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Past Spring Lectures

May 10, 2022

Rethinking Holocaust Sources with Digital Methods: An Exploratory Case Study of Krakow and Its Ghetto Under Nazi Occupation

Paul Jaskot (Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Duke University) spoke about how Digital Humanities (DH) methods have raised new questions about the Holocaust. Whether using corpus linguistics to analyze testimony, spatial modeling to think about three-dimensional experience, digital mapping to re-envision scales of the genocide, or digital storytelling at memorial sites to reach broader publics, the embrace of computer-aided analysis has been tremendously productive. While DH methods have prompted new questions, they have also helped us to think about older issues. In this presentation, Jaskot addressed how digital methods help us rethink one of the core issues of Holocaust Studies: the nature and problem of traditional analog sources. Focusing on an ongoing collaborative investigation of the Nazi Occupation of Krakow and the construction of its ghetto, Jaskot offered a fascinating history of Nazi spaces and Jewish experience. At the same time, he explored how digital methods lead us, ironically, to a much better understanding of historical sources—diaries of Polish Jews, Nazi administrative documents, architectural plans, and the buildings themselves, among others.

May 18, 2021 (virtual)

Coming After: The Wand of Transmission

Watch here.

Eva Hoffman was in conversation with Phyllis Lassner, Northwestern University Professor Emerita (Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies, Gender Studies and Cook Writing Programs) and was introduced by Deborah Cohen, Northwestern University Richard W. Leopold Professor of History.

In “Coming After: The Wand of Transmission,” Eva Hoffman reflected on the role and perspective of the post-Holocaust generation in extending our understanding of that history-altering event. As the generation of survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust passes on, the task of both their direct heirs, and the larger “second generation” is to move from personal memory to the investigation of history on the one hand; and at the same time, to incorporate our knowledge of more recent developments and events into our attempts to grapple with the causes of collective atrocity, and its possible prevention.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 program was postponed to 2021.

April 9, 2019

Being in Auschwitz: Space, Sense and Sensibility

‘I pass on to you merely a small part of what took place in the hell of BirkenauAuschwitz’, Zalmen Gradowski, a Polish Jew, tells readers in a secret manuscript, buried in 1944 near the gas chambers. ‘It is for you to imagine the reality’. But how can we imagine Auschwitz? What did it mean to be in Auschwitz? Professor Nikolaus Wachsmann (European History at Birkbeck College, University of London) examined elements of lived experience in Auschwitz that often remain hidden on the edges of historical visibility. His lecutre moved the spotlight from Auschwitz as a symbol of death to the historical reality of living and dying in the camp. Focusing on physical objects, the environment and human bodies, he examined a succession of spaces – buildings, boundaries, landscapes – that reveal subjective dimensions of perception and emotion in Auschwitz.


May 3, 2018 

Did Gender Matter during the Holocaust?

Marion Kaplan, the Skirball Professor of Modern Jewish History at New York University and author of Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany. One of three books by Kaplan to have won the National Jewish Book Award, this volume, published in 1998, was among the first to explore how gender influenced individual and collective Jewish responses to Nazi policy. Since then, research on gender and the Holocaust has proliferated. Kaplan discussed the state of the field before and since the release of her pivotal and seminal work.


May 10, 2017

The Ravine: Researching the Holocaust

The Holocaust is one of the most well documented events in history. Official records number hundreds of millions. Victims and survivors wrote in ghettos, camps, and in hiding, and in every decade since. Photographs, films, and artifacts fill archives at national and regional repositories. Much of this material is digitized and available on the web. Global archives change the ways in which history is researched, written, and remembered. How does a researcher navigate all this and what stories offer new insights? Explaining how and why Holocaust Studies pioneered interdisciplinary methods, Professor Wendy Lower  (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Claremont-McKenna College) demonstrated how one photograph can open a path of discovery in archives, in survivors’ homes, and at killing sites in Ukraine.


May 11, 2016

Writing the Holocaust

The partisan and poet Abba Kovner recalled opening the door to a room in the Vilna Ghetto and finding a man seated at an old sewing machine who was sewing not cloth but empty white paper. What, Kovner asked in astonishment, was he doing? “I’m writing,” he said. On a sewing machine? “I’m writing the history of the Ghetto.” Without thread? “I will thread it later. When we survive this, I shall put the thread into the holes.” What such a text might have told us we can only guess, but we may see in it an allegory of Holocaust writing, tantalizing in
its diversity and fragility. Focusing on testimony written during and soon after the war, Eric J. Sundquist (Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University) presented a wide-rangingview of work that was remarkable for speaking candidly of the unbearable with equal measures of brute force and subtlety.

May 12, 2015

Antisemitism and Homophobia in Nazi Germany: Different but Related Hatreds

Professor Peter Hayes (Theodore Zev Weiss Holocaust Educational Foundation Professor at Northwestern University) described the differing contexts, motives, objectives, and scales of the Nazi persecutions of European Jews and German gay men. He demonstratee that similar justification, escalation, degradation,
and lasting damage characterized each process. The lecture concluded with an examination of the contrasting
aftereffects of each form of persecution on the respective prejudices after the Second World War.


May 13, 2014

Post-Holocaust Antisemitism and the Psychiatry of Trauma

Professor Dagmar Herzog ( Distinguished Professor of History and Daniel Rose Faculty Scholar at the Graduate
Center, City University of New York) revisited the emotionally charged conflicts among medical professionals in
West Germany, the U.S., and Israel in the 1950s-1970s over reparations for mental health damages
experienced by survivors of Nazi persecution and concentration and death camps. She showed how, in the
midst of widespread popular resentment against survivors, resurgent antisemitism, and hostility from
prominent professionals, a small handful of doctors first developed the concepts of “massive psychic
trauma” and “post-traumatic stress disorder” to aid Jewish claimants for compensation.


May 14, 2013

On the Periphery of the Holocaust in Poland: Killings and Pillage of Jews by Their Neighbors

Professor Jan T. Gross (Norman B. Tomlinson '16 and '48 Professor of War and Society, Princeton University) examined whether killings and plunder of Jews by their neighbours were relatively widespread social practices or rather a deviant behaviour by socially marginal elements.

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