News

Germans also separated children from their parents. In a previously unknown collection at the National Archives of Namibia in Windhoek, I recently discovered documents that confirm colonial authorities used family separation as a means of domination in German Southwest Africa (present-day Namibia), Germany’s first and only settlement colony.

A dispatch to the Omaruru District Commander, for instance, details the separation of Emma, an 8-year-old Herero girl, from her parents as they departed from the capital city of Windhoek. It concludes that “she ran after her parents since she belongs with her Omaruru family.” Emma’s fate remains a mystery to the present day. 

more...

In March 2019, the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad ran a four-part series examining antisemitism in the Netherlands and Europe. Published in the midst of global concerns regarding the rise of antisemitism and violent antisemitic attacks, the question of the resurgence of anti-Jewish sentiment is more pressing than ever. According to the Center for Information and Documentation Israel (CIDI), there was a 19% increase in cases of antisemitism in the Netherlands from 2017 to 2018. In a survey conducted by the NRC, 70% of Jewish respondents (163 out of 800 identified themselves as Jewish) stated that antisemitism is indeed on the rise and 80% stated that while they have not witnessed antisemitism themselves, they are worried about its growth. This survey is backed by a recent investigation of antisemitism in twelve EU-member states. 89% of European Jews stated they experienced an increase in antisemitism in their home country, with another 38% responding that they have considered emigrating because they feel unsafe.

more...

Twenty-five years have now passed since the Rwandan genocide. On the evening of April 6th, 1994, the assassination of President Juvénal Habyarimana served as a final trigger for violence after decades of propaganda, animosity, and killing. Within 100 days, 800,000 Tutsis were dead, as were numerous Hutu political opponents of the genocidal state.

Many Rwandans and foreigners have sought to capture this moment through media coverage, memoirs, film, and documentaries. Images of the killings and of refugee processions, of machetes and of bullet holes, are familiar across the world. But for those who grew up in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, the pain of this violence is far more immediate than these decades-old snapshots have the capacity to show.

more...

We’re at crossroads today: learning lessons from the Holocaust is fundamentally important. Understanding the dire consequences of hate and intolerance is more important today than just about any point in history. Unfortunately, it comes at a time when our memory of the Holocaust is fast fading. It seems as we continue to lose survivors and their critical connection to the past, we lose our willingness to apply their lessons to our own time. A year ago, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany brought this sobering reality to the forefront: Nearly half of millennials cannot name a single concentration camp. Nearly a third of Americans drastically underestimate the number of victims of the Holocaust. Most astounding, almost 70% of Americans say they don’t care about the Holocaust.

more...

In the woods of northern Minnesota, tucked along the shores of Turtle River Lake, is a small German village called Waldsee. Waldsee, which translates to “forest lake,” is home to Concordia Language Villages’ (CLV) German-language isolation-immersion programs, one of fifteen such language villages sponsored by Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. Each summer, hundreds of staff and students pass through the village’s main building, dubbed the “Bahnhof,” or “train station,” to spend two or four weeks fully immersed in German language and culture. Until recently, most were completely unaware that the Nazis once used the name Waldsee as a euphemism for Auschwitz.

more...

Last week, two students from Minnetonka High School in suburban Minneapolis posted a photo of themselves giving a Nazi hand salute accompanied by an antisemitic sign. This incident is just the latest of a number of similar instances, with photos surfacing from Indiana and Wisconsin showing students giving the Nazi salute. Understandably, each case has sparked calls for more and better Holocaust education in schools. This latest photo prompts the question: what do students in Minnesota’s public schools learn about the Holocaust?

Gauging the state of Holocaust education in the United States is no easy task. The decentralized nature of American public schooling means that state departments of education, local districts, and individual classroom teachers decide what to teach and how it is taught. No comprehensive survey of the state of American Holocaust education exists, and such an assessment would be nearly impossible to conduct. The New York Times recently reported on an unsettling survey, which found that while the majority of Americans believe Holocaust education is important, many people, especially millennials, lack even a basic awareness of the history of the Holocaust. In 2013, Rhonda Fink-Whitman’s viral YouTube video showing American college student’s lack of knowledge of the Holocaust renewed a push for Holocaust education legislation in Pennsylvania and across the country. Indeed, Pennsylvania joined a growing list of states that have passed Holocaust education legislative mandates.

more...

One hundred years ago this month, facing defeat and pressure from the Allied powers than won WW I, the Ottomans began attributing blame for the massacre of its Armenian and Greek citizens. Putting the Three Pashas (Talat, Enver & Djemal) on trial with other leaders of the Committee of Union and Progress, the Turkish Military Tribunals found the defendants guilty and sentenced to death. However, , the Pashas were able to flee Turkey and escape punishment (for some time, at least). The allies, frustrated by the perceived ineffectualness of the Turkish courts, in turn established the Malta Court to prosecute war criminals. By 1922, though, the Turkish defendants were repatriated to Turkey, largely due to the absence of a legal framework for prosecution. The lack of justice from the international community would spur a young Raphael Lemkin toward a lifelong goal of pursuing legal safeguards to prevent massacres like those of the Armenians from reoccurring.

more...

In October, the Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies welcomed Hasan Hasanovic to campus to discuss his experience as a survivor of the Srebrenica genocide. Mr. Hasanovic was 18 when Bosnian Serbs systematically murdered more than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in July 1995. Since then, Mr. Hasanovic has written an account of his story, Surviving Srebrenica (The Lumphanen Press, 2016), and spoken around the world on the topic of Srebrenica and genocide more broadly. For the last decade, he has served as a curator at the Srebrenica Memorial.

Joe Eggers: I’ve watched several of your interviews on television and especially your presentations at schools. What’s one message you hope they take away after you speak?

Hasan Hasanovic: It’s interesting. After the Holocaust, the whole world said “never again.” And very similar things were [still] happening afterwards—in Rwanda, Darfur, Cambodia, Bosnia. It’s happening here and now with Rohingya Muslims. Now we have this situation in China with Muslims—one million are being held in labor camps. Somehow we don’t have a mechanism to prevent these atrocities. We talk about them after ten, twenty years, and we feel sorry for victims and we try to say something about it and try to educate people, and that’s it. But what is lacking is that global mechanism, which should be the United Nations. Sadly, world powers have different interests and those interests are standing the way of global intervention and prevention of mass atrocities. I’m trying in a way to make a point that we need to talk about it and to make sure we keep that memory alive and to educate people, but at the same time remember that it’s still happening. And my hope is that when I talk to these audiences—that some of them will become politicians, some of them will pursue other professions—they will use this story and other stories of other atrocities in their lives, as a lesson, and they will become better individuals, better politicians, more humane politicians. And if they get a chance…to decide something that they will make an appropriate decision, thinking from a humane perspective, rather than the perspective of the interests of their political party or the interests of that power.

more...

Since the 1990s there has been a virtual academic consensus that a genocide was perpetuated by Germany during the Herero and Nama War. But the question of responsibility and continuity are still being debated.

In the last two decades, the Herero and the Nama have sought justice, recognition and reparations from the German government for the genocide they endured at the beginning of the 20th century. Recently, they have taken their struggle to an American court, which started hearing their case a few weeks ago. The German government officially referred to the 1904-1907 events as a “genocide” only recently (in 2016) and still refrains from dealing with who was responsibility and rejects calls for reparation. Instead, Germany has attempted reconciliation through other channels, such as providing aid to the Namibian government and returning victim remains that were stored in Germany after the genocide.

The historiography of German colonialism and Namibian history has witnessed fierce debate regarding the events that took place in Southwest African between 1904-1907. Still today, some historical questions remain. This short essay will try to identify the main debated issues of this genocide and will highlight the most important ideas of the historians who have researched this subject.

more...

The Enemy arises as an immemorial figure of our imaginations. The Enemy, also named the Adversary, relating to the biblical figure of Satan, is located at the heart of the European, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern pre-modern worlds and cultures, playing a very central role in the three monotheisms: Judaism, Christianism and Islam. Satan is a prototypical figure of temptation, setting doubt and disorder. Also known under the name of Lucifer, “the bringer of dawn” or “the morning star”, he is the former purveyor of light who became a fallen angel.  His rebellion and ban have been exemplary sung and narrated by the British poet John Milton in Paradise Lost (1667). He has been celebrated two centuries later as the “Prince of Exile” by the French poet Charles Baudelaire with “Les Litanies de Satan” in Les Fleurs du Mal [The Flowers of Evil] (1857). This figure can overtake different forms, faces, or genders. Lilith, the female demon, who has the capacity to take the shape of diverse nocturnal animals, is already present in different Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian traditions (see for instances Myths of Babylonia and Assyria by Mackenzie, 1915). This adversary, previously known as a light bringer, eventually condemned by divine justice to an unending exile both physical in spiritual, could be an impeccable metaphor reflecting the uses and misuses of ideologies and identities and the very important function that affects and emotions are playing out within the realm of reason, which, like our worldviews and understandings, is incredibly limited.  As Gershom Scholem reminds us in the Jewish Kabbalistic tradition, Satan, or evil, is the product of a crisis ascending through the severity of divine judgment. Its advent occurs during the development of that great fire of anger that burns in God, which is normally tempered by his mercy. But when the latter is no longer sufficient to appease this pruritus, an imbalance operates, an energy exhales and breaks away from the divine, finding its own autonomy, that is “evil” (Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, 563). This dialectic between evil and freedom has been highlighted by the German philosopher Rüdiger Safranski in his 1999 essay Das Böse, oder Das Drama der Freiheit [Evil, or the Tragedy of Freedom]. Freedom, free will and the issue of establishment of norms and laws are inseparable from political action, something that essentially defines power as Michel Foucault states. In his “Critique of Violence” essay written in 1921 during the first years of existence of the Weimar Republic in defeated Germany, Walter Benjamin questions the relationships between divine violence, justice, and power in a secular society: “Law-making is power-making, and, to that extent, an immediate manifestation of violence. Justice is the principle of all divine end-making, the power of the principle of all mythical law-making.”

more...