On April 16, 17 & 19, the Institute for Global Studies, the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Human Rights Program held a series of events to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 1994 genocide that took the lives of an estimated 500,000-1,000,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The events included a public conference, a student conference, and a K-16 teacher workshop.
As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Genocide in Rwanda questions surrounding justice, commemorating the victims, and lessons learned take center stage. With regards to justice, events in Germany and in France in the past two months demonstrate that persistence and international cooperation often work to ensure justice is served to those affected by genocide and mass violence. Two trials have just ended in these two countries that will certainly put Hutu fugitives living in Europe on edge. more...
Professor Philip Spencer is Director of the Helen Bamber Centre for the Study of Rights, Conflict and Mass Violence, at Kingston University. The Centre, which he founded in 2004, provides a focus for research and teaching in these areas. His own research interests include the Holocaust, comparative genocide, nationalism, and antisemitism. He is also Director of the University’s European Research Department.
Professor Spencer was a panelist at the CHGS and the Center for Austrian Studies’ discussion on “Antisemitism Then and Now” and gave a lecture on “The Recurrence of Genocide Since the Holocaust”, both of which took place at the University of Minnesota December 5 & 6, 2013. more...
by Jennifer Hansen-Glucklich
Museum administrators and curators have the challenging role of finding a creative way to present Holocaust exhibits to avoid clichéd or dehumanizing portrayals of victims and their suffering.
In Holocaust Memory Reframed, Jennifer Hansen-Glucklich examines representations in three museums: Israel’s Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Germany’s Jewish Museum in Berlin, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. She describes a variety of visually striking media, including architecture, photography exhibits, artifact displays, and video installations in order to explain the aesthetic techniques that the museums employ. As she interprets the exhibits, Hansen-Glucklich clarifies how museums communicate Holocaust narratives within the historical and cultural contexts specific to Germany, Israel, and the United States.
Every year in April, the international community recalls the genocide in Rwanda and the failure to intervene. This year, on the 20th anniversary of the genocide, we did the same in several sites and countries around the world. Here at the University of Minnesota, we held a three day-long event that brought together practitioners, scholars, activists and K-12 educators. We asked ourselves what we learned from the Rwandan experience and how these lessons can be used to prevent and intervene in future atrocities. I personally think the world has learned very little from the genocide in Rwanda and that we have failed to efficiently put to use our limited knowledge to prevent other atrocities.
No nos une el amor, sino el espanto.
(We are not united by love, but by horror)
Jorge Luis Borges
Since Auschwitz it has indeed been possible to speak of a
German-Jewish symbiosis-but of a negative one. For both
Germans and for Jews the result of mass extermination has
become the basis of how they see themselves, a kind of
opposed reciprocity they have in common, willy-nilly.
The above-cited quotes reveal a tragic irony. The Holocaust has bound forever “Germans” and “Jews” to the past. It has also opened an insurmountable gap that conditions the mutual relationship, as well as the passing on of group identity – of victims and of perpetrators stuck in a permanent position of culpability – to the next generations. Moreover, it perpetuates in time a binary division constructed by the Nazi ideologues: Germans vs. Jews.
by David M. Crowe
In this sweeping, definitive work, leading human rights scholar David M. Crowe offers an unflinching look at the long and troubled history of genocide and war crimes. From atrocities in the ancient world to more recent horrors in Nazi Germany, Cambodia, and Rwanda, Crowe reveals not only the disturbing consistency they have shown over time, but also the often heroic efforts that nations and individuals have made to break seemingly intractable patterns of violence and retribution – in particular, the struggle to create a universally accepted body of international humanitarian law. He traces the emergence of the idea of ‘just war,’ early laws of war, the first Geneva Conventions, the Hague peace conferences, and the efforts following World Wars I and II to bring to justice those who violated international law.
He also provides incisive accounts of some of the darkest episodes in recent world history, covering violations of human rights law in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cambodia, Guatemala, the Iran-Iraq war, Korea, Tibet, and many other contexts. With valuable insights into some of the most vexing issues of today – including controversial US efforts to bring alleged terrorists to justice at Guantánamo Bay, and the challenges facing the International Criminal Court – this is an essential work for understanding humankind’s long and often troubled history.
Standing on Polish soil is to stand upon the fertile ground of memory. Poles see themselves as a people who have struggled to maintain their national identity amidst occupation and oppression. The Polish past is negotiated on a daily basis between the generations of Poles who lived (or grew up) during World War II, those who lived during the Soviet regime, and those who have come of age after the fall of Communism. All three of these groups have grown up with the narrative of Poles as rescuers, resisters and martyrs. This idea was shaped during the Soviet years and reinforced through Polish popular culture.
Last week CHGS and several other centers and departments at the University of Minnesota voiced their concern and condemnation regarding a Nazi-themed dinner that took place in the Minneapolis restaurant Gasthof zur Gemütlichkeit. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) and the Minnesota Rabbinical Association (MRA), also responded to this disturbing event and sent a public letter to the restaurant’s owner.
The news and photographs of the gathering – Nazi flags and men clad in SS and Wehrmacht uniforms – were shocking. But even more worrying was to discover how many people, who posted their comments on the Star Tribune website or emailed and voice-mailed the Center, were ready to defend the Nazi re-enactors and the restaurant that hosted the party. Their response reveals an astounding lack of common sense and a failure to understand the gravity of the case.
How “innocent” was this re-enactment? Were the participants and the restaurant owner really unaware of the implications and effects of the symbols they were displaying? One hopes that all of Gasthof’s cards will soon be on the table.
- Star Tribune Commentary: Minneapolis group ‘plays’ Nazi: Sorry, it’s no trifle
- Jewish Community Relations Council: Letter to owner of Gasthof
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.