Holocaust Awareness Week has occupied an important place in Northeastern’s calendar for many years. This year’s observances, which will take place April 8-11, are presented by the Northeastern Humanities Center and the Holocaust Awareness Committee and will include a full program of moving events. The week will begin with breakfast on Monday at 7:30 a.m. for the annual Northeastern Holocaust Commemoration, featuring a poignant presentation and performance by Gideon Klein Scholar Heather Viola based on her research on children’s music at Terezin and a talk by Stotsky Professor Laurel Leff, entitled “’Well Worth Saving’: How American Universities Selected Faculty Fleeing Nazi-Era Europe.”
That afternoon at 5 p.m., noted essayist, critic, and scholar Daniel Mendelsohn will deliver the 21st Annual Robert Salomon Morton lecture, “’Lost’ Between Memory and History: Writing the Holocaust for the Next Generation.” Mendelsohn is perhaps best known as the author of the international bestseller The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million (2006), the story of his worldwide search for information about the fates of relatives who perished in the Holocaust. In this lecture, he will explore the evolving meaning of the Holocaust as both a historical and a literary event. His important talk comes at a critical moment as this history passes to a new generation of writers and readers. He asks: Does the injunction to “never forget” put us at risk of “forgetting” individual stories as they are reshaped into the large manageable parables cultures need to live by?
On Tuesday April 9 at 12 p.m., author and journalist Matthew Brzezinski will speak on “Heroism in the Holocaust,” based on his recently published book Isaac’s Army (a finalist for the 2012 National Jewish Book Award), about Jewish resistance in Poland and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. This talk will discuss the myth of passivity during the Holocaust by showing that resistance was far more widespread than is generally acknowledged. He will talk about the different forms that resistance took and how extraordinarily difficult it was for Jews to resist in an organized manner, as compared to other groups in occupied Europe. He will also address how in some cases, not resisting was the ultimate act of courage.
On Wednesday April 10 at 12 p.m., the film “From Swastika to Jim Crow” will be screened as part of the Bill Giessen Film Series. The film is a mesmerizing chronicle of Jim Crow America and a profoundly moving tale of two seemingly different groups – the formal, heavily accented European scholars and their young Southern black students – who enriched each others’ lives in ways still being felt today. A panel discussion following the film will be moderated by Professor Jim Ross and will feature Margaret Burnham, Professor of Law, Charissa Threat, Assistant Professor of History, and Laurel Leff, Associate Professor of Journalism and Stotsky Professor of Jewish Historical and Cultural Studies.
The week will conclude on Thursday April 11 at 10:30 a.m. with a talk by Stephan Lewy, part of the Philip N. Backstrom, Jr., Survivor Lecture Series. Berlin-born Stephen Lewy was just seven years old when the Nazis took power in Germany. He spent the next nine years suffering discrimination, displacement, and abandonment. His Jewish father struggled to make a living and stay alive under constant threat of imprisonment in a concentration camp. His mother’s Protestant family disowned him after her death. Lewy barely survived Kristallnacht, as he was locked in a synagogue with 100 other Jewish children. He escaped to France with a children’s transport, a step ahead of the German invasion. He hid in various places in France until finally securing a visa to the United States in 1942. Lewy returned to Europe as an American soldier 10 days after D-Day and witnessed the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp. Years later, Lewy attended night school at Northeastern University, earning a degree in accounting.
All of these events are free and open to the public. For more information, including how to RSVP for the breakfast, please visit http://www.northeastern.edu/jewishstudies/events/.