News

Like many of us, I have been heartbroken to see the news, images and footage coming out of Ukraine over the past week. Despite the foreboding news over the past weeks, I didn’t believe it would come to this; now that it has, it’s hard to imagine how we (Ukraine, Russia, the world) move forward from this. My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine and to the people of Russia, millions of whom are now stuck in the midst of a conflict that they did not want and certainly did not vote for. Families on both sides of the border will lose loved ones because of a conflict that no one, save for a very small group of people surrounding Putin, wanted. While I am very cognizant of my privilege of being able to write this from the comfort of my safe home in Duluth, Minnesota, the violence in Ukraine is particularly painful for me because of my personal connections to this country.

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“Our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought Nazism together. Starting a war to satisfy the geopolitical ambitions of the leaders of the Russian Federation, driven by fanciful and dubious historical considerations, is nothing but betraying their memory.”
Appeal By Russian Researchers And Scientists

A month ago, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, our colleague Catherine Guisan published on the CHGS blog a far-sighted article titled Why the Shutting Down of Russia’s Memorials Should Matter to Us. Prof. Guisan condemns the banning of two Russian NGOs in December 2021 that documented human rights abuses during the Soviet era, advocated for reparations to survivors, and defended human right victims in conflict zones, in and around modern Russia.

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“There’s a swastika in the bathroom,” says a high school senior casually as he walks into my classroom at the beginning of the seventh period; “it’s carved into the toilet paper dispenser.” After the class begins working on the day’s lesson, I walk down to the bathroom and snap a photo with my phone camera. Hardly the first, this is just the latest in a rash of swastika graffiti drawn and carved in the boys’ bathrooms at the small school where I teach high school social studies in rural south-central Wisconsin. As a community, we are struggling to understand why swastikas keep appearing in the bathrooms, and, more importantly, we are struggling to respond to this hate speech.

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On January 17, 2022, the book The Betrayal of Anne Frank by Rosemary Sullivan was published in a worldwide media campaign. In it, a self-proclaimed “Cold Case Team” identifies a new prime suspect in the alleged betrayal of Anne Frank and her seven housemates of the Secret Annex. Very soon after initial news reports faithfully reported on the team’s findings, a strong backlash arose from historians and others criticizing the study and its firm conclusion, based on empirical, epistemological, and moral grounds. To understand both the book’s findings and the criticism of them, it is necessary to outline the unique circumstances of this book and its research.

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Before I visited Laos, I knew little about the country and its history. My sister had recommended I go for its natural beauty and laid-back tourist atmosphere. While visiting the capital city, Vientiane, I passed by a few humble buildings, tucked away from the roadside: the COPE Center. Intrigued, I paid a visit.

“Cope Visitor Ceter” by ccarlstead is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. The photo has not been altered.

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For anyone caring about ending mass violence, memorialization, reparations, and the role of civil society in democratization, the closing down of Russia’s Memorial International and its sister organization the Memorial Human Rights Center by the Russian Supreme Court in late December 2021 is cause for mourning. These are concerns, which the University of Minnesota’s Holocaust and Genocide Studies Center has promoted unstintingly.

Since 1989, the two Russian NGOs have accumulated impressive archives documenting human rights abuses during the Soviet era, advocated for reparations to survivors, and defended human right svictims in conflict zones, in and around modern Russia, as well as the rights of minorities such as LGBTQ Russians.[1] Having played a major part in the ongoing efforts to democratize Russia, they have vowed to fight the closing down of their activities in court and to pursue their work. So far, their homepages are being updated regularly and accept gifts from overseas.[2] The US media covered the news; and petitions of protest are circulating.[3] But rumors of a pending Russian invasion of Ukraine soon distracted minds.[4]

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Flying the wrong flag can get you a lot of flak and usually from the wrong folk. Which is what French President Emmanuel Macron found out earlier this month when he had the flag of the European Union raised—blue with a circle of golden stars—in place of the French tricolor to mark France’s turn at the rotating EU presidency. Given the hysterical, mouth-foaming outrage of Macron’s conservative and rightwing rivals, it might as well have been the Union Jack of Boris Johnson’s Britain, France’s new-found favorite enemy.

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On Monday, December 6, 2021, President Biden announced that not a single U.S. official would be sent to Beijing Winter Olympics this coming February. The U.S. has not boycotted the Olympic Games since the Moscow Games in 1980, so why now? The United States is taking a public stance by symbolically protesting the atrocities committed to the Uyghur Muslim minority in Northern China.

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The Center has been busily promoting the work of Professor David Feinberg, who has retired from the Department of Art after an illustrious 50-year career. A retrospective of Feinberg’s work is currently on display at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery on the UMN West Bank Campus. 

The works on display serve as important reminders, best summed up in Feinberg’s own words: 

“All art comes from the unconscious. The unconscious makes connections between the past and the present. Truth has to be found, not contrived or preconceived. Seeking truth is the way to originality. The only true thing a person has is their unique perception of the world.” 

The exhibition, Divide Up Those in Darkness from the Ones Who Walk in Light, consists of two collections: Voice to Vision and a collection of Feinberg’s earlier works. Upon walking into the gallery, one first sees several of these early pieces on display, encouraging visitors to immediately engage with an overarching theme of the retrospective: the role of art for the individual—not only to shape public consciousness but also larger arcs of history. Subjects of these early pieces include partisans active during World War II, the 1956 explosion at the Brooklyn piers, the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and the “Day the Music Died” to name a few. 

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After 20 years, the Taliban have returned to power in Kabul. Two decades of progress for women and human rights are certain to be completely demolished. One group, in particular, the Hazaras, are especially fearful for what the future holds. 

Hazaras bury their children after a recent school bombing. Photo Courtesy of the NYTimes.

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