Faculty, Program News, Special Projects

Researching and Restaging the Ghez Collection of Jewish Artists Who Perished in the Holocaust: A Curatorial Experiment – Collaboration with the Hecht Museum and a new course!

rachel_Perry.pngWe are elated to announce a new course we will be offering to our students in the 2016-2017 academic year.  Through this course we will be partnering with the Hecht Museum, and offering our students a wonderful opportunity to learn about museum studies and curation. Read about the course, taught by Dr. Rachel Perry, below:


Course description:  In 1978, the Swiss art collector, Dr. Oscar Ghez, donated his important collection of works of art by artists who perished in the Holocaust to the University of Haifa.  Consisting of oil paintings, watercolors, drawings and sculptures, the dscf0160.jpgcollection includes over 130 works by 18 artists who lived and worked in Paris before the Holocaust in what was known as the “School of Paris.”  Arrested by the Nazis and their French collaborators, many of these artists were interned in the transit camps of Drancy, Gurs, Compiègne before being deported East to death camps.  Ghez conceived of the collection as a memorial to artists who perished in the Holocaust, but it is also an important record of their lives and creativity.


In this course, we will collaborate with the Hecht museum on a unique research project revolving around the Ghez collection and culminating in an exhibition which the class will curate and install.  The last exhibition catalogue of the Ghez collection is over 20 years old.  The time is ripe for a reassessment of the collection, relying on new scholarship and new methodological approaches.  Little research has been done on these artists; for many, the dates and place of death is unknown.  Like detectives, we will explore the archives and trace the provenance of the art works before Ghez acquired them (ie. where they were purchased, when, by whom).  Where did these artists emigrate from?  What social, religious, political networks and organizations were they affiliated with?  Where did they go to art school, with whom?  Where did they exhibit (galleries, museums) and who were their patrons?  What subjects and media did they gravitate towards?  Answering these questions will contribute to a fuller picture of the rich diversity of Jewish culture in the prewar period, when Paris was a magnet for Jewish artists across Europe.


Final Research Project:  During the semester, students will work independently or in small groups on one aspect of the exhibition.  For their contribution, students are encouraged to think outside of the box.  Whether it is a documentary film detailing our research and progress as a group; a collection of poems and literary texts which relate to the art; a sound track of testimonies; documents relating to each artists (photographs, Pages of Testimony, artifacts); wall labels which provide important contextual information; an educational guide for students or a web based project (blog or website) – this course welcomes interdisciplinary approaches and original ideas about how to curate these works of art in the museum.  No prior knowledge of art is necessary.


Museum Visits and Film Screenings: Throughout the semester we will study other museums and collections devoted to art and the Holocaust.  Visiting lecturers and museum visits, as well as films about art and the Holocaust and academic articles and books, will complement class sessions in the Hecht museum and its archives in front of the works of art and relevant historical documents.  Film screenings are scheduled throughout the semester both in class and as homework assignments.  If you cannot make a screening, you must inform me in advance.  Attendance at museum visits is absolutely mandatory.  In addition to the class meetings held in museums, you may be required to visit museums on your own to complete assignments.

Learn more about our courses here.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/

Current Students, Holocaust Survivor

Reflections of a Second Generation Survivor – one student from our program shares her journey

My mother was 15 years old when the Nazis invaded her village of Gorzkowice in Poland. When the war ended, she was the only surviving member of her family.

Last Thursday, on August 25th, she passed away.

She was 92.

“You can’t study the Holocaust – you can only experience it” were her words when three years ago I was accepted to the Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies. It was during that time that she slowly started to share her experiences from the war. I grew up very much with the sense that this was a subject we did not talk about. Like many other survivors’ children, I grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust – “The conspiracy of silence”.

Once I was accepted to the International MA Program in Holocaust Studies, I realized that it was my personal privilege and duty at the same time to get together all the pieces of my family’s history and to put it in the wide context of the Holocaust and within the wider context of WWII. This program provided me with the adequate tools to conduct research and document my family’s story.

Being a student in the Holocaust Studies Program, as well as a “Second Generation Survivor,” got me engaged in a never ending struggle.

Should my mother’s personal history, intervene with my studies or would it be too emotional for me?  Should I choose her personal history for my various essay topics in the different courses?  Did her personal narrative correlate with the historical events as we know them?  Does her or anyone else’s personal narrative, which is remembered and told from a very personal and narrow angle, after so many years, really reflect the historical events? To what extent can we consider their narratives as historical evidence? Can we learn about history from personal stories?

History is not just about facts; it is about human lives and human faces. And yet I am still struggling with these dilemmas.

I would like to share a story with you.

My mother arrived in the Haifa Port on board an immigrant ship just a few days before Israel’s Declaration of Independence, at the end of April 1948. The ship, carrying about 750 legal as well as 250 illegal immigrants anchored off of the Haifa port. British and Arab officers were expected to come onboard and prevent the illegal immigrants from disembarking. The ship’s captain asked my mother, who was at that time young, good looking with fluent English, to keep the British and Arab officers busy, offering them drinks at the bar and chatting with them.  So, while she was distracting their attention, all 250 illegal immigrants got off the ship into boats waiting for them and got safely to Haifa. The officers completely forgot the reason for their being on board the ship, and eventually all legal immigrants got off the boat as well.

This story is so witty and outrageous, I wonder if this is how it really happened, is this a reliable story?

Not having a definite answer, makes it even more difficult for me to decide whether we can base historical events on personal stories.

Each Holocaust survivor seems to have a unique and individual story. We are obliged to find out how Holocaust survivors reconstruct their life experience in their narratives, which events they choose to share, and which they choose not to share, what are the personal experiences they remember and, which are those they forget, or even choose to forget. Their recollections contribute to our understanding of how these events during the Holocaust affected their new post-war lives, and how those experiences are imprinted into their ability to rebuild their lives after the Holocaust.  When survivors tell their life stories so many years after the actual events, we have to question the extent to which these personal stories correlate with the historical events as we know them.

As my mother said – to study the holocaust is not to experience it. She was absolutely right and yet studying the holocaust in the Weiss-Livnat program was a unique experience by all means.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/


Guest Lecturers, Holocaust Movies, Holocaust Survivor

Director Ronen Zaretzsky, Survivor, Kazik Rotem, and The Last Fighter Film

image (5).Earlier in the summer semester, writer and director Ronen Zaretzsky joined our class to screen his documentary, The Last Fighters, which details the lives of the surviving members of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The 2006 film traveled to Poland, Israel and Canada to visit the aging fighters and get their views on both the past and the present. It centered on a reunion between many of the living members of the Uprising in Poland, where they were honored by the Polish government for their heroic acts on the 60th anniversary of the Uprising. Many of these fighters’ own communities and neighbors do not know their stories. It began with Marek Edelman, one of the icons of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, who then was living in Lodz. His strong Bundist beliefs kept him in Poland after the war, where he became a heart doctor in order to help people after seeing the horrors of the war.

The film then brought the audience to Israel, where Zaretzsky interviewed Masha Futtermillech and Pnina Greenspan in Tel Aviv, Kazik Rotem in Jerusalem and Aharon Carmi in Kfar Saba. In the documentary, Carmi recalled jumping off a train carrying his family bound for Treblinka and returning on foot to Warsaw. Zaretzsky and his crew then met with Bronek Spiegel in Montreal, whose late wife Haika was also part of the Uprising. Spiegel spoke about his training and preparation for the fight while with the Eyal, a Jewish Fighting Organization created in 1942 after a mass liquidation of the ghetto which left mostly young people still in the ghetto.

In Poland at the reunion, the fighters relive the events of the April 1943 uprising. The film discusses the time-by-time and street-by-street play out of the uprising, how it happened, which building each of the fighters hid in, and when each detail occurred. All 220 fighters were divided into 22 groups, each group with a commander. They were all part of various Jewish youth movements, both Zionist and non. They then discussed their memories, as well as their relationship with the Jewish State and its role with Diaspora Jews.

As many of them were the only surviving members of their families, they needed to build their own lives from new at the end of the war. Pnina discussed the complicated feelings she had with returning to Poland, a country she once called home but then ran away from. After the film screening, Zaretzsky joined our cohort for a question and answer session. A student, Rotem, asked, “Why weren’t members of the Artzi, another movement in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, interviewed?” Zaretzsky said it was because most of them did not survive. Another student, Ziva, asked,  “How do you think the movie affected the survivors?” Zaretzsky replied, “For Masha it affected her a lot. She asked me, ‘Why did it take you so long to talk to me?’ She was very willing to be interviewed, and we had more than 100 hours of interviews with her.” He ended by saying that the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is one of the most unbelievable stories of the 20th century: a group of 200 young people who fight against the Nazi empire. It was the first instance of civilians fighting against the Nazis during the war.


Following this screening and after learning that one of the fighters from the movie, Kazik Rotem, is still living in Israel, our program organized a meeting between students and Rotem in Jerusalem. Our group traveled to Jerusalem to meet with him for the afternoon. He opened himself up for questions and discussion with our group, and told of his experiences during the uprising and his thoughts on life after the war. During the uprising, he was ordered to go to the Aryan side and make contact with Antek Zuckerman. He was only 19 years old at the time. He and his comrades hid in the sewers of Warsaw, walking 3km together with little rations, all while underneath the feet of the Nazis, to escape. While this happened, the Nazis discovered the bunker where the uprising fighters were hiding, including Mordecai Anielewitz, and killed them.


Rotem had successfully, but unknowingly, escaped. When students asked about what he felt at the time, he responded, “We had no intention or thought of surviving the uprising. I never thought I would make it out of there. But we knew we wanted to die fighting, like humans.” He recalled what it was like to take part in the action and spoke of the adrenaline the he felt. Rotem ended the meeting by talking with each student and asking about the diverse backgrounds that make up our program.


Our students unanimously felt that this was one of the most meaningful events of the year, one which left many students at an emotional loss for words. It was an incredible opportunity for our cohort to have an intimate, face-to-face meeting with one of the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and to learn about history from someone who made the history happen. It was also a chance for our program to pay tribute to Rotem and his courageous acts.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/

Guest Lecturers, Holocaust Survivor

Holocaust Survivor Hugo Marom visits MA in Holocaust Studies Students

16079-photo_t2.jpgHolocaust survivor and former Israeli Air Force pilot, Hugo Marom, recently met with our cohort to tell his story of survival through the Kindertransport. Marom was born in 1929 into a Jewish family from Prague, who can trace their roots in the city back centuries. He was just a child when the Sudentenland was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938. Jews from this region fled for other parts of Czechoslovakia, which was then also taken over by Germany. Around this time, a British man, Nicholas Winton, was invited by a friend to Czechoslovakia who wanted him to help in saving Czech Jews. After seeing the imminent danger, Winton returned to England to request permission from the British government to send Jewish children to England. He found support from many organizations that wanted to help, including Jewish, Protestant and non-religious groups from both England and Czechoslovakia. The British government agreed only on the conditions that English sponsor parents who wanted to temporarily adopt these children pay large sums of money and get multiple visas and affidavits for them. These conditions made it increasingly difficult to find homes for these Czech children, but Winton succeeded in finding homes for 900 children. Another man, Bill Barazzetti from Switzerland, also worked with Winton to find places for them. He had worked for years prior on helping Jews and Communists escape from Nazi-occupied territory, and after nearly being beaten to death by the Gestapo, he continued his incredible work.

Marom and his younger brother were two of the children on this list. He recalled saying goodbye to his parents, for what he did not know would be the last time, and boarding the train with other children. They were on the last train out of Czechoslovakia before travel stopped for the beginning of WWII. They departed Prague on July 28, 1939. The last trains scheduled to leave were for September 1, 1939, the day Nazi Germany invaded Poland. In total, 669 of the 900 children on Winton’s list made it out on these trains. Their long journey made stops in Leipzig and Holland before finally reaching London. He even remembers writing postcards from Leipzig to his parents, as instructed to do by the organizers of their trip. Upon arriving to London on August 3, 1939, 10-year-old Marom and his 8-year-old brother went alone to find shelter, finally finding a place at a youth hostel on the East End. Two weeks after the bombing of London started, all children, the Marom brothers included, were sent out of the city to the countryside for safety. They found a family to live with, and remained there for the next six years until the end of the war. At first, he said, some British families were hesitant to take them in because of the language. Their German language fell on sensitive ears; the scars from WWI were still fresh and hearing the sound of the enemy was too much for some. “Animosity often comes through language”, recalled Marom. He then spoke briefly of his life in England during the war. He quickly learned English, and made friends. His favorite meal until this day is fish and chips!

Marom then painfully spoke about his parents. They made the Kindertransport trains seem like a fun game, in order to mask their pain about parting from their children. After the war, he found out that both of his parents had been murdered. His mother was shot while she served as a cook in Auschwitz, and his father was killed in Treblinka. Most of the Kindertransport children lost their families; of the 70,000 Jews in pre-WWII Moravia, very few survived. Following the Allied victory, Marom remained in England with his brother and other Czech Jewish children. The retain their Jewish identity, the children, many of them now teenagers, created their own kehillah, or community. A synagogue was established with a rabbi that conducted prayer services when he was available; the rest of the time the Bar Mitzvah-age children (including Marom) led. Marom became a cobbler by trade, and received a scholarship to the Northwest Polytechnic School. Later he made Aliyah to Israel, where he served in the Israeli Air Force and was stationed in Jaffa.

It wasn’t until decades after the war the Winton and Barazzetti received attention for their heroic actions. In a now-famous British television show, Winton was invited as a guest who was then surprised to find out that their entire audience was former Kindertransport children. Following this incredible revelation, in which Winton’s deeds because public to the world, he was invited to Yad Vashem in Israel to be awarded the Righteous Among the Nations. However, because of Winton’s partial Jewish ancestry, he wasn’t eligible for the award. Barazzetti was given it posthumously, and Winton was given a letter from Ezer Weitzmann, then the Prime Minister of Israel, in recognition of him saving 669 Jewish lives.

Marom told this incredible story to our class, and then answered our questions. Student, Laura, asked about his role in the Israeli Air Force. Marom told about receiving his wings from David Ben-Gurion himself, and the pride he felt representing the Jewish state. Weiss-Livnat director, Dr. Yael Granot-Bein, then took the opportunity to talk about the formation of a thesis topic. She pointed out that students in the past have written on subjects related to the Kindertransport. She used their examples for our cohort, many of whom are currently working on their thesis proposals. In all, it was an inspiring and informative talk with Marom, and a unique opportunity to hear from someone who was a part of the history we study.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/

Guest Lecturers

Racial Science and Racial Policies in Nazi Germany with Dr. Amir Teicher

Amir-Teicher-pic-150x150In one of our summer semester Research Forum sessions, Dr. Amir Teicher joined our class for a fascinating look at Racial Science and Racial Policies in Nazi Germany. Dr. Teicher is a professor at Tel Aviv University, and specializes in Modern German History, Eugenics and Racism.

This lecture focused on the history and ideology of Nazi racial theory, and the scientists that were involved in it. Dr. Teicher began by debunking the idea that racial theory should be labeled a ‘pseudo-science’. He said that despite negative moral impact of this school of thought, these scientists upheld the same standards and practices as other scientists of this time period. They had peer-reviewed works, which were then used in studies across Europe and the United States. The uneasiness we now feel with referring to this as “science” comes from the horrible history and methods used in furthering this science. The “Social Scientific” thought complicates how we think about racial theory. It also impacts the motivations behind scientific movements. Dr. Teicher said that there are social and cultural terms, values and methodologies unique to the scientific community. General and cultural influences from outside society have an effect on what and how scientists study.


In the 1920s and 1930s, steps towards the promulgation of eugenics grew in Germany as well other countries. A 1927 handbook on Human Genetics outlined the scientific processes one must take in order to accurately study eugenics, including how one’s world views may affect the scientific outcomes. In 1933, German scientist Karl Saller conducted an in-depth study on the biological differences between American and German Jews. He had Jews from the United States come to study under him, and used them as data for his research. Using Swedes as the base line for genetic specimens, Saller compared the physical measurements of these American Jews to find out if their biological make up was more similar to that of Ashkenazi or Sephardic Jews. After his study was published, his methods were then used by other scientists in the field.


In the early years of Nazi Germany, the T4 euthenasia program was instated, in an attempt to “purify” Aryan society from undesirables. Beginning in 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were a set of racially based laws, mainly targeting Jews, that stripped Jews of their civil and social rights based not on their religious background, but on their Judaism as a race. They determined Jewishness by bloodline- whether or not their parents were Jewish- and physical likeness, rather than belief. This then brought up questions of mischlinge, or “mixed race”, in the question of someone with only one Jewish parent.

Later during the Holocaust, doctors at Auschwitz and other death camps conducted hundreds of tests on human experiments, all in what they believed to be the name of science. These inhumane procedures on live, conscious bodies produced some of the more gruesome facts of the Shoah. This issue led students to discuss the ethicality of this data. After WWII, the data collected in the camps was used for scientific studies. Dr. Teicher said in some places in the world it is still used, despite strong opposition from many in the medical community.


Dr. Teicher’s lecture was an interesting and in-depth look at a topic central to Nazi ideology and practice during the Holocaust, and allowed students to further explore this dark but important part of history.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/


Guest Lecturers, Holocaust Survivor, Uncategorized

Arieh Oz, Child Survivor, Visits Cohort IV

Arieh Oz.jpgIn a recent Research Forum seminar, our students got to meet and hear from Arieh Oz, a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the IDF and Holocaust survivor. He told of his family’s history in pre-WWII Europe, his survival, and later immigration to Israel.

Oz, born Harry Klausner in Wuppertal, Germany, was the son of Polish parents who had immigrated to Germany. They were a non-religious Jewish family, who made a living by working in the garment industry. Before the war, Oz said, they felt German in every sense of the word: through language, culture and appearance. Yet the first years of his life were impacted by the growing Nazi government; when he was born in 1936, he was forbidden from receiving a circumcision by a rabbi and had it done by a German doctor instead. After years of debating whether or not to move to Palestine, the Klausner family finally decided to leave Germany after the destruction of Kristallnacht in 1938.


They first settled in Holland, which to their surprise, was invaded by the Nazis in 1940. For the first two years of occupation, Oz’s life was still safe. He and his sister were kicked out of school, and Jews had to wear yellow stars but that seemed to be as bad as it was going to get. However, in 1942 when the Nazis began rounding up and deporting Dutch Jews, Oz and his sister were sent with a young woman to live with a Dutch non-Jewish farming family. His father had fled to Palestine, and his mother went into hiding with another non-Jewish family. Oz adopted a new identity, speaking Dutch, praying in a church, and working on the farm. Despite multiple raids on the house, he and his sister were never found in their hiding places in the attic. In 1944 as the Allied forces advanced, Oz recalls hearing planes as he lay at night, listening to differentiate between models and countries.


After liberation by the Canadians in 1945, Oz made his way to Palestine with his mother, sister, and tens of thousands of other Holocaust survivors. Upon meeting his father, he remembers not feeling any connection, since he had not seen him since he was quite young. Oz grew up in Tel Aviv, where his father bought a home, and was sent to the best schools in the country. After initial hardship in this new country, Oz flourished, graduating high school the 3rd in his class. He joined the Air Force and became a well-known and well-respected pilot. His many missions included those to Amsterdam, his hometown, as well as work on the Entebbe raid. After leaving the military, Oz continued to fly, this time as a chief pilot for ElAl. In 1972, nearly 30 years after the end of WWII, he brought his foster parents from Holland to Israel. They were honored as Righteous Among the Nations and have a tree planted at Yad Vashem. Oz is married to his wife of 60 years, and they share two children and nine grandchildren.

Screenshot 2015-11-02 13.16.24

Once he finished speaking students were invited to ask questions about his life and personal story. When asked about his post-war relationship with his mother, he told that due to hardships of the war, his mother was impacted for the rest of her life. His sister also had problems adjusting to Israel, and now lives in the United States. He answered students’ questions about his wartime life by remarking that he never shared his story of the war with his father, and his father likewise did not tell of his life in Palestine. The war’s toll on his family lasts until today; his sister is still very much traumatized by her childhood in hiding. Finally, a student asked about his name change. Oz said that upon arrival in Palestine, he wished to leave his European identity behind and embrace his new culture. Thus Harry Klausner became Arieh Oz.


When Oz joined the army he became a pilot in the Israeli Airforce, inspired by his time in hiding listening to the planes during World War II. He is involved in the From Survival to the Skies organization, which commemorates and documents an interesting phenomenon Oz is a part of.  During the 1956 Suez Crisis 144 pilots in the IAF were Holocaust survivors, although this was not known at the time. Forty-four of the pilots are still alive. Once members of the IAF, including Arieh Oz, realized that a significant number of Holocaust survivors served in the IAF they established the From Survival to the Skies organization to collect their testimonies and honor their service.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/


Current Students, Uncategorized

International School “Graduation” Ceremony 2016

13781862_1139689906087471_7614986965799525647_nLast week the International School at the University of Haifa held a ceremony for all of the international Graduate students.  Since our students write their theses from around the world, the ceremony is held in the coordination with their last semester of coursework.

We wish all our students luck in completing their degrees!

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/