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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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trc02On December 15th, the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued its final report. It documents the treatment of indigenous children in Canadian residential schools over the course of more than twelve decades. More 150,000 youth were sent to the schools. The report estimates that more than 3,200 never came home. In June, Beverly McLachlin, chair of the TRC commission, labelled the residential schools cultural genocide.

To many, the report and its finding are an astounding admission to the culpable role the Canadian government played in the destruction of several generations of indigenous culture. The release of the report raises an interesting question: can this be a positive sign of Canada coming to grips with its troubling past?

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A few things have been happening in Burundi this year. The president, Pierre Nkuruzinza circumvented the constitution and ran for a third term. The result of this has been on-going conflict from April. Burundi was not a surprise though. Journalists I spoke to earlier this year all stated that regional coverage of Burundi had pointed to something being afoot as early as last year. None-the-less, here we are, with yet another unfolding atrocity, several deaths, an ever growing numbers of displaced and plenty of hand-wringing by the international community.

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unnamedThe Twitter account @HistOpinion recently reminded us of the prevailing opinion on raising the immigrant quota for refugees who were fleeing Nazi Germany. Two-thirds of the respondents polled by Gallup’s American Institute of Public Opinion in July 1938 agreed with the proposition that “with conditions as they are we should try to keep them out.”

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Recently I laid over at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, at which the Delta Airlines security agent checked my U.S. passport prior to boarding the plane to Minneapolis. Upon seeing my name and place of birth (Bosnia and Herzegovina), he asked in Serbian if I spoke “our language.” I responded with a “yes, of course,” and he completed the rest of the security procedure in ‘our language,’ revealing that he is a Serb who escaped to the Netherlands in 1991 because he did not want to have to fight the Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) or the Croats, as they are all “my people, our people.” more...

Wahutu Siguru sat down with Dr. Joachim Salvesberg from the University’s Sociology Department to discuss his new book, Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur for the September edition of “Eye on Africa.” 

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