As an organization that advances education about the Holocaust, the Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University strongly condemns the recent white supremacist terrorist attack in Charlottesville. We call out the lack of leadership from the highest levels, which has fostered an environment that continues to embolden antisemitic, racial, ethnic, and gender-based hatred and discrimination. As part of the hard work of rooting out bigotry in our daily lives, we encourage all to speak out against racist extremism, oppose policies that strip recent civil rights gains, and examine the incipient bias that permeates our society.
HEF of NU Statement on Antisemitism
The Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University calls for the White House, Congress, Governors, and leaders in all political parties, individually and collectively, to condemn and investigate thoroughly the recent rash of antisemitic and other racially charged attacks. Over 100 bomb threats to JCCs around the nation, the desecration of three Jewish cemeteries, the firing of a gun into a synagogue, and multiple instances of hate speech characterized by the use of Nazi symbolism no longer may be dismissed as isolated events carried out by a fringe minority. They must be recognized instead as the actions of people emboldened by an environment seemingly accepting of antisemitic, racial, ethnic, and gender-based hatred and discrimination. The time for non-committal statements and tepid denunciations is past. The President’s leadership, and at the very least, the continued staffing and funding of the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, is crucial to ending this terrorism, discovering and holding responsible those behind it, and assuring all who live in the United States that this truly is, as the President stated in his recent address to Congress, a nation “that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”
The Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University joins the chorus of voices protesting the purposeful omission of Jews and antisemitism from the official White House statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day. The choice to obscure the Nazis’ primary motivation and their specific target for genocide is indeed not a remembrance at all. It is the deliberate elision of history that Holocaust education and remembrance are meant to combat. A spokesperson defended the exclusion claiming a wish to recognize all who suffered. We find this idea of inclusion is not merited by this historical example and is countered by the executive order on the same day to selectively limit admission of refugees and immigrants based on ethnicity and nationality. This is an egregious misuse of the Holocaust, and it underscores the ongoing need for Holocaust education and remembrance.
On November 14, 2016, the Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University, on behalf of nearly 200 scholars of the Holocaust, sent a letter to Polish President Andrzej Duda voicing our commitment to academic freedom and our serious concern about recent actions by the Polish government that threaten to suppress the objective study of history and freedom of expression in Poland. In addition to President Duda, the letter was sent to President Obama, President-elect Trump, the 100 US Senators, the Polish Ambassadors to the United States and Canada, the Polish Consul General in Chicago, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and Haaretz.
The letter and the full list of signatories can be found here.
HEF of NU Academic Council Condemns Threat to Academic Freedom
In an open letter to the President of the Polish Republic, the Academic Council of the Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University has expressed its deep concern about recent developments that threaten to stifle free expression and objective historical investigation in Poland. A new law is pending in the Polish parliament that would impose five-year jail sentences on people who “blame the Polish nation for Nazi or Stalinist crimes.” In a related development, the Polish Chancellery has initiated a procedure to strip Dr. Jan T. Gross, professor of history at Princeton University and one of the leading scholars of modern Polish history and the Holocaust, of the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit, awarded to Professor Gross in 1996 for his public opposition to the communist regime in Poland. The symbolic gesture against Professor Gross and, more significantly, the impending legislation constitute a government- initiated attack on intellectual inquiry and on the right to speak uncomfortable truths about the past. They represent a potentially staggering reversal of Poland’s trajectory of open engagement with its history. The Council strongly condemns these actions as attack on all of us as academics and a deep threat to our colleagues in Poland and other countries in the region. The Council calls on the Polish President and parliament to reject both the misguided attempt to rescind the Knight’s Cross and the repressive bill that would imperil free speech.
The full letter is available here.