76In August 1941, Winston Churchill noted that, while confronted with the atrocities that his intelligence services had discerned in Europe, the world was faced “with a crime without a name.” The second World War marked efforts to define atrocities and mold cultural memory by distinct institutions, such as the media, judiciary and academia; each of which continue to offer their own unique but overlapping framing.

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Pius XII and the Holocaust: Current State of Research 

Edited by David Bankier (Author) Iael Nidam-Orvieto (Editor), Dan Michman (Editor).

81.jpgDilemmas, silence, active rescue, and passivity are words often associated with Pius XII. “Critics” emphasize the wartime Pope’s failure to condemn Nazism, while “defenders” maintain that Vatican neutrality facilitated rescue activities by the faithful. This publication, which consists of the oral presentations of scholars gathered at Yad Vashem (Israel`s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust) for a groundbreaking international workshop, attempts to present the current state of research on Pius XII and the Holocaust, based on new documentation.

“If Herodotus is the father of history,” wrote renowned historian Yosef Yerushalmi (1932-2009), “the father of meaning in history was the Jews.”  The upcoming Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) on April 8th, will give, like every year, this quote its proper significance.

Throughout the liturgical year-cycle the Jewish tradition looks back at the events in the history of the people of Israel not with a particular historical curiosity. Rather, it asks what the events of the past mean for us today. How can the past illuminate our present?

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Perceptions of the Holocaust in Europe and Muslim Communities. Sources, Comparisons and Educational Challenges 

G. Jikeli & J. Allouche-Benayoun (eds.)

67.jpgThe way people think about the Holocaust is changing. The particular nature of the transformation depends on people’s historical perspectives and how they position themselves and their nation or community vis-à-vis the tragedy. Understandably, European Muslims perceive the Holocaust as less central to their history than do other Europeans.

Yet while the acknowledgment and commemoration of the horrors of the Holocaust are increasingly important in Europe, Holocaust denial and biased views on the Holocaust are widespread in European Muslims’ countries of origin.

In this book, a number of distinguished scholars and educators of various backgrounds discuss views of the Holocaust, explore the backgrounds of biased perceptions but also highlight positive approaches and developments. Many of the contributions were written by people working in the field and reflecting on their experiences.

This collection also reveals that problematic views of the Holocaust in Europe are not limited to Muslim communities.

With the coming of the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, I was thinking about the Center’s first art exhibition, Witness and Legacy, curated by founding director Stephen Feinstein, with the American Museum of Art in St. Paul Minnesota in 1995.  CHGS did not physically exist until 1997, but the roots of what it would accomplish were planted years earlier with this exhibition.

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66.jpgOn April 19th, 1945, only a few days after American troops had liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp, thousands of survivors gathered at its Appellplatz (the roll call square) and took the following oath: “We will not stop fighting until the last perpetrator is brought before the judges of the people! Our watchword is the destruction of Nazism from its roots. Building a new world of peace and freedom is our goal. This is our responsibility to our murdered comrades and their relatives.”

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On December 26, 2012, at 10am, a solemn procession of horses, carrying Dakota men, women and children, will enter Mankato, MN and proceed to a site near the Minnesota River.  These riders will have begun their journey in Lower Brule, South Dakota, and no matter the weather, they will ride for sixteen days in order to arrive at precisely this spot at precisely this time.  They will gather near a hulking stone statue of a buffalo, across from the Mankato Public Library.

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Genocide since 1945

by Philip Spencer

64.jpgIn 1948 the United Nations passed the Genocide Convention. The international community was now obligated to prevent or halt what had hitherto, in Winston Churchill’s words, been a “crime without a name”, and to punish the perpetrators. Since then, however, genocide has recurred repeatedly. Millions of people have been murdered by sovereign nation states, confident in their ability to act with impunity within their own borders.

Genocide since 1945 aims to help the reader understand how, when, where and why this crime has been committed since 1945, why it has proven so difficult to halt or prevent its recurrence, and what now might be done about it. It is essential reading for all those interested in the contemporary world.

 

“We are in the presence of a crime without a name,” said British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1941, in a radio broadcast in which he described the barbarity of the German occupation of the Soviet Union.

Only a few years later, thanks to the determined and tireless efforts of the Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, this type of atrocity the destruction of entire human groups would have a name and be declared a crime under international law in a treaty that is binding on all states that ratify it: the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. While it was too late to save the Jews of Europe, there was a lesson to be learned from the widespread passivity in the face of the Nazi mass killings. As Raphael Lemkin wrote in the postwar years, “by declaring genocide a crime under international law and by making it a problem of international concern, the right of intervention on behalf of minorities slated for destruction has been established.”

December 9 marked the 64th anniversary of the UN’s adoption of the Genocide Convention, which has come to embody a milestone in the history of human rights and the promise of a world free of this odious crime.

We know that this promise, symbolized by the words “Never again,” has not been fulfilled. Still, the Genocide Convention laid vital foundations and has borne significant fruit.

Sixty-four years down the line, mass atrocities cannot be universally ignored. More states have signed the Convention, fewer states believe that sovereignty is a license to kill, many perpetrators have been held accountable for their crimes, and, above all, the international community has shown that it can take collective action to prevent and punish genocide.

Best wishes for a peaceful new year.

Alejandro Baer is the Stephen Feinstein Chair and Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. He joined the University of Minnesota in 2012 and is an Associate Professor of Sociology. 

The following commentary appeared in a November 9, 2012 op-ed story in the Star Tribune. It can be found here

Yesterday and today mark the 74th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s state-instigated pogroms known as Kristallnacht (literally, Night of Broken Glass), a turning point in Hitler’s anti-Jewish policy. For most scholars, it marks the beginning of the period we now define as the Holocaust.

imagesNazi militants destroyed thousands of stores and Jewish homes, desecrated cemeteries and burned down hundreds of synagogues. German Jewish citizens were arrested, systematically humiliated and abused in public in every city, town and village of Germany and in the recently annexed Austria. The majority of German citizens were bystanders to the pogrom and did not try to prevent the vandalism and destruction.

The events of Kristallnacht teach a valuable lesson. They show that a modern society can become numbed to the fate of its minorities. Since Hitler’s rise to power in March 1933, Jews had been classified and categorized as “others.” They were demonized, legally discriminated against and spatially segregated. Non-Jewish Germans were increasingly convinced that the treatment of Jews was justified and did not concern them.

Already in April 1935, the Berlin rabbi Joachim Prinz wrote in the German Jewish weekly newspaper Jüdische Rundschau: “It is outside that the ghetto exists for us. In the markets, in the streets, in restaurants. The ghetto exists in every place. It has a sign. That sign is: no neighbors.”

A “successful” Kristallnacht was the precondition for Auschwitz. Subsequent anti-Jewish measures such as physical ghettoization and deportation to the forced labor and extermination camps in the East became possible. Response or resistance from within was no longer to be expected.

 Ethnic cleansing and genocide can happen when a community of mutual acceptance has been destroyed. It requires only a systematic program of detachment and distantiation, a process that sociologist Zygmunt Bauman has defined as the “social production of indifference.” Killing is only the last step.

Kristallnacht stands out as a warning of this lethal historical sequence, which always already lingers in an early seed called indifference.

Alejandro Baer is the Stephen Feinstein Chair and Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. He joined the University of Minnesota in 2012 and is an Associate Professor of Sociology.