An extraordinary international exhibit is touring Minnesota this month: Lawyers without Rights. Jewish Lawyers in Germany Under the Third Reich. The display was created by the German and American Bar Associations and was brought here as an outreach initiative of the Federal District Court of Minnesota. The exhibit reflects a time in Germany when individual rights and the rule of law were systematically disregarded.  
My own grandfather, Walter Mieses, was one of the many lawyers whose destiny was tied to the fate of democracy. He was born in Leipzig in 1900. At the age of 28 he became the youngest judge in the state of Saxony, serving at the Regional Court in Leipzig.

118In 1929 he resigned his position in the civil service and became a private attorney, representing clients before the Court of Appeals of the State of Saxony, in Dresden. In April 1933, the National Socialist decree that refused all Jewish judges, public prosecutors, and lawyers access to the courts brought his brilliant career to a halt. In the same year he emigrated to Buenos Aires (Argentina).

Walter Mieses never practiced law again. But his passion for the legal profession and his profound sense of justice and fairness, led him to become a frequent contributor to Argentina’s immigrant and national newspapers, writing articles on civil and criminal law, international affairs, and Jewish-German relations. He died of injuries suffered in a bus accident in Buenos Aires in 1967.

I never met my grandfather but I grew up hearing stories about Opa Walter. Now, thanks to this important effort of Minnesota’s legal community, his story and that of many other Jewish German lawyers, judges and prosecutors will become known to a broad audience. For that I am personally grateful.

Some lawyers, like my grandfather, were able to escape Nazi-Germany to rebuild their lives in another country. But too many of his colleagues, like millions of others, did not escape. Their fate was incarceration and murder.

This exhibit pays homage to all these lawyers by teaching an important lesson: the rule of law is as fragile as glass and its destruction is always the prelude of atrocities.

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. 

Myron Kunin passed away at the age of 85 last week. It was Myron’s passion for art that brought him together with Stephen Feinstein. Together they curated Witness and Legacy, a major commemorative art exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz that debuted in St. Paul in 1995 and traveled until 2002. That collaboration began the friendship and vision that lead to the founding of our Center in 1997.

We will honor Myron’s his legacy as we strive to fulfill our mission of educating all sectors of society about the Holocaust and other genocides.

May his memory be a blessing to us all.

Obituary: Myron Kunin, businessman, patron of the arts
Star Tribune 10-31-2013


My Parents II, 1946. Henry Koerner (1915-1991)
This painting from Myron Kunin’s  collection has been associated with the Center since it was used to promote the Absence/Presence exhibition of 1999. It was also used as the cover photo for Dr. Stephen Feinstein’s book of the same name.


The Order Has Been Carried Out: History, Memory, and Meaning of a Nazi Massacre in Rome

by Allesandro Portelli

Winner of the 2005 Oral History Association Book Award

107.jpgOn March 24, 1944, Nazi occupation forces in Rome killed 335 unarmed civilians in retaliation for a partisan attack the day before. Alessandro Portelli has crafted an eloquent, multi-voiced oral history of the massacre, of its background and its aftermath. The moving stories of the victims, the women and children who survived and carried on, the partisans who fought the Nazis, and the common people who lived through the tragedies of the war together paint a many-hued portrait of one of the world’s most richly historical cities. The Order Has Been Carried Out powerfully relates the struggles for freedom under Fascism and Nazism, the battles for memory in post-war democracy, and the meanings of death and grief in modern society.

“Students here seem to have a more emotional connection to the Holocaust”

104.jpgFalko Schmieder is a DAAD visiting professor at the University of Minnesota and is currently teaching the course “History of the Holocaust.” He has studied Communications, Political Science and Sociology at various German Universities. Since 2005 he has worked as a researcher at the Center for Literary and Cultural Research Berlin. Together with Matthias Rothe, the course “Adorno, Foucault, and beyond” is being offered through the Department of German, Scandinavian and Dutch. Falko Schmieder will give a lecture at the CHGS Library (room 710 Social Sciences) on The Concept of Survival on November 20th at 12 p.m.

What are the main differences between students in the US and in Germany regarding knowledge of and attitude towards the Holocaust?

After my first experiences here I would say the German students tend to know more about the historical preconditions of the Holocaust, especially the long tradition of religious anti-Judaism, and, of course they have more detailed information about German History in general. On the other hand, the students here seem to have a more emotional connection and a more political access to the subject. Many of them have come in contact with Holocaust survivors in High school, as part of their educational training, and because of the many Holocaust Survivors who emigrated to the US and started a new life here it’s a more deeper innervated history. By the way, I am very fortunate to have the Holocaust Survivor Dora Zaidenweber coming to my class to speak this semester. I attended the presentation of her book The Sky Tinged Red, and was moved to learn about her personal story. I was astonished how many young people attended this program.

What do you expect your students to come out of your course?

I would like to make them aware of two things in particular: First, that modern antisemitism has a long prehistory, which is not limited to German history; and second, that antisemitism is in no way a thing of the past. Although it might have changed some of its features, it is still relevant today – at the end of my lecture I will deal with the phenomenon of antisemitism without Jews, and I will discuss some examples of contemporary reactions on the banking crisis in Germany, in which you clearly can find a revival of old antisemitic stereotypes.

How do you approach these sensitive and difficult issues in the classroom?

 In the first class, when I introduced myself to the students, I showed some photographs that I took in Berlin shortly before coming to Minneapolis. These photographs show two Berlinian Jewish institutions, and how they are monitored by surveillance cameras and by the police. The American students were very surprised to learn that it’s still necessary to constantly protect Jewish organizations and sites in this country, because of the fear (and possibility) of antisemitic attacks.

How does  Holocaust studies relate to your current research?

My current research project is on the History of the Concept of Survival, for which the Holocaust and its aftermath is of great importance. The rupture in history is reflected in the invention of many new concepts: think of “survivor syndrome,” “survivor guilt” and others, or in the disruption of traditional meanings of concepts. It is revealing that Claude Lanzmann or the well-known Spanish writer and Holocaust Survivor Jorge Semprún replaced the term “survivor” with “revenant” because older meanings of survival or survivorship no longer seemed appropriate to deal with the traumatic experiences in the extermination camps.


Last June, the allegation that a 94 year old Ukrainian immigrant living in Northeast Minneapolis could have been a top commander of a Nazi- SS lead unit, received international media attention. The public’s response was polarized as for as many who felt justice needed to be served there were just as many who felt that we should leave him alone.  Should a person’s chronological age prevent them from being accountable for their crimes?
This week’s news, the death of Erich Priebke, at the age of 100 in Rome, provides a clear answer to that question. Priebke, one of the few surviving former Nazi-SS

Hauptsturmführer (captain) was among those held responsible for the mass execution of 335 civilians at the Ardeatine Caves outside Rome, one of the worst atrocities committed by German occupiers in Italy during World War II.

After the war Priebke escaped from a British prison camp in Rimini, Italy, and immigrated to Argentina. Like many other high-ranking Nazis, he was aided by the infamous Odessa (Organization of Former SS Members). He lived for decades in the Andean resort town of Bariloche without concealing his identity. He ran a delicatessen, traveled back and forth to Europe, and even became the director of the local German school.

While searching for another suspected Nazi criminal, an ABC News crew came upon Priebke in the early 1990s, and he freely admitted who he was. That revelation led to a lengthy extradition process. On November 20, 1995, on the 50th anniversary of the start of the Nuremberg trials, the former SS officer-who remained faithful to the Nazi ideology and never expressed regret for his actions-boarded a plane for Italy, to stand trial there.

After initial proceedings in which it was ruled that the statute of limitations on the crime had elapsed, Priebke finally faced trial in 1997 and was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the 1944 massacre. He was then 85 years of age.

His case proved that it is never too late to seek justice.

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. 

The CHGS Blog now has a Student Opportunities page! This page will be central location for students to find Calls for Papers, Conference Announcements, Funding Opportunities, and other resources.


Have anything you’d like to add?
Please send info to

Calls for Papers, Conferences, Workshops, Seminars

Deadline: October 15, 2016Workshop on Localization of videotaped testimonies of victims of National Socialism in educational programs. Workshop funded by the Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” (EVZ) in preparation of the next volume of the series “Education with Testimonies.” Vienna, January 9-11 2017

Deadline: October 16, 2016Sustainability and Transformation: International Conference on Europeanists; University of Glasgow, UK, July 12-14 2017

Deadline: October 30, 2016 Stepping Back in Time. Living History and Other Performative Approaches to History in Central and Southeastern Europe; German Historical Institute, Warsaw, February 20–21 2017

Application Deadline: November 1, 20162017 Jack and Anita Hess Faculty Seminar: Gender and Sexuality in the Holocaust; USHMM, Washington DC, January 9-13 2017

Deadline: December 15, 2016 – International Association of Genocide Scholars Conference; University of Queensland, Brisbane, July 9-13, 2017

Deadline: December 15, 2016Media and History: Crime, Violence, and Justice; International Association for Media and History, Paris, July 10-13 2017

Currently Accepting Proposals – Thinking Through the Future of MemoryCouncil for European Studies, Amsterdam, December 3-4 2016

Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland: the Victims’ Perspective; Transitional Justice Institute, Ulster University, Jordanstown Campus, October 19, 2016

5th Annual Symposium on Women and Genocide in the 21st Century: The Case of Darfur; Washington DC, October 21-22 2016

Oral History in the Age of Change: Social Contexts, Political Importance, Public ChallengesKharkiv, Ukraine, December 1-2 2016

International Workshop: Colors of Blood, Semantics of Race; Casa de Velázquez, Madrid, December 15-16 2016

Museums and Their Publics at Sites of Conflicted HistoryPOLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw, March 13-15 2017

The Holocaust and History: The Work and Legacy of David Cesarani; University of London, London, April 3-4 2017

Emerging Expertise Conference: Holding Accountability Accountable; Clark University, Massachusetts, April 6-9 2017

Traces and Memories of the Cambodian Genocide: Tuol Sleng in testimony, literature, and media representations; University of Utrecht, The Netherlands, July 6-9 2017

Calls for Journal Submissions

Deadline for second issue: December 15, 2016 – Antisemitism Studies; Indiana University Press

Deadline: July 1, 2017Transitional Justice from the Margins: Intersections of Identities, Power and Human Rights; International Journal for Transitional Justice, Oxford University Press

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal; Manchester University Press

Working Paper (WP) Series; Historical Dialogues, Justice, and Memory Network

IAGS Emerging Scholar Mentorship Program

IAGS is pleased to announce a mentor program for emerging scholars. In its early stages, the mentor program will focus on assisting emerging scholars (i.e., students in graduate [M.A. and Ph.D.] programs who intend to work in genocide studies; post-doctoral researchers; unwaged Ph.Ds, and recently-graduated scholars who are within the first three years of their first professional position.) with advice on preparing a specific piece of work for publication. 

The manuscript in question should be of regular journal length and at a stage where it is very near ready for publication – manuscripts that are underdeveloped or in a very rough state may be denied access to the mentoring program until they are revised. IAGS IS seeking the following:

  • Volunteers among the group of established scholars who are willing to work with an emerging scholar in readying a journal article or book chapter for publication. Please send us your name, contact information, areas of expertise, and the languages you are able to work in. You will not be asked to work with more than one emerging scholar per year, unless you specifically state your willingness to do so. If you receive a manuscript that you feel is not yet ready for mentoring, you may request it be returned to the emerging scholar for further revision
  • Emerging scholars who would like advice from an established scholar to help ready a journal article or book chapter for publication. Along with your name and contact information, please send an abstract for the specific piece for which you would like to be mentored and the language in which you would like to mentored. We will do our best to accommodate your request, but we are dependent on the availability of a suitable mentor.
  • Genocide Studies and Prevention will also refer journal submissions to this program when they receive articles that show promise, but require further polishing before being sent off to peer review. Publication in Genocide Studies and Prevention is not guaranteed through this program. This is a volunteer-based program solely designed to build helping networks between established and emerging IAGS scholars – it is not available to non-members.

Please send all information to Andrew Woolford, IAGS President

Funding Opportunities

We are pleased to offer HGMV graduate students funding support for travel to present their research at academic conferences, which includes an exciting new partnership with the UMN Libraries:

CHGS / HRP travel awards funded by the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Human Rights Program

Library Archives travel awards: the Kautz Family YMCA Archives HGMV Graduate Award, and the IHRC Archives HGMV Graduate Award

Funding for both types of awards will be provided to graduate students in the form of reimbursement for travel costs and registration fees for conferences, symposia, workshops, and meetings where they will present their work.

Topics must be relevant to the Holocaust, genocide, mass violence and other systemic human rights violations. Applications accepted on a rolling basis, first consideration will be given to those students who have presented or are scheduled to present their work in the HGMV workshop.

Library awards require prior consultation with an archivist, and incorporation of archive research in the paper.  Archivists are always available for consult via and

Please find additional information here.

Bernard and Fern Badzin Graduate Fellowship in Holocaust and Genocide Studies

The University of Minnesota Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Department of History invite applications from current doctoral students in the UMN College of Liberal Arts for the Bernard and Fern Badzin Graduate Fellowship in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The Badzin Fellowship will pay a stipend of $18,000, the cost of tuition and health insurance, and $1,000 toward the mandatory graduate student fees. Calls for applications usually posted the beginning of Spring Semester.

Eligibility: An applicant must be a current student in a Ph.D. program in the College of Liberal Arts, currently enrolled in the first, second, third, or fourth year of study, and have a doctoral dissertation project in Holocaust and/or genocide studies. The fellowship will be awarded on the basis of the quality and scholarly potential of the dissertation project, the applicant’s quality of performance in the graduate program, and the applicant’s general scholarly promise.

Please find additional information here.

The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies awards fellowships on a competitive basis to support significant research and writing about the Holocaust. The specific fellowship and the length of the award are at the Mandel Center’s discretion.  Stipends range up to $3,700 per month.

The application deadline is November 15, 2016 for the academic year of 2017-2018.

Please find additional information here.

The Saul Kagan Fellowship in Advanced Shoah Studies offers a limited number of fellowships for Ph.D and postdoctoral candidates conducting research on the Holocaust. A Kagan Fellowship award is a maximum of $20,000.

The application deadline is January 3, 2017 for the academic year of 2017-2018.

Please find additional information here.

The Geneva Center for Security Policy and its Geopolitics and Global Futures Programme established a Prize for Innovation in Global Security in order to recognize deserving individuals or organizations that have an innovative approach to addressing international security challenges. The prize is designed to reach across all relevant disciplines and fields. It seeks to reward the most inspiring, innovative and ground-breaking contribution of the year, whether this comes in the form of an initiative, invention, research publication, or organization.

Please find additional information here.




Balkan Genocides: Holocaust and Ethnic Cleansing in the Twentieth Century 

By Paul Mojzes

1442206632.jpgDuring the 20th century, the Balkan Peninsula was affected by three major waves of genocides and ethnic cleansings, some of which are still being denied today. In Balkan Genocides Paul Mojzes provides a balanced and detailed account of these events, placing them in their proper historical context and debunking the common misrepresentations and misunderstandings of the genocides themselves.

A native of Yugoslavia, Mojzes offers new insights into the Balkan genocides, including a look at the unique role of ethno-religiosity in these horrific events and a characterization of the first and second Balkan wars as mutual genocides. Mojzes also looks to the region’s future, discussing the ongoing trials at the International Criminal Tribunal in Yugoslavia and the prospects for dealing with the lingering issues between Balkan nations and different religions.Balkan Genocides attempts to end the vicious cycle of revenge which has fueled such horrors in the past century by analyzing the terrible events and how they came to pass.

Memory is a tricky thing. Biased and imperfect, it can be willfully deceitful and innocently forgetful. Collective memory is no different, and is perhaps more problematic in that it is often formed and framed by people and institutions with ulterior motives. Even more importantly, collective memory defines our popular conceptions of history’s meaning.

Popular histories are powerful forces in shaping identity and purpose for all societies. Yet, they rarely do justice to the delicate intricacies of the central questions that the pressing issues of human existence ask of us. Popular history marginalizes some of the most essential questions that we face, and yet, it is often the only history to which many young people are exposed.

96.jpgWith this in mind, the primary role of the high school history teacher must be to expose students to a study of history that allows for asking serious, difficult questions about serious difficult events. The nature of humankind, the justifiable use of military force, definitions of race, the roots and motivations of stereotypes – these have been with us for centuries, they are ambiguous and moral to their core, and absolutely necessary for human development and progress.

Like many history teachers, I begin my year by asking students to consider a series of questions about the nature of history. One of the questions that I always ask is very simple – Why do we study history? Invariably, the first answer from students is that we study history to learn from our mistakes. This answer, to be sure, is justifiable. Yet, students often come to the conclusion that the study of history has several valuable purposes that require deeper reflection and analysis – and they are right.

First, history is about learning from our successes – learning from the times when people have struggled to survive against all odds; when small groups of people have come together to define themselves in the face of adversity and ultimately been victorious. This memory was displayed to me on my second day of class this year when, after having mentioned Auschwitz-Birkenau in our first class, a young man approached me with a picture of a recent visit that he had made to Poland. The image was one of his brother carrying an Israeli flag through the gates of Auschwitz. He said that it served as a reminder that the Jewish people were ultimately victorious over, what he termed, “the worst atrocity in the history of modern man.” He went on to say that the picture reminded him of the commonality of humanity and the commonality of human struggle, since we are still struggling to make sense of this event and its meaning today. This young man had found a repository for his historical identity, taken from what is certainly the most heavily planned, systematic attempt at genocide in recorded history, and applied it to his world – the purpose for the study of history on display in my classroom. This victory, the victory of the Jewish people over absolute tyranny and destruction, is the ultimate testimony to those millions who did not survive – this is their legacy to my student and the millions in the world who draw meaning from the memory of the Holocaust. This, first and before anything else, is why we study the Holocaust.

The second conclusion that my students often come to is the importance of what educators will often refer to as divergent thinking, or the potential to consider ambiguous answers to seemingly simple questions. Answers to questions like the role of collective guilt for all Germans in the Holocaust cannot be answered, or even discussed, without recognizing that societies always have layers of participants who react to things differently. People rarely act collectively in one single way for anything. Recognizing the people, in Germany or Denmark or throughout occupied Europe and beyond, who risked their lives to save others from the horrors of the Nazis is one stark way of showing that human nature is ambiguous. On a larger level, the recognition that the Holocaust, no matter how unique, is only one of multiple genocides in our modern history, and that genocide is not relegated to one region or one ethnic, national, racial, or religious group, can help students come to terms with the realization that we all have the potential to take part in something as gruesome as genocide – this is a humbling realization and should help students consider their own potential, for good and bad, in the world.

The third conclusion that students come to is that history is defined by perspective. When I had the opportunity to attend the Holocaust in European and American Memory Summer Institute at the University of Minnesota in July of this year, one of the most striking discussions for me centered on the different ways in which male and female Holocaust survivors remembered similar experiences. The idea that people who had experienced the same treatment, for the same reason, by the same people could remember things in absolutely different terms was a great example of the necessity for understanding divergent thinking. The recognition that people have different memories and therefore different definitions of the world is a mark of emotional maturity and intellectual development, and is an enormous component in making historical study a creative process – one of purposeful self-exploration and questioning.

The study of the Holocaust is a vehicle to force students to recognize the importance of perspective and ambiguity in the world. It serves as a reminder that even the most heinous acts and tragic experiences have a meaning and a message. It provides a medium with which to illustrate to students that history can be a story about triumph and success. Most importantly, it is a vehicle to force students to grapple with moral abstractions in their own lives. Questions that revolve around collective guilt or the acceptance of harmful stereotypes are things that high school students deal with on a daily basis – they often times know what is right in abstraction, but have trouble projecting these values in the real world. Understanding and discussing these same problems through the historical context of an event like the Holocaust forces students to recognize that these issues are transcendent, that they have been around for a long time, and that they apply to our real world, right now.

Dawson McCall is a Social Studies teacher in Louisiana, who attended the CHGS Summer Institute: Memory of the Holocaust in Europe and America held at the University of Minnesota July 8-11, 2013. A follow up to the institute is scheduled for Saturday, November 9 on the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht on Commemoration and Memory. Information on the workshop will be posted on the CHGS homepage soon.

“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?” said Rabbi Hillel, one of the most influential sages and scholars in Jewish history.

It is unlikely that Barak Obama had this phrase of the Talmud in mind last week during the Moscow’s G8 summit. However, he seems to have performed a political interpretation of this often quoted Jewish aphorism when he tried to convince his fellow world leaders of the necessity of joint military action against the criminal Assad regime in Syria.

The figures of the Syrian tragedy are well known. 100,000 people killed in two years, two million refugees living in bordering countries, four million displaced within the country and, only a few weeks ago, a lethal chemical weapons attack against the civilian population, in a clear violation of international law. No other government has dared to cross the line of chemical weapons use since the 1980s. The situation has reached a tipping point and it requires a meaningful response by the international community. But what sort of action should be taken?

It seems we are always fighting the previous genocide. Violence unfolding before our eyes usually lacks the unambiguous quality of retrospective moral outrage, naming and condemnation. It is entangled in a complex constellation of forces and unpredictable developments that lead to the fact that the realpolitik, immediate interests and geopolitical concerns are weighted against human rights ideals.

What will be the consequences of military action in Syria? Have all other measures and means of pressure been exhausted? Will the envisioned bombing raids serve to protect civilians?

On September 11 the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Human Rights Program will host a panel discussion in which Syrian community members, experts and scholars will discuss ways to take action without vast and devastating consequences.

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. 

The startled reaction to the news that Michael Karkoc, an alleged former Nazi is living in Northeast Minneapolis is understandable. To have a Nazi in our midst is unsettling and leads to the larger question of how it is possible for someone who (if found guilty of war crimes) could have lived in the Twin Cities for 70 years undetected.

In terms of what happens next, the United States needs to investigate Karkoc’s denial of military service on the application form he filed in order to immigrate to the United States.

Karkoc was admitted into this country under the 1948 Displaced Persons Act, designed to authorize for a limited period of time the admission into the United States of certain European displaced persons for permanent residence and or other purposes.

After World War II there were more than 250,000 Jewish displaced persons between 1945 and 1952 living in DP camps throughout Germany and Austria, waiting to regain their lives after the Holocaust.  At first the thought was to return them to their countries of origin but most had no homes or families to go back to, and antisemitism remained problematic.  The Displaced Persons Act at first was not specific or favorable to the Jewish DP’s and many Jews continued to wait to immigrate to the United States.  It was not until 1950 that the act was amended and Jews had more accessibility to emigrate.  By 1952 80,000 displaced Jews made it to the US with the additional aid of Jewish relief agencies. Of those 80,000 it is believed that roughly three to four hundred made Minnesota their new home.

Life in Minnesota was not easy for the new Jewish immigrants, jobs were hard to come by and the larger community did not quite understand what these refugees had experienced during the war. Most did not speak of their Holocaust experiences until much later, when people began to ask and wanted to hear about what they witnessed.

When the news of Karkoc’s alleged Nazi past appeared on every Minnesota news and media outlet, local Holocaust survivors began to speak up, hoping that if he did indeed commit these crimes against his fellow Ukrainians and Poles, murdering women and children, that he would be brought to justice. Many wondered how he was able to slip into this country under the act that was designed to help people who had been victims of Nazi persecution and could not return home.  As one survivor said, “The fact that he was let into the US and has lived a relatively quiet and happy life is problematic because justice has not been served.”

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.