The Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies recently organized a museum visit through its Human Rights, Genocide & Mass Violence (HGMV) Graduate Group to view and discuss works related to genocide currently on exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.  In advance of the meet-up, CHGS did an interview with local artist, Rowan Pope.

Rowan Pope is a lifelong artist from Minnesota. He and his twin brother, Bly, employ photorealistic techniques as a method of storytelling. Rowan addresses dark subject matter through his work, including portrayals of Franz Kafka’s novels and depictions of the Holocaust and the Cambodian genocide. He seeks to explore broad-ranging human emotions and to commemorate the lives of victims and survivors of violence through his art. “The Liberation of Buchenwald,” among other pieces by both Rowan and Bly, will be on display at the Minneapolis Institute of Art through October 28th, 2018.

You can learn more about the event here.


Staff, faculty and students affiliated with the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota grieve the passing of Fern Badzin.

Fern and her late husband Bernard established the Badzin Fellowship in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, which has supported for the last decade graduate students in the College of Liberal Arts committed to research in the field.  Bernard and Fern also created the Badzin Lecture Series fund, helping to bring renowned experts to campus. More recently Fern generously supported the Genocide Education Outreach (GEO) Program, which sends young scholars into the community to teach about the Holocaust, other genocides, and related issues directly affecting students and communities at large.

Fern had a unique personality and generous soul that has impacted many of us in various ways. She was a warm, upbeat and delightful person and we were fortunate to have Fern as a supporter and participant at events on campus. She leaves us with many fond memories.

CHGS will honor Fern’s legacy by continuing to support the professional development of graduate students, hosting community events and public lectures, growing the GEO program, and reaching ever wider audiences in our firm commitment to educate about the Holocaust and the recurrent problem of genocide.

The 13th Twin Cities Arab Film Festival is upon us. The film festival is organized by Mizna and will run from September 27th to September 30th. This year, the festival commemorates 70 years since the nakba (Catastrophe), when 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes in 1948. The festival features over 30 films from Syria, Iraqi Kurdistan, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, and the USA. Many of the screenings will be the premiere in either Minnesota or the US, with a special advanced screening of Capharnaum! Capharnaum is directed by award-winning Nadine Labaki, and tells the story of a Lebanese boy who launches a lawsuit against his parents for the crime of giving him life. Despite a profound list of films with award winning actors and directors, federal authorities have denied entrance visas to several actors and directors who were scheduled to visit the film festival.

Below, we have compiled a list of films and events that may interest our readers. See the full schedule of the festival and buy the tickets here.


Growing up in Myanmar, the back of every newspaper had a section with big, bold letters that read, “BBC is lying, VOA is lying, RFA is lying; Sky full of lies”. The appearance of those words in newspapers, television, and books was stopped in 2010, when the government launched a series of political reforms. But, here I am in 2017, and I hear the same narrative that “the international media is lying” again. Surprisingly, this time, the narrative is being advanced not only by the military and the government, but also by the vast majority of Myanmar people, including even those who spent their whole lives in prison because they had called for democracy and human rights.

The Rohingya exodus, one of the biggest humanitarian crises in the world, has inspired people to echo the narratives set by the military regime over the past few decades is. Following the attack by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on police outposts in August 25 2017, the military conducted a “clearance operation” in the area where the attack happened. As a result, over 700,000 Rohingya population had to flee to the neighboring country of Bangladesh. Rohingya are a marginalized Muslim minority who have lived  in the West of the country for generations. According to the existing citizenship law passed in 1982, the government wiped out the citizenship of the majority Rohingya population, and the government and the public do not recognize them as an ethnic group of Myanmar since then.


When governments and citizens instead of being armed with weapons, are equipped with historical perspective they reshape our national and local discussions on the rationale for certain monuments and memorials. And if the end result of this public dialogue culminates in a towering figure being toppled, the sound is resounding. This past week, a Confederate statue fell on a college campus in America, but the Civil War I am writing about here is the one that still haunts Spain.

On August 24th the Spanish government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez approved a decree to exhume the preserved corpse of General Francisco Franco from the Valley of the Fallen, a gigantic mausoleum near Madrid that the dictator had designed to eternally enshrine his victory in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). The site is also the final resting place of Falangist Party founder Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera and contains the remains of some 35,000 civilians and soldiers, many of them Republicans executed by Franco’s regime, and transferred to the site on his orders.

Why has it taken so long to decide to remove the body of a dictator from a sanctuary that celebrates and in essence beautifies his rule? And why now?


Flowers in a Khmer Rouge jail cell by

In the twentieth century, 40 to 60 million defenseless people were massacred in episodes of genocide. The 21st century is not faring much better, with mass murder ongoing e.g. in Myanmar and Syria. Many of these cases have been studied well, both in detailed case studies and in comparative perspectives, but studying mass murder is no picnic. Scholars have also examined how conducting research, including ethnographic fieldwork, archival investigation, and oral history interviews, can affect the researcher in profound ways. Among a broader set of difficulties that obstruct research on this wretched subject, two stand out in particular: political constraints and psychological attrition.

Political constraints

All social research operates in a dense political field. Of all the political actors constraining research on mass murder, states stand out. They often have a vested interest in misrepresenting the truth, because for many, the memory of a genocide (or its denial), is part and parcel of their collective identity. States that consider themselves heirs to perpetrator regimes, such as Turkey, Russia, Indonesia, China, or Serbia, make great effort to influence the scholarship on episodes of mass violence. They deny access to archival collections and libraries, intimidate and prohibit them from conducting field work. (The opposite is also possible: governments may try to foster or manipulate research by funding politically useful research, by pushing for the establishment of academic chairs at home or abroad, or by offering scholarships.)

Having to contend with the taboos, restrictions, prescriptions, and outright threats of authoritarian regimes keeps scholars working on these topics under permanent threat. Researchers bold enough to travel into these societies to visit sites, uncover evidence, interview witnesses, and have got to fear the security services and intelligence agencies of these states. One consequence of this discouraging atmosphere is that, in general, less research is carried out on those instances and episodes of mass murder, an undesirable blind spot due to the importance of the events. (Some researchers ingratiate themselves with the authorities for privileged access.) A second consequence poses a methodological dilemma: due to such constraints, does one launch a sting operation, like undercover journalism? Or does one use informants, fixers, and mediators on the ground? Does one pay the possible interviewees for taking the risks?


Claude Lanzmann, the French intellectual and filmmaker, has died at age 92. This is an age that suggests Lanzmann was not in a hurry. Instead, he took all his time to make an exit. It is hard to measure his legacy. His film Shoah is one of a kind. It was released in his maturity, in 1985, when Lanzmann was 60. It fell upon the film world like a meteorite. A UFO of cinema. In a world of young prodigies (artists, philosophers, writers and filmmakers), Lanzmann was more tortoise than hare–notwithstanding the title he chose for his Memoirs, The Patagonian Hare (2009).

He was slow, his film is slow–it has the rhythm of Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. Long, and slow, it demands patience and persistence from the viewer. Shoah is not a documentary–its author called it an artwork. Lanzmann’s purpose was never representation, but rather presence and incarnation. It was not about explaining or understanding, but about reliving by creating a dialectical image in which the Then of the event would collide with the Now of the film.

For those who have seen Shoah and read The Patagonian Hare, the contrast could not be more striking. Shoah, a threnody to the victims of the Holocaust, would suggest that its creator was melancholic, dwelling in the past and possessed by the dead. By contrast, Lanzmann’s Memoirs stage an insatiable hedonist, an Epicurean, a man enamored of life and perilous adventures, a man hungry for new experiences. Hence his films on Israel, and his unflinching admiration for the rebirth of the Jewish people after the destruction of European Jewry. Friend and disciple of Jean-Paul Sartre, Lanzmann toured the young Jewish state for the first time in the 1960s. There he realized that Jews were not merely the invention of the gaze of the anti-Semite.

Shoah seems to be the work of Antigone, but The Hare can be read as the autobiography of Don Juan. Between ethics and esthetics, between mourning the past and embracing the present, Lanzmann’s life was all far from exemplary – it was rather an authentic life, in the Sartrean sense of the word, i.e., a life of his choice and of his own making.

Bruno Chaouat is a professor in the Department of French and Italian, and is also affiliated with the Center for Jewish Studies and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. He is interested in 19th and 20th century French literature and thought, and has recently published, Is Theory Good for the Jews? French Thought and the Challenge of the New Antisemitism.

For the past few years, CHGS has been engaged in a research project on newspaper accounts from over 155 years related to the 1862 US-Dakota Conflict.

Through an analysis of more than 400 articles from newspapers of the Twin Cities and from towns in the Minnesota River Valley (Mankato and New Ulm), we trace how different generations of Minnesotans remembered, or in some cases chose to not remember, the six-week conflict itself and its dramatic consequences for the Dakota community.


The Holocaust, Genocide and Mass Violence (HGMV) Interdisciplinary Graduate Group continues to be a thriving community of graduate students, faculty and visiting scholars. This year, we decided to split the time between two speakers, to more accurately reflect presentation lengths in conferences, and to still be able to provide thoughtful feedback. We had a total of 20 presenters – the largest number to date!

We started off the year welcoming everyone back from the summer by sharing information about HGMV funding and other professional development opportunities. Our first speaker, Maria Jesus Fernandez, a CHGS visiting scholar, started us off with a fascinating talk on translations of Anne Frank into Spanish. Throughout the year, we were also visited by captivating scholars and educators, such as Jodi Elowitz who led a timely training session on how to teach about right-wing extremism, Carlo Tognato who argued for a civil pedagogy of solidarity for highly polarized societies, and Martha Stroud, who gave an engaging account of the lingering stigma after the 1965 killings in Indonesia, followed by a training session on how to use the Genocide Survivor Testimonies at the USC Shoah Foundation. Our student speakers came from 8 different departments throughout the University of Minnesota, and covered a wide range of topics, including Holocaust education, an analysis of Peruvian cinema and the genocide in Indonesia and . Students presented work in various stages, and they deployed a variety of interdisciplinary qualitative and quantitative methodologies.


Today marks the 103rd anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide. As is customary, the Armenian communities around the world and in the Republic of Armenia gather to commemorate the extermination of their kin and kith in the Ottoman Empire in which an estimated 1.5 million Armenian Christians perished as the result of the state organized mass murder. Despite the growing body of incontrovertible evidence about this horror, the government of Turkey still continues to deny the fact of the Armenian Genocide, finding refuge in “the sanctuary of steadfast denial,” to borrow from Truman Capote. Denial then takes many shapes, ranging from the minimization of the number of victims to victim blaming. The survivors of the Armenian Genocide and their descendants have had to confront an entire universe of state produced alternative facts before Kelyanne Conway made alternative facts a thing. As the great French philosopher and essayist Michel de Montaigne has put it, “If a lie, like truth, had only one face we could be on better terms, for certainty would be the reverse of what the liar said. But the reverse side of truth has a hundred thousand shapes and no defined limits.”

Armenian Genocide Monument in Yerevan, Armenia