seen as a form of assistance to anti-Semites.

Is the problem acknowledged by the institutions and the media?

No, it is usually ignored by the media. However, the wave of anti-Semitic incidents in summer 2014 in many European cities has led to strong condemnation by many political leaders and the media.

Is Germany facing similar problems? Is there more responsiveness to anti-Semitic manifestations?

There are no major differences in these questions between the authorities lets say in France and in Germany. The condemnation of antisemitism in all its forms is even stronger by French politicians. Manuel Valls, now French Prime Minister, has declared that anti-Zionism is antisemitism and should not be tolerated. No similar statement has come from leading German politicians (although, Chancellor Merkel should be praised for her firm stand on the issue). However, while antisemitism is condemned in general terms, the political will to combat it is effectively weak. In 2011 a German parliament commission on combating antisemitism recommended several actions that still have not been initiated and anti-Semitic Muslim groups are tolerated instead of condemned for their rhetoric.

Your scholarship focuses on antisemitism among individuals of Muslim background in Europe. What are the specific traits?

Muslim antisemitism is a major factor in the global rise of antisemitism we are witnessing today. It is estimated that in many European countries between 30 and 50% of perpetrators of violent anti-Semitic acts have a Muslim background (Muslims form less than 8% in any Western European country). Many anti-Semitic tropes that are popular among Muslims are also widespread amongst the general population, such as “Jews are rich”, “Jews control the media, the business world, etc…”In addition, many Muslims refer to Islamic scriptures and to a Muslim identity for their hatred of Jews. “Jews are Muslims’ enemies,” is a widespread belief among these Muslims. In some social circles, hatred of Jews has become the norm.

How do organizations like the International Institute for Education and Research on Antisemitism (IIBSA) combat antisemitism?

Combating antisemitism is important. Speaking out and not tolerating antisemitism- as well as encouraging people to act as anti-antisemites is of the upmost importance. Education is surely key and we find that younger people are often willing to reflect critically upon their prejudices (of which antisemitism is only one of many). Unfortunately, there are very few grassroots non-Jewish organizations that work in the field. There is the German association Heroes, which specializes in exploring prejudices and authoritarian structures within Muslim families and the IIBSA (with projects in Berlin, London, and Morocco) works both in research and education on these questions. Antisemitism at first targets Jews but what many people fail to realize is that it is also a threat to all democratic and civilized societies.

As a student studying genocide and mass atrocity in the media, I often wonder whether we as consumers of the news can only take one atrocity at a time or if the media only thinks we can handle one at a time?  Over the past year, I have watched as reporting on the atrocities in the Central Africa Republic, South Sudan and the campaign #BringBackOurGirls gain momentum only to lose it as quickly as it was gained.

Ben Sargent, UPS

Now, almost all the news sources are focused on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and it appears that the watchful eye of the media has moved away from the other hot spots. Apparently the news outlets have come to a consensus that we the audience have suffered from what Susan Moeller calls compassion fatigue and have moved from the black (famine) and red (war) horses of the apocalypse, in CAR and South Sudan, to the white horse (often referred to as infectious disease) of the apocalypse in West Africa. Compassion fatigue dictates that the news will only report on stories that resonate with an American audience and thus a focus on West Africa fits this understanding since two recent Ebola patients were American and that another patient who is British were airlifted to the UK for treatment. The shift to the white horse of the apocalypse has also seen the Democratic Republic of Congo make an appearance in the news this month and not for the on-going hostilities.

This new focus, however, should not be conflated necessarily as a concern for what the disease is doing to Liberian families and rural populations. This focus has been, almost singularly, how Ebola may affect the U.S. Thus Ebola is not seen as dangerous because of its brutal effects on Liberian, Guinean, and/or rural west African populations, it is dangerous because it may show up on these shores which is a trope that has been accurately critiqued as not only misinformed but as inherently racist as well. As someone that studies representation of atrocities in Africa in the media, this type of sensationalizing is one that is familiar. The creation of a sensational story sells newspapers and increases circulation numbers-only one horseman at a time. All four will cause too much panic and eventual disengagement.

As the academic year begins, this column will continue to highlight the flash-points across the continent. There will also be updates on the positive actions being taken in these dangerous areas, such as the continued peace efforts by several countries to end hostilities in South Sudan. It is my belief that this year will mostly be one of improvements more than it will be about renewed hostilities. However, two countries need to be on our radars this fall. The first country to keep an eye on is Nigeria as it prepares for elections in the spring and reports of soldiers blatantly refusing to obey orders to deploy against Boko Haram due to its being outmatched (in terms of weaponry) by the group. The other is Lesotho, which seems to either have barely missed a coup (at best) or (at worst) the coup plotters were testing the waters and may attempt another coup later.

 Wahutu Siguru is the 2013 & Spring 2015 Badzin Fellow in Holocaust and Genocide Studies and PhD candidate in the Sociology department at the University of Minnesota. Siguru’s research interests are in the Sociology of Media, Genocide, Mass Violence and Atrocities (specifically on issues of representation of conflicts in Africa such as Darfur and Rwanda), Collective Memory, and perhaps somewhat tangentially Democracy and Development in Africa. 

Since taking power, the Islamic State has unleashed waves of violence against several minority groups in the region. One of these groups, the Yazidis, has made international news with calls the violence qualifies as genocide. CHGS analyzes these claims.

Who is ISIS?

NBC News

ISIS/ISIL, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, is a militant group once affiliated with Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).  In February of 2014 Al Qaeda Central (AQC) officially severed ties with the group as they felt they were giving them a bad reputation. In an article for Foreign Affairs (2-14-2014), Harvard professor Barak Mendelsohn pointed out that the split came about from a lack of shared ideology. Before the attack of the Yazidis in Iraq, ISIS targets had largely seemed to be anyone who stood in their way to creating a caliphate. This was part of the reason AQC had disowned them since attacks on Muslim populations were seen as a step too far even for AQC. Their involvement in the Syrian war has seen them carry out untold violence on peaceful populations that have resisted their advances.

Who are the Yazidis?

Numbering approximately 700,000 world wide, the Yazidis are a largely Kurdish ethnic group whose religion is syncretic and are largely concentrated in northern Iraq. The Yazidi religion was founded by an 11th century Ummayyad Sheikh and is a mix of Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam. This syncretic nature saw AQI label them as infidels sanctioning their killing.

Is it Genocide?

ISIS attacks in Syria have largely been indiscriminate. This has, also been the case in Iraq, as the group sought to take control of territories in the two countries and start a caliphate. All of this changed when they encountered the Yazidis living around the Sinjar Mountains. In early August of this year, ISIS specifically target this group for the fact that they were infidels and even sent the group members texts warning them that they were coming to kill them for being “enemies of God and refusing to repent .”

The UN office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that between 35,000- 50,000 Yazidis are seeking refuge up in the mountains, which are surrounded by ISIS fighters on every side ready to kill them. It is this incident that pushed the United States government to act in order to prevent a “potential act of genocide.” If we look at article 2c of the genocide convention then the current situation of the Yazidis can be seen as an on-going genocide with the express and stated intention to kill the members of the Yazidi religion. In this iteration of violence, ISIS has expressly stated that their intent is to kill every member of the religion. Intent is the key ingredient when trying to understand whether a situation is or is not a genocide and this time around, the intent of ISIS is not in question.

One of the less known dimensions of the history of World War II was how Jews living under French colonial rule in North Africa were devastated by the fall of France and the establishment of the French collaborationist government of Vichy in 1940. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, DC has in recent years amassed a considerable archive related to the Jews of North Africa during the war and has encouraged scholars to research this subject.

185In June 2010, Daniel Schroeter, the Amos S. Deinard Memorial Chair in Jewish History at the University of Minnesota, and a member of the CHGS Faculty Advisory Board, co-taught a research workshop at the USHMM and began studying their voluminous collection of documents. He will be returning to Washington, DC, having been awarded the Ina Levine Invitational Scholar Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the USHMM for the 2014-2015 academic year.

During Schroeter’s residency at the USHMM, he will be conducting research for a book on the subject of Vichy and the Jews in the protectorate of Morocco. Jews under French colonial rule were legally classified as indigenous Moroccan subjects of the sultan, a ruler whose power was limited and controlled by the French administration. The anti-Jewish laws, instigated by the central Vichy government in France, and promulgated in Morocco by the French protectorate authorities as royal decrees signed by the sultan Mohammed Ben Youssef, revealed the racism and discrimination inherent in the colonial system and the ambivalent position of the Moroccan monarchy and the Muslim population towards the Jews.

Research conducted at the Center will focus on the legal, social, and economic impact of the Vichy regime on the Moroccan Jewish communities, the response of the Muslim leaders and population to the anti-Jewish measures implemented in different parts of the country, and the contested politics of remembrance of World War II in Morocco.

For more information on Daniel Schroeter, please click here.

As an African studying in this country, it often heartens me how much regular people in the U.S. generally care about issues on my home continent. From issues in South Sudan, to Central Africa Republic to Darfur and now Nigeria, there has always been heart-warming concern shown. It is for this reason that this month’s post has been rather challenging to write as it seeks to interrogate some of the ways this concern has largely played out.

Source: Michelle Obama’s Twitter account

Over the past few weeks, we have been inundated with news about the missing girls in Nigeria. The girls, almost 300 of them, were abducted by a separatist group known as Boko Haram. The outpouring of emotions by people all around the world through social media was heart-warming but also raised several questions for me. Many, including politicians, begun a social media campaign on several platforms that sought to raise awareness of what was happening in Nigeria (#bringbackourgirls). What is perturbing about this sort of activism is the fact that it, like many campaigns of this nature before, it appeared to be a fad in which celebrities, media personalities and even politicians participated in. A fad that has now died down and left us with a sense of not knowing the complexities of the situation in Nigeria. Who was it meant for? Was it directed towards Boko Haram? If so, why would Boko Haram care about what you and I have to say on the Internet? Was it meant to alert foreign governments so that they would offer help to Nigeria to rescue the girls? Was it meant for you and I, to let us know of the situation in Nigeria?

To put my frustration into context I have to go back to 2012 when the Kony2012 video and the ensuing #StopKony social media campaign were started by Invisible Children. This campaign was heavily criticised not only by scholars but also by Ugandans in Uganda and Africans more generally who argued that it misrepresented the situation on the ground and failed to put the fight against Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony into its proper political context. Ugandans also lambasted the video and subsequent campaign as having exaggerated the extent of Kony’s power and influence while ignoring the very real needs for health care services and the reintegration of former child soldiers into society and schools, as well as ignoring the politics that led to the formation of the LRA in Uganda. Invisible children blatantly represented the situation as one simply between good and evil.

This brings me to the #bringbackourgirls campaign. Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy with a population of approximately 170 million. This year alone they spent $ 2.1 billion on their military and this was a reduction from last year. I say this to highlight that this is not some hapless backwater country in the middle of nowhere. Yet for some reason, Boko Haram was able to waltz into a school, burn it to the ground and kidnap young girls. What do we know about Boko Haram after the hue and cry? How is it that this rag tag group of belligerents were able to abduct these girls with this amount of military presence in the region? The truth is we don’t know and the campaign never addressed these issues in any meaningful way, instead it focused on the simple message of asking that the girls be returned. Somehow we are meant to believe that a social media campaign will do the trick? It is this that frustrates me when looking at social media campaigns.

This is not unique to Nigeria either. As I have been talking about in this column, the same phenomenon has been playing out in Central Africa Republic and South Sudan as well. A recent psychology study finds that social media campaigns often raise moral outrage but not necessarily engagement by everyday citizens. Instead once people realise just how complex the situation is and that Africa, like the rest of the world, is complicated and messy they tend to lose interest in ‘doing something.’ This is not to say that there is no place for social media campaigns. It is a recognition that no amount of tweeting, retweeting, liking or reposting is going to bring back the missing girls. As we feel good about ourselves for being engaged citizens and ‘doing something’ Joseph Kony is still a free man, Central Africa Republic is still fighting, so too is South Sudan and the girls in Nigeria are still missing. The world is messy and there is no magic potion to solving its problems. Sometimes killing the monster will not solve the problem nor is the problem always solely the monster’s responsibility.

Wahutu Siguru is the 2013 Badzin Fellow in Holocaust and Genocide Studies and PhD candidate in the Sociology department at the University of Minnesota. Siguru’s research interests are in the Sociology of Media, Genocide, Mass Violence and Atrocities (specifically on issues of representation of conflicts in Africa such as Darfur and Rwanda), Collective Memory, and perhaps somewhat tangentially Democracy and Development in Africa. 


Over the years I have asked educators to provide me with a definition of the Holocaust. Much to my surprise no matter what state I was in, whether it was Minnesota, Tennessee or California, I have heard several different answers. Numbers of dead ranged from 6 to 12 million and several victim groups were covered under the term.

A few weeks ago the Rialto School District in California had written and distributed an assignment to eighth graders asking them to debate whether the Holocaust was an actual event in history or a hoax perpetrated on the public to raise funds for Israel. They asked students to look at newspaper articles to form their answers. With the thousands upon thousands of primary source documents (mainly left by the perpetrators themselves) available, they thought opinion based articles were the best method towards the students forming their own ideas under the guise of increasing the students’ critical thinking skills.

184So how are these two events related? And why does it matter that we have only one definition of the Holocaust? We can debate whether the term “Holocaust” is the most fitting to describe the event, but there is no debate to what it signifies. Holocaust is the term that defines the destruction of the six million European Jews by the Nazi’s and their collaborators between 1933-1945.

How we define the Holocaust is important to how we teach it. If we continue to add other groups to the equation, such as Homosexuals, Communists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Poles, the Handicapped and the Sinti-Roma (Gypsies), it takes away the fact that the Nazis and their collaborators specifically planned and attempted to carry out the complete destruction of European Jewry. This is not to say that these other groups did not suffer greatly, nor should they be forgotten in the study of the Third Reich, as their persecution is also important to our understanding of the Holocaust.

The Nazis came to the Final Solution by problem solving and perfecting persecution. The extermination camps profited greatly from the knowledge gained during the T4 program use of gas vans and shower rooms to murder the mentally and physically disabled. It should also be noted that the T4 program was discontinued due to public outcry, something that did not happen for the Jews.

Every decade we move further from the event, the more we water it down the further damage we do. Singly defining the Holocaust as an event that took place against Jews does not negate the Holocaust as an event that has universal implications.

Genocides are “any acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:.” If everything is equal, and all victims of Nazism are included under the term Holocaust, then the historical specificity of the genocide of six million European Jews is blurred. This of course plays right into what Holocaust and genocide deniers want you to believe. That it did not happen the way it has been written, history is arbitrary and events can be debated on opinion rather than fact, just like in Rialto. This is why we need to get the definition right, for if we truly want to ignore what made the Holocaust unique then we not only dishonor the victims of that genocide but all others, doing a disservice not only to them but to ourselves.

Jodi Elowitz is the Outreach Coordinator for CHGS and the Program Coordinator for the European Studies Consortium. Elowitz is currently working on Holocaust memory in Poland and artistic representation of the Holocaust in animated short films.


Source: AP

In June 2013, it was revealed after an investigation by the Associated Press that local Ukrainian immigrant and retired Minnesota carpenter, 95-year-old Michael Karkoc, allegedly served as a top commander of a Nazi SS-led unit accused of burning Polish villages and killing innocent civilians during WWII. Evidence surfaced that Karkoc entered the United States illegally in 1949 by concealing his role as an officer and founding member of the infamous Ukrainian Self Defense Legion.

Debate ensued regarding whether – almost 70 years after the events – justice could be served and, if so, where and delivered by whom? CHGS maintains its firm belief that not pursuing justice is a betrayal to the victims. The prosecution of Nazi criminals and their allies, regardless of their age, serves also as a valuable means by which to remind the world of the horrors of the Holocaust and to confront those who would deny or willingly forget the past.

This May, Germany’s highest criminal court ruled that, even though Karkoc’s alleged crimes were against non-Germans and not committed on German soil, his role in a SS-led office “served the purposes of the Nazi state’s world view.” This gives Germany legal jurisdiction over the matter and, as such, the case has been referred to Munich prosecutors who will examine the evidence again to determine whether to charge Karkoc and seek his extradition from the United States.

To see Director Alejandro Baer’s comments on the ruling on KSTP channel 5, please click here.


“The Jews are our misfortune!” (Die Juden sind unser Unglück!). This was always the tag line on the cover page of Der Stürmer, a Nazi weekly tabloid published between 1923 and 1945. The editor of this incendiary paper, Julius Streicher, was tried and sentenced to death on October 1st 1946 at the Nuremberg Tribunal. The judgment against him read, in part:

“… In his speeches and articles, week after week, month after month, he infected the German mind with the virus of anti-Semitism and incited the German people to active persecution…”

There is a Spanish saying that reads “muerto el perro, se acabó la rabia”, which is used to express that it is much easier to kill the dog than to cure the rabies. Indeed, many trusted that with the defeat of Nazi Germany and its allies the problem of antisemitism would have been eradicated once and forever, that societies were now ultimately vaccinated against the recurrence of this scourge.

We know this was not the case and the killings in April in a Kansas Jewish Community Center or the deadly attack in Brussels’ Jewish Museum last weekend are only the most recent reminder that antisemitism is also a present-day reality.

As perplexing and incomprehensible as these crimes may appear, there is a rationale and an ideological structure behind them. Understanding them enables us to identify the threat of antisemitism at its first manifestations, and to treat the cases with the seriousness they merit, before it is too late.

Different from racism and negative or prejudiced attitudes towards a variety of groups or minorities, antisemitism is characterized by its abstractness and by the degree to which it is disconnected from any real inter-group relations. As the study released this month by the Anti-Defamation League shows, antisemitism is on display in countries without Jewish populations. Furthermore, individuals can harbour anti-Semitic views without ever having met a Jew.

Sociologist Theodor W. Adorno wrote that for the anti-Semite of past and present, Jews are neither a minority nor a religious community. They are the “negative principle as such.” In this explanation lies the core of its lethal nature. The Nazis believed firmly that the extermination of the Jews was a precondition to the world’s well-being. The killer of Kansas City’s JCC and the man who pulled the trigger in Brussel last Saturday (regardless of whether this perpetrator is also a neo-Nazi, a right wing religious extremist or a Muslim fundamentalist) saw the Jews as the incarnation of evil and as the cause of their own, their country’s and the world’s misfortune.

The dogmatic aphorism in Julius Streicher’s Nazi tabloid and these recent killings should serve as a reminder that the path that leads from anti-Semitic incitement to fatal anti-Semitic action is often short. There is no shortage of warning signs – the most recent one: far-right parties with strong anti-Semitic leanings making substantial gains in last Sunday’s EU Parliament elections. Unfortunately, for the victims, warnings signs always come too late.

Alejandro Baer is the Stephen Feinstein Chair and Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. He joined the University of Minnesota in 2012 and is an Associate Professor of Sociology.

This May, CHGS is sad to announce the loss of two friends, Margot De Wilde and Fred Baron.

182Margot De Wilde was born July 17, 1921, in Berlin, Germany.  Margot lived in Holland at the time of the Nazi occupation in the late spring of 1940. Margot worked in the underground by delivering false passports and identification cards to Jews to aid them in leaving Holland. Margot and her husband were arrested when attempting to escape using these underground papers via train to Switzerland. Both were sent to Auschwitz where Margot’s husband later died.

Margot endured and survived the infamous Nazi medical experiments that were performed in Auschwitz under the supervision of Dr. Josef Mengele. She was transferred near the end of the war to Ravensbrück concentration camp and was liberated at a satellite camp near the demarcation line of the British and Russian troops. After the war Margot returned to Holland and was reunited with her mother, father and brother who had survived the war in hiding.

Margot immigrated to the United States in the 1960s and was an active speaker in the community for more than 30 years before retiring from public speaking in 2010. In 2009 Margot’s story was published in the book Margot 47574: The Story of an Auschwitz Survivor.

Margot passed away at the age of 92 on May 1, 2014.

To read a tribute to Margot by CHGS Program Coordinator, Jodi Elowitz, please click here.

Fred Edward Baronþþþ§¹Y'Äk

Fred Baron was born in Vienna in 1924. He was 15 when the Germans annexed (Anschluss) Austria in 1938. Fred’s father had died while his sister was sent to England as part of the Kindertransport in 1939. Meanwhile, he and his mother sought shelter and lived in hiding. In 1941 they managed to escape to Hungary. Fred was arrested in Hungary and imprisoned for a time while his mother was sent to an internment camp. In June 1944 he was deported to Auschwitz.

After time in various labor camps, he was liberated by the British Army at Bergen-Belsen; in terrible health he was taken to Sweden for medical care. At the hospital he met his future wife Judith, who was also a Holocaust survivor, and was reunited with his sister. He resettled in Minnesota in 1947, attracted to the large Swedish population.

With Judith he raised a family, started a successful business and was a great supporter of the community. He had a kind and gentle spirit and a very optimistic outlook on life. He spoke often about his experiences and generously supported Holocaust education.

Fred died at the age of 91 on May 23, 2014.

Both Fred and Margot will be sorely missed.