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Past Fall Lectures

Thursday, October 20, 2022
Ghetto in Flames: The Memory and Meaning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Hybrid Lecture by Avinoam Patt, University of Connecticut 

In the days and weeks after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, news of the revolt captivated the Jewish world. In the earliest reports to emerge after the revolt in April-May 1943, surviving ghetto fighters doubted whether a “master of pen, brush or sound…could represent in full the Great Event.” Nonetheless, before details of the revolt became known, the process of mythologizing and fictionalizing the heroism of the uprising enabled diverse audiences to imagine themselves in the same situation. Literary and artistic representations of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising helped shape wartime and early postwar collective memory of the Holocaust. At the same time, the event was rapidly politicized by Jewish leaders. Representatives from the Bund and the Zionist movement disputed both the heroes of the revolt and its political and ideological significance.  This lecture is based on Avinoam Patt’s recently published book, The Jewish Heroes of Warsaw: The Afterlife of the Revolt, which analyzes the ways in which collective memory of the revolt was shaped during and after the war through the dynamic interplay of reports and testimonies emerging from the ghetto and existing political and religious frameworks that influenced interpretations of the significance of the event immediately after it transpired.

Thursday, October 28, 2021
From Africa to Auschwitz: Storytelling Hitler’s Antebellum Europe
Hybrid lecture by Professor Danielle Christmas, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Claude Lanzmann's Shoah and Its Outtakes: The Ethics of Perpetrator Representation

This virtual lecture reached an audience of over 250 people from over 30 countries!  Professor Erin McGlothlin offered new insights into Lanzmann’s monumental film Shoah (1985) through her examination of part of the hundreds of hours of outtakes to the film restored and digitized by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Yad Vashem.  Based on her research for the recent volume The Construction of Testimony: Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah and Its Outtakes, which she edited with Brad Prager and Markus Zisselsberger, McGlothlin focuses on one of Lanzmann’s most fascinating (and most troubling) interviews in Shoah, namely his dialogue with the former Treblinka guard Franz Suchomel.  By carefully comparing the outtakes of the Suchomel interview with the sequences Shoah that feature him, McGlothlin is able to reconstruct in minute detail how Lanzmann shaped the testimony of the apparently unrepentant and even gleeful former perpetrator that we encounter in the finished film. Erin McGlothlin is Professor of German and Jewish Studies at Washington University in St. Louis.  Watch the lecture here.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019
POLIN – Museum of Life / Holocaust Site

POLIN – the Museum of the History of Polish Jews opened its core exhibition less than five years ago. Already it has attracted millions of visitors as well as media attention in Poland and abroad. The Museum stands in the former Warsaw ghetto in front of the famous memorial to its heroes and martyrs, but it is not a Holocaust museum. POLIN commemorates the thousand year history of Jewish lives in Poland from the tenth century to the present. Dariusz Stola, Director of POLIN and Professor of History at the Polish Academy of Sciences, will discuss the museum, its history, and its mission and activities, which have brought it international acclaim, museum awards – and more recently, vicious media attacks and political controversies.


Thursday, October 18, 2018
Saints and Liars: American Relief and Rescue Workers during the Nazi Era

A number of Americans — Quakers, Unitarians, Jews, secular people — traveled around the globe to offer relief and to rescue victims of Nazi Germany and its allies. Who were these intrepid souls who perceived possibilities for action where so many of their fellow citizens saw none? What did they accomplish and how? Exploring the experiences of Americans who undertook these initiatives and the imperiled people they helped, Professor Debórah Dwork (Senior Research Scholar and Founding Director, Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Clark University) opens a window on the derring-do and the daily grind of desperate rescue operations.


October 23, 2017
Polish “Blue Police” and the Extermination of the Polish Jews, 1939 – 1945
Professor Jan Grabowski, University of Ottawa

The Polish “Blue” Police were created by the Germans shortly after the conquest of Poland.  The organization, which numbered some 20,000 officers was, from the early days of the occupation, responsible for the enforcement of various German regulations directed against the Polish Jews such as branding, restrictions on the usage of public transportation, curfews, registration of Jewish property, supervision of Jewish forced labor as well as the resettlement of Jews into the ghettos. The lecture will  focus on the role of the “Blue” police during the  later period, when the Polish officers took part in the brutal liquidation of the ghettos in Poland.   Sometimes acting under the German orders and sometimes demonstrating a surprising degree of own agency, the Polish “Blue” police became one of the deadliest, non-German agents in the destruction of European Jews.


September 27, 2016
A Plan, a Testimony, and a Digital Map: Architecture and the Spaces of the Holocaust

The Holocaust was a profoundly spatial experience that involved not only the movement of millions of European Jews but also their confinement and murder in sites specifically built for the genocide. Professor Paul Jaskot’s (DePaul University) talk addressed how perpetrators thought of their building projects and, conversely, how victims experienced these oppressive spaces. Analyzing the architecture of the Holocaust helps us in understanding the larger development, implementation and context of this crucial event in human history. Taking an architectural plan and a specific survivor testimony as examples, the lecture also explored how recent methods in the Digital Humanities–particularly digital mapping–can be used to investigate plans and testimonies to raise new questions about the spatial and historical significance of the Holocaust. 


October 27, 2015
Culture, Barbarism, and Justice: Recent Developments Concerning Nazi Art Looting and Postwar Restitution
Professor Jonathan Petropoulos, Claremont McKenna College

Petropoulos demonstrated how the Nazis were not only the most systematic mass murderers of all time, but the greatest thieves. Nazi art looting and the Holocaust are inextricably linked, and this imparts certain responsibilities for those engaged in the recovery and restitution of looted artworks.  In this lecture, Professor Jonathan Petropoulos drew on over thirty years of experience working on the topic of looting and restitution. He talked about why Allied restitution efforts came up short in the early postwar years, and then discussed more recent cases where he has been an expert witness, including Altmann v. Austria (which concerned six paintings by Gustav Klimt), Grosz v. MoMA (three pictures by George Grosz), and Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza (a work by Camille Pissarro). There has been, in Stuart Eizenstat’s words, “imperfect justice” and the work to complete “the unfinished business of World War II” continues. 


Fall 2014
Christopher Browning – 45 Years as a Holocaust Historian

Christopher Browning’s research focuses on the Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. He has written extensively about three issues: Nazi decision- and policy-making in regard to the origins of the Final Solution; the behavior and motives of various middle- and lower-echelon personnel involved in implementing Nazi Jewish policy; the use of survivor testimony to explore Jewish responses and survival strategies. Notable Publications include: Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave Labor Camp (W.W. Norton & Co., 2010); The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939–March  1942 (University of Nebraska Press, 2004); Nazi Policy, Jewish Workers, German Killers (Cambridge University Press, 2000); Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (HarperCollins, 1992); and The Final Solution and the German Foreign Office (Holmes & Meier, 1978)


March 4, 2014
The Ambiguity of Virtue: Gertrude van Tijn and the Fate of the Dutch Jews

The NU History Department, Nicholas D. Chabraja Center for Historical Studies, Crown Center for Jewish & Israel Studies, and the Holocaust Educational Foundation of NU sponsored a lecture by Bernard Wasserstein (University of Chicago). For more on Prof. Wassestein, see

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