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unnamedElie Wiesel had a profound effect on my life. In 1997 I embarked on a journey to earn my Master’s degree from the University of Minnesota. At the time that I began my classes I had no thoughts of studying the Holocaust, but through a series of small events, I found myself thinking of nothing else. I do not remember when I read Night, nor do I recall what led me to return to Wiesel’s work while in graduate school. For some reason I turned to a little known collection of his short stories titled One Generation After, published in 1970.  How the book found its way from my mother’s bookshelf to mine is not clear, but for some reason, I picked it up and read it. The story that changed my life was “The Watch.” Over the course of six pages, Wiesel tells of his return to his home of Sighet, Romania and the clandestine mission he undertakes to recover the watch given to him by his parents on the eve of his Bar Mitzvah. It is the last gift he received prior to being transported with his family to Auschwitz. Like many Jewish families, fearing the unknown and hoping for an eventual return, he buried it in the backyard of their home. Miraculously, he finds it, and quickly begins to dream of bringing it back to life. However, in the end he decides to put it back in its resting place. He hopes that some future child will dig it up and realize that once Jewish children had lived and sadly been robbed of their lives there. For Wiesel the town is no longer another town, it is the face of that watch.

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In her research as part of Alejandro Baer’s course, SOC 4315 “Never Again! Memory & Politics after Genocide,” Alana Erickson reviewed media coverage of violence against Yazidi women in territory controlled by the Islamic State (IS). Below is a reflection of her work.

Looking at the repeated recounting of women’s traumatic experiences in the gory detailed articles across my news log, I find the descriptions of the crimes often gratuitous. I am critical of the use of descriptive stories and recounts of sexual violence perpetrated against Yazidi women by Daesh / the Islamic State (IS). Why are the writers choosing to use these descriptions or leaving them out completely? I am aware that these are real atrocities which happened, and part of reporting on them may include telling things that horrify any sensible reader. However I found myself avoiding logging the more horrible articles in my research, and instead writing them off as pointlessly evocative. I believe that there is something very powerful at play under the surface of these representations of the trafficking and sexual violence of Yazidi women in the news.

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This morning, Germany became the thirtieth country to officially recognize the massacre of Armenians at the hands of the Ottomans a century ago as genocide. Although Germany’s recognition comes after several other nations made similar declarations since last April, several factors make the Bundestag’s resolution especially unique: historical ties, the war in Syria and Germany’s own immigrant history all culminate to make today’s news a momentous occasion.

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The Turkish systematic extermination of its minority Armenian subjects from their historic homeland in the territory constituting present-day Turkey between 1915-1923 can be defined with one word: genocide. Is this by now an incontestable statement? Over the last century, the surviving Armenian communities, spread across the globe as part of one of the world’s largest diasporas, have struggled to gain official recognition for the genocide. Along the way, Turkish nationalist organizations have fought recognition. Instead these organizations push for reconciliation, which merely serves to perpetuate denialist propaganda as it distracts from Turkey’s role in committing genocide.

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Lucien Philipe Moretti, “Father’s Barber Shop,” c. 1973, on display in Wilson Library at UMN

Displaced: The Semiotics of Identity, is an ambitious exhibition of art and historical artifacts that explores diverse aspects of the displacement of people and things, and its many repercussions. On display at the Wilson Library at the University of Minnesota, this sprawling exhibit inhabits walls throughout the first and the fourth floor, as well as having an online component. The exhibit’s theme is to explore the meaning made of a person’s or object’s identity in different spaces and times. The topic is in-and-of-itself huge, but the process whereby the show developed is why it is so ambitious: Displaced was curated by students.

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ISIS is Committing Genocide: Now what?

On March 15th, the United States House of Representatives passed an unprecedented resolution: it condemned the actions of ISIS as genocide. In a clear demonstration of the barbarity of the terrorist regime, the House resolution passed 393-0, a virtually unheard of display of bipartisan support. Two days later, the Obama administration confirmed the House’s decision, when Secretary of State John Kerry said: “My purpose here today is to assert in my judgment, (ISIS) is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shiite Muslims.”

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esc-2016Eurovision Song Contest has served as a platform to strengthen both national and European identities and embrace diversity throughout every nation for over 60 years.  The show’s vast influence expands to an audience of approximately 180 million people all over the world. Its expansive reach has not only sparked the careers of various performers, it has also allowed for the television program to have social, political, and cultural influence.

The televised contest does have strict rules; songs that promote political messages are disqualified from entry.  In 2009, the song “We Don’t Wanna Put In” was the Georgian entry. The song contained negative political references to Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister of Russia, and provided a critical Georgian perspective on the war between Georgia and Russia in 2008. Because of the song’s strong political message and references, the European Broadcasting Union ruled that the song would have to be rewritten or a new song would have to be chosen. Georgia did not comply with this ruling, and therefore withdrew from the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest.

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It has been more than 70 years since Japan’s 35-year formal occupation of the Korean peninsula ended, but issues of reparations and memory surrounding the crimes against humanity committed by the Japanese government during this time period are still contested. It is estimated that up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea, were forced into sexual slavery during WWII. These young “comfort women” were abducted from their villages or persuaded to leave with the false promise of work, only to be imprisoned in comfort stations and sexually exploited by Japanese soldiers.

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CHGS is proud to maintain collections of art and historical objects that originated with founding director Stephen Feinstein’s work in Holocaust art. These collections include visual artworks, such as the paintings of Fritz Hirschberger, as well as historical objects, including postcards and badges from Nazi Germany.

CHGS has stewardship over these important pieces of history and artistic expression. Our goals are to care for these objects through best museum practices and extend their educational impact through physical and digital exhibition.

unnamed (2).jpgWe are collaborating with Deborah Boudewyns, UMN Art and Architecture Librarian, and instructor of a UMN course, Workshop in Art, in which students learn the skills of curating and exhibiting, using CHGS collections as the foundation of their work. These students will end the semester with an exhibition featuring CHGS art and objects, to be held in Wilson Library from April 29 – May 12, 2016, with an opening reception on April 29.

In an effort to keep our art collections vital we have migrated the CHGS owned exhibitions to the University of Minnesota Archive.

Our website, which includes resources in the study of Holocaust visual history, is being updated. Our imagery and art research is in the process of being made available online through UMN digital archives, enabling greater functionality, flexibility, and reach. We are working with the University’s physical archives to document CHGS history as we near our 20th anniversary in 2017.

I began working with CHGS just over a year ago, a newbie to Holocaust and genocide studies. It was an intense start, landing right into the fray of final preparations and coordination of the Bearing Witness event. As you may recall, this event fell on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day last year, and was an exhibition of portraits of and recorded interviews with MN Holocaust survivors, followed by discussion with the artist, Felix de la Concha, and talk by Auschwitz survivor, Dora Zaidenweber. Following close on the heels of Bearing Witness, just a few days later, was the panel eventorganized in response to what were then the very recent attacks in Paris at the offices of Charlie Hebdo.

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