Alumni, Current Events

Guest blog: Dorota Nowak

By lying we kill again*


Four years ago, I wrote a rather personal entry for this blog entitled Holocaust Studies vs. Mental Health. Back then, I was a student of the second cohort of the Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies. The first semester ended and I felt overwhelmed by the difficult topic with which I had decided to engage.

The entry was partly humorous, (if nobody else then my Mom laughed for sure), and partly serious, (it was a really tough period in my life, I thought), where I tried to grasp how studying the Holocaust influenced my life. All Holocaust scholars know that humour can sometimes save you from madness and despair.

It has been almost four years since then. Not much has changed and at the same time, a lot has changed. I am still working on my dissertation on contemporary Polish and Czech Shoah literature, and, on and off, I am still depressed. Even though in my research I analyse literary fiction, the Holocaust happened in reality, and even if you chase this thought away, the reality of this event always comes back, hits you with all its force and knocks you out. And there is no way to escape it, especially if you come from Poland. I’m also often down because writing a PhD is not an easy task and even though you gather more and more knowledge, it never seems enough to write a decent piece of scholarship. Especially if you come from Poland and struggle with the not-so-much-up-to-date-anymore complex of never being good enough for western standards.

With the uphill moments of my research, I try to deal with humour. As any forever student, I look in the mirror from time to time and the veil of melancholy about a yet unfulfilled academic career and family plans lifts, and I laugh about the prolonged non-adulthood and the wisdom forever more beyond my reach. I guess we all get to that point sometime in our lives. Besides, nothing is lost, after years spent in the library, protected from the influence of environmental factors, and interactions with people, I still feel and look like a baby, even though I’ll be 30 this year.

But these days I lose hope and I am definitely not in the mood for joking.

“Good Change” 

The reasons for which I don’t feel like laughing today are obvious to anybody who has any interest in either Holocaust studies or international relations. The political situation in Poland is not an enviable one. Despite what the ruling party and the public television say, it is not a “Good Change”. But, ok, we chose these people to rule our country. Let them rule. Let them spoil our education system, let them destroy the judiciary system, and introduce more religion-based laws which limit women’s rights. Let them do that to all of us, we chose them. And let’s protest if we don’t like it. But why the Jews again?

After I graduated from Holocaust Studies, my then boyfriend and I moved to Kraków. He was Jewish, so we signed up to be members of JCC Kraków. For a few months, we participated in Shabbat dinners, Torah learning sessions, Israeli dance lessons and other activities. We made friends. People we met there were mostly Jews from abroad, there were a few Holocaust survivors or children of Holocaust survivors there and a lot of non-Jewish Polish volunteers. And I felt that they all were hopeful. I too felt that these were the good days. I even heard the Chief Rabbi of Poland say that Poland is a place to be for the Jews of Europe. That was in 2014. My heart lifted. What do they think today? I can only imagine.


Many commentators say that the PiS party “let the genie out of the bottle”. Indeed, they created a space in which it is possible and acceptable to express anti-Semitic views. It is horrible, scary and outrageous. I am angry and sad. And, I assure you, so are many, many others in Poland. We are frustrated that the fragile friendship that was cautiously built for many years is now in danger. But, maybe, this is not the point. Maybe it is not today that is important. After all, the PiS party didn’t invent the genie, (please don’t read that as any kind of justification for the politicians in charge. I am a million miles from that). It was already there.

Marcin Wicha, a Polish contemporary writer, who was asked to comment on the current wave of anti-Semitism, said: “We all know the tap with anti-Semitism exists. I just didn’t think they would open it now.”

Yes, Polin museum is amazing, yes, there are 40 Jewish festivals all over Poland every year, yes, Klezmer music is enjoying a revival, and yes, we’ve Jewish restaurants all over. Yes, cheap flights to Israel from Kraków, Katowice, Warsaw and Lublin. Great success! Yes, yes, yes… But isn’t it only a facade? An exorcism?

Meanwhile, the word “Jew” (“Żyd”) can still function as an invective in Polish, jokes about Jews and the Holocaust come up at any occasion, one can buy paintings and figures portraying a Jew with a coin on every corner. Anti-Semitic notions are present in our folklore religious rituals. A few years ago I witnessed a children’s Christmas play at my Grandmother’s village in which a Jewish character was beaten by the shepherds who came to greet baby Jesus. The shepherds shouted: “Beat the Jew! Beat the Jew!” And the oh-so common conviction that the Jews want to steal our leadership in the history of suffering and martyrdom. A constant outcry: “But we too, we too suffered, we suffered like no one else!”

The examples I list above are not, perhaps, representative, maybe a broader context should be provided, and obviously they don’t speak about the whole Polish nation. However, they show how deeply anti-Semitic stereotypes are embedded in Polish culture, for they are connected with emotions, (among them anger and jealousy), with painful historical issues which build our national identity, with rituals which define us, with our beliefs and superstitions, and we are surrounded by them from a young age.

The harrowing discrepancy between the revival of Jewish life in Poland and the growing anti-Semitism is especially and painfully vivid, I find, in the case of Olga Tokarczuk. In 2015, this Polish writer won a Nike price for The Books of Jacob. A wonderful book which deserved the national literary prize and recognition. However, the book was not only recognised as a literary masterpiece, and the author as a great mind. The book was also labeled by some as anti-Polish and the author faced a wave of hatred, which included being called a “Jewish whore”.

There were times when I felt that I was betraying Poland for speaking so harshly about how we dealt with the difficult past and with the issue of our complicity in the crimes committed against the Jews of Poland during WWII. After all, the discussion about Jedwabne was not a complete one and especially about Polish contemporary anti-Semitism.

But, how can you pass indifferently when a puppet representing an Orthodox Jew is being burned on a public gathering of ONR (National Radical Camp) on the main square in Wrocław in 2015?

How can you pass indifferently when a Holocaust survivor, Aleksandra Leliwa-Kopystyńska on a TV show just a few days ago, has to remind again, like during the Holocaust or in 1968, that Polish Jews are also Polish, they are us, we are one nation?

Instead of posing this as a rhetorical question, I should probably really ask myself. How can one pass indifferently? After the Christmas play in my Grandmother’s village, I didn’t say anything, I didn’t want to shame the children, because obviously they didn’t understand that it was wrong, I was afraid to talk to their parents. I only complained to my parents afterwards, but I was preaching to the converted. So often I go back to this evening and wish I had more courage then.

Poland is not an anti-Semitic country, but Poland has a problem with anti-Semitism. And I have to see it as my problem too.

So what now?

Let’s hope it is a turning point for Poland again – a similar one to the publication of Jan Gross’s book about Jedwabne in 2000. Let’s hope it is a crisis which will awaken those who still can’t face the truth about the complicity of the Polish population in the crimes committed against the Jews during World War II and about Polish anti-Semitism both past and contemporary.

Let’s hope we will have enough strength to stand in front of a mirror and see more than our own suffering and the history of Polish righteous among the nations. Let’s hope we will be truthful for once.

Let’s hope we will have enough courage. This, I say particularly to myself.

* This is an inscription made with a fluorescent orange spray by a courageous person on the walls of IPN (Institute of National Remembrance) building on Marszałkowska Street in Warsaw. I passed by it a few days ago.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program? You can find the application and more information at our website:

Current Events, Holocaust Education, Program News, Research

Grabowski on Polish complicity: “It’s our obligation and duty to study it”

grabowski_smallPolish historian Jan Grabowski is concerned about the future of Holocaust research in his native Poland, in the wake of its controversial Holocaust law.

The new bill states that “whoever accuses, publicly and against the facts, the Polish nation, or the Polish state, of being responsible or complicit in the Nazi crimes committed by the Third German Reich … shall be subject to a fine or a penalty of imprisonment of up to three years.”

Speaking at the Centre of Organisations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, Grabowski warned: “If you’re a student of history or a journalist, are you really going to want to dig into these issues if you’re going to lose your work, your grant or your possibility of promotion?”

Grabowski, who is currently Professor of History at the University of Ottawa, also teaches a course on the extermination of Polish Jewry to students of the Weiss-Livnat International MA program in Holocaust Studies. While learning about German perpetrators and Jewish victims, students also explore the attitudes of Polish society and the Polish Catholic Church to the persecuted Jews.

The author of Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland, Grabowski insists that research on the subject of Polish complicity must go on unabated.

“We can talk about the complicity of segments of Polish society in the extermination of the Jews of Poland,” he confirmed.

“The question is how widely we want to interpret this term, but we are talking about a widespread phenomenon which has not been discussed in depth. And regardless of what current nationalist authorities in Poland want to do, it’s our obligation and duty to study it.

“The assumption that the extermination occurred in outer space, that the Holocaust happened without Polish society becoming aware of this unfortunate event, is simply absolutely false.

“The mass murder of Polish Jews was not abstract. It happened inside the space of the Polish nation, so this is why you cannot pretend that this is only a German-Jewish affair. There are no Polish bystanders in the Holocaust.”

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program? You can find the application and more information at our website:

Alumni, Holocaust Education

Why Holocaust studies matter

Jordanna Gessler, a graduate of the Weiss-Livnat International MA program in Holocaust Studies and now the Director of Education at Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, tells The Times of Israel why Holocaust studies matter…   


In 1927, a boy named Elek was born in Belsko, Poland. He was born to an upper middle-class family, had two younger siblings, dozens of cousins, and enjoyed accompanying his mother, Deborah, to Vienna to see concerts and the opera. He had a very happy childhood. He spoke German at home and Polish in school, and he liked to play catch with his friends. He had a good arm. On the holidays, he went to synagogue and always remembered that his mother made the best gefilte fish. For his bar mitzvah, he received a potato. It was 1940 and the Germans had already invaded, World War II had broken out, and the Holocaust had begun. At that time, he did not know that he would never see his mother again. This was something that he never got over. He never forgot his mother, I would know. He was my grandfather.

As I write this, a photo of my great-grandmother is on my desk at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. It is the only photo my grandfather ever had of her, and this photo and the story behind it has tremendously shaped my personal and professional life.

While completing my undergraduate studies at the University of Vermont in International Relations and Holocaust History, I had the opportunity of studying my passion and interest in the Holocaust in an academic setting.  After my graduation from the University of Vermont, I was hired as an account manager at a technology company, but I slowly realized that I was not truly satisfied with a simple office job and yearned for more satisfaction out of my work. Following countless hours of contemplation and self-reflection, I discovered that I would benefit both personally and academically from going back to school and pursuing a Master’s degree in a field that I was passionate about, which was without question Holocaust studies. With a little help from Google, I discovered the Weiss-Livnat International MA Holocaust Studies program at the University of Haifa in Haifa, Israel. I was immediately drawn to their assortment of classes, ranging from History of the Final Solution to Psychological Perspectives of the
Holocaust. My cohort was made up of 29 students who not only covered a wide age range, but also came from numerous countries, which added a blended diversity in ideas, thoughts, and practices.  I thoroughly appreciated the different opinions and analysis that came from students from across the globe with the same drive and interest that I shared.

Despite the difficulties in uprooting and moving to another country and culture, I truly enjoyed my unique experience studying the Holocaust in Israel and all the opportunities that were afforded to be by the University of Haifa program and exemplar location. Through the program, I interned in the Righteous Among the Nations department at Yad Vashem where I analyzed, collected, and organize data and evidence in order to initiate potential righteous candidacy files. This research highlights the few but remarkable benevolent moments that took place during the Holocaust; at such a horrific and abhorrent time in human history, people were somehow able to muster the courage and exhibit true heroism. This reminder is never lost on me. In addition to my internship, I had the opportunity to volunteer with Amcha, an Israeli organization for Holocaust Survivors and would meet with a charming lady named Yehudit once a week. She spoke four languages without formal education and had an ardent passion for books. Despite her being legally blind, she continued her fervor for literature through audio books. Yehudit also happened to have survived Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, yet her past hardships did not seem to have had any negative effect on her humor and generosity.

One of the most moving experiences I encountered as a University of Haifa student occurred while I was working on my final paper for the course, Qualitative Research Techniques for Historians. We were instructed to interview someone as part of our final, and I chose to interview a Survivor named Esther, whose life story I knew had never been officially documented. I was extremely nervous in the days leading up to my interview, terrified that I would somehow upset Esther or cause her pain. I ended up spending hours with Esther talking about everything from her Holocaust experience to my future plans. We both opened up and engaged in an incredibly deep, intimate conversation. She gave me advice that I will always carry with me, and we shared a bond during those hours that will never be replicated. My time with Esther personified the importance of documentation and interaction with Holocaust Survivors.

My tremendous experience at the University of Haifa not only provided me with sentimental satisfaction and intellectual growth, but has furthermore affirmed my desire to work in the Holocaust field. Continuing dissection of the actions and subsequent consequences of the Holocaust is imperative to both maintain remembrance of the past and continue future education.

In my current role as Director of Education at Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, I oversee the Education and Archival Departments, ensuring that every program and all our galleries include the full historical narrative in an engaging way while staying true to our mission of commemoration and education.  As the Director of Education, I design customized education materials and programs for students in sixth grade through college. I work with teachers to create transformative tours that support their work in the classroom. In addition, I instruct and supervise Interns and Fellows engaged in artifact-based research and curriculum development. Along with managing the Education and Archival Departments, I work with other departments within the Museum to accomplish various program goals, including the Grant Department to write and submit specialized education grants as well as the Executive team. I also represent and speak on behalf of the Museum at commemoration and education events throughout Southern California. The Museum’s mission to commemorate, educate, and inspire, reflects the founding Survivors’ desire to remember those who perished, honor those who survived, and provide free Holocaust education to the public. As the Director of Education, I ensure that this important history engages and resonates with students from different background, experiences, families, and communities.

At Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, I oversee a program called “Share Our Stories,” which connects students from under-resourced schools with Holocaust Survivors for conversation, learning, and exploration. We believe that connecting Holocaust Survivors with young people facing their own extraordinary and unique circumstances can inspire and affirm. In addition, the program provides students with an opportunity to discuss the most pressing concerns of their own lives and to find common ground in their personal histories and mutual hope for a better future.

Two years ago, while working on “Share Our Stories,” I received a call from a teacher who noticed that his students were nervous for their visit. They had never been to a Museum before and did not know what to expect on a field trip. Holocaust history can be heavy enough, I would never want students to also be anxious to visit a Museum. I offered to drive to the school in South Central Los Angeles to speak with the students. Standing in front of the classroom, I explained what they would see in a Museum, showed them pictures of the gallery space and artifacts, and introduced them to Holocaust history. I talked about my grandfather and his experience during the Holocaust and how his dignity and devotion to family inspired me. At the end, when I asked if any of the students had questions, one boy raised his hand and asked if my grandfather was ever scared. I realized in that moment that this student was personally connecting to my grandfather. He was understanding himself and the world through this interpersonal dialogue and connection.

Several weeks later, I received a thank you letter from this student in which he wrote: “I appreciated when you shared your story with me about your grandfather. I’m really sorry about your loss. You’re such a strong, brave lady for sharing your grandfather’s story because people don’t really have the courage to talk about their family and what they went though. I really am thankful to have met you and learned this.”

I am the co-chair of a group of grandchildren of Survivors We are a community for grandchildren of Survivors who are helping to shape the future of Holocaust remembrance and education. Our mission is based on memory, education, community, and social action, drawing on our own personal connections as stewards of our grandparents’ legacies.  We are all committed to ensuring that there is a future for Holocaust education and remembrance. It is our responsibility to remember, it is our responsibility to educate, and it is our responsibility to inspire. As a 3G group, we stand for commemorating our past, changing the future, and creating a world of mutual respect.

My grandfather passed away in 2008, and I may not be able to detail his exact experience, and he did give oral testimony that I could use.  But I am a person who knew him. I remember him. I remember what he taught me.  This I can share with other people. There is something personal in this form of engagement and learning, and I truly believe that the generations born from Survivors can and will steward this history.

My experience as a student at the University of Haifa provided me with the tools to ensure the continuation of Holocaust remembrance and education. Through my work, I bridge the differences between diverse groups of people and bring them together by teaching them how hate, discrimination, and prejudices led to the worst part of human history. The Holocaust was a Jewish tragedy, as well as a tragedy for all of humanity. What we do matters, and education helps us to close the gaps that divide us.

Guest Lecturers, Holocaust Survivor

Holocaust survivor Catriel Fuchs: ‘More luck than judgement’


On the occasion of his 90th birthday and after plenty of “noodging” from the family, Holocaust survivor Catriel Fuchs finally decided to commit his amazing story to paper. Now 92, Catriel has written and published his autobiography, which, loosely translated, is entitled More luck than judgement.

“But don’t go rushing to the next book store,” he jokes, “because only ten copies exist. They contain the memory of my murdered family, of my youth, and are dedicated to my family, of course, and to my seven great grandchildren, aged from two-and-a-half to 13. One copy is in Yad Vashem.”

Catriel, originally Karl, was born in December 1925 in Vienna, to his parents Helena and Aaron, and so he was not yet a teenager when the Nazis invaded his home city in March 1938. By way of an introduction, he says: “I’m a survivor and as such I carry around many things with me, dreams, disappointments, highs and lows.

“I was 12-and-a-half years old in 1938. How could I know [what was happening], but I realised the dark times were coming. I was already in an orphanage. The last time I saw a schoolroom from the inside was when I was about 13. By then, of course, the orphanage was closed and school was over for me.”

His eventual escape was orchestrated by the Youth Aliyah movement, but it initially suffered a perilous mishap.

“I escaped twice,” Catriel explains. “It was organised by the city of Graz. We were accompanied to the border by a battalion of German soldiers. As we reached the border, they said ‘run’, because on the other side there was an exchange of border guards. There, we were met by Yugoslav smugglers. We were told that a train would stop in the middle of the night, a wagon would be open, jump in, and you’ll be taken to Zagreb.

“Well, I woke up in the morning and there was nobody there, nobody. I was totally alone. I didn’t know where I was and I didn’t know the language. A very sympathetic gendarme accompanied me, on foot, all the way back to the border, and there, on the other side, stood an SA man.

“‘Who are you,’ he asked. And I replied, ‘Ich bin wieder da’, I’m back. I think that saved me. He thought I was an Austrian runaway. I was there for two or three days, before I jumped on a train and after a while, I realised it was going in the wrong direction, back to Vienna. I had ten Reichsmark, virtually nothing, and no papers. I was nobody.

“The train was full of Germans and soldiers, and the conductor was making his way up the train. Opposite me was a young woman. She’s an angel in my eyes. We didn’t exchange a word, because it was forbidden for Jews to even look a German woman in the eye. She must have seen that something was wrong with me, because when the conductor came, she said ‘he is with me’.

“I was there, in what is today the Hauptbahnhof. Where will I go? To my poor mother. I walked through the streets, though a Jew wasn’t allowed out past 9 o’clock. It was past midnight. I knocked on my mother’s door, and I hear from inside, “yes, yes, I’m coming”, she was certain that it was Gestapo. At that time of night who comes knocking at the door?

“Anyway, I had to do the same thing all over again. By this time, there were no youngsters around anymore. We walked through the Karpaten, [Carpathian mountains]. It was slippery, and I carried a little boy on my shoulders all the way, until we reached the Drau river. They stuffed us into the baggage compartment of a taxi and off we went. I woke up in Zagreb, with a 40 degree fever. I survived even that!”

Catriel was speaking at the University of Haifa alongside Hannah Miriam Lessing, Secretary General of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for the victims of National Socialism. His story can be read, in German, courtesy of the Austrian Heritage Archive.    

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website:

Current Events, Guest Lecturers

Austria dealing with the past


In 1995, Hannah M. Lessing took the helm of the Austrian National Fund, an institution entrusted with Holocaust recognition, restitution and remembrance. At the time, her father, himself a survivor, was less than impressed with her decision to turn her back on a successful banking career. His response? “Can you give me back my childhood? Can you bring back my mother from Auschwitz?”

“That’s when I decided to do it, with the knowledge that we cannot turn back the hands of time, that we cannot repair anything,” Hannah explains. And true to her word, she approached the then President of Parliament and asked for the job.

“He asked what I would need to get started. I told him that I need you to write a letter, together with me, where we say that we’re sorry, that it’s too late and we are aware that nothing can be repaired. Then, I need historians who will research, I need staff who will listen, and I need open access to the archives.

“‘Very interesting’, he said, and he told me to send him a letter with all of my ideas. I left the meeting thinking I’ll never hear from him again. Still, I wrote the letter and two weeks later I had the job.

“Through our work, we seek to combat the historical amnesia in Austria. For decades, the atrocities committed were shrouded in a veil of silence. The National Fund was the first organisation to officially recognise Austrian survivors and to give them the recognition that they deserve.”

Over the coming years, Hannah and her team would find as many as 30,000 survivors, in 17 countries, all originating from Austria. “One of the beautiful things about the fund is that it’s not exclusively for Jewish survivors,” she confirms. “It’s a fund dealing with all persecutees from Austria, be they Roma, Sinti, the handicapped, political prisoners or homosexuals.

“We didn’t know what to expect. I told my employees, ‘don’t count on people being grateful, because they haven’t been dealt with for 50 years. We will reach out and we will listen.’ And yet, we were humbled from day one. It seems that we were exactly what they were looking for. Someone to reach out and say, ‘we’re sorry’.

“We received many, many letters that after we had sent the first letter and issued the first payment, people passed. Their children would write to me and say that it was finally an opportunity for closure.”

Ultimately, the National Fund would be allocated a total of $360m with which to compensate the victims. Naturally, such an undertaking required painstaking research, not least because it was also a fund for heirs. At its peak, Hannah assembled a team of 180 employees, including 40 historians, 40 archivists and 40 legal clerks.

“I could only actually compensate for 12 per cent and that was really horrible. But, because we had already dealt with survivors for a long time, we could reconcile with them, because we were giving back their family history. As of today, we have researched 30,000 Jewish family histories, we gave back all of the documents and we compensated for a certain amount of losses.”

And Hannah fondly recalls returning a painting to an elderly survivor, Freddy, here in the Carmel. It was deemed too expensive to ship from Vienna, and so Hannah personally obliged.

“I will never forget it,” she adds. “The feeling is indescribable. These are really the pieces of work which are the most beautiful things, that you can return something. I went with our Speaker of the House in June to New York, where we returned one book to a family. No matter how small it is, it’s a piece of family history that you’re returning.”


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website:

Holocaust Survivor, Program News

Doron Livnat: “My fearless father”


Every year, Yitzhak Livnat would proudly welcome the new cohort of students and share his remarkable story of survival. He did so “in a very authentic way”, his son, Doron, tells us. “My father was always very genuine and very honest.” Sadly, Yitzhak passed away in March 2017, and so, Doron now carries the torch in his father’s honour.

Cohort VI joined Doron, together with his wife Marianne, at the Yitzhak Rabin Centre for a tour of the Israeli Museum. After all, Yitzhak Livnat was a devoted Zionist and his story, just like Rabin’s, is deeply entangled with that of the birth and development of the State of Israel. The perfect setting, then, in which to remember a dear friend of the programme.

Thankfully, Yitzhak’s story is well documented. He survived internment at Auschwitz, as well as subsequent death marches to Mauthausen and Gunskirchen, where, finally, liberation arrived in the form of American troops. From there, he began an arduous, improbable journey to Eretz Yisrael, one that took him to Bucharest, the Alps, the Vatican, Cyprus and, at long last, Haifa.

Doron repeatedly described his father as fearless and, certainly, where discrimination is concerned, Yitzhak was unafraid to speak his mind, no matter the setting. Four years ago, he was invited to attend the official reopening of the Mauthausen museum. It was a huge ceremony, Doron recalls, with no fewer than eight European presidents in attendance. As part of proceedings, a time capsule was to be buried. Yitzhak, on behalf of the camp’s former internees, was asked to contribute. His route to the podium would take him directly past the presidents and Yitzhak took the opportunity to share a strong word, or two, with the Hungarian statesman.

“I couldn’t understand what he was saying, of course, but it wasn’t nice, that much I could tell,” Doron explains. “It’s live on TV. The cameraman didn’t know what to do and nor did I. I’m the responsible adult now! Eventually, we climb the podium, he does what he has to and when we reach backstage, I ask: “abba, what was that?”

“I had to give him a lesson”, Yitzhak responds. “He should stop the anti-Semitism going on in Hungary. It’s unacceptable.”

As the ceremony reached its conclusion, each delegation was invited to light a memorial candle. Yitzhak, now in his wheelchair, lead the Israeli representatives.

“Suddenly, I could see the Hungarian president with his entourage walking towards abba,” adds Doron. ‘This could be interesting’, I thought. The Hungarian president stands on his haunches in order to be on the same eye level as my father. This time, my father is not angry. They start to laugh. There is a whole conversation and they almost hug each other. Again, I ask my father, ‘what was that?'”

“He told me that he wants to discuss this more, and he came to introduce himself and to ask to keep the dialogue open.”

“And what did you say?”

“I told him that next Monday I am coming to Budapest and I’m staying in the Kempinski Hotel. I told him, look for me!”

There began an unlikely friendship. In fact, Doron reveals that when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Hungary last summer, the Hungarian president asked if he knew who ‘Itzik’ was and, for some 20 minutes, proceeded to tell him the very same stories that he had heard from Yitzhak. Hungary would soon make an official apology for its treatment of Jews during the Holocaust and Doron is certain that his fearless father’s intervention had more than a little something to do with it.

Doron and Marianne have been devoted friends of our programme since its inauguration and have supported dozens of students in their pursuit of careers in Holocaust research and study. In appreciation of this dedication, the University of Haifa awarded Doron an Honorary Doctorate. We wholeheartedly thank Doron and Marianne for their longstanding commitment to the programme and hope that they share our belief that we honour Yitzhak’s legacy each and every day.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website:


Guest Lecturers, Program News, Uncategorized

One Stone. One Name. One Person.


“A person is only forgotten when his or her name is forgotten.” Words from the Talmud, no less, and the inspiration behind the world’s “largest commemoration project”, the Stolperstein.

The brainchild of German artist Gunter Demnig in the early 1990s, Stolpersteine – stumbling stones or blocks – are commemorative brass plaques installed in the pavement in front of a Holocaust victim’s last address of choice. Each engraving begins with the words, “Here lived…”

Cohort VI enjoyed a lively afternoon with ethical campaigner Terry Swartzberg, who is a tireless and, quite clearly, passionate advocate of the memorial project. “Stolpersteine are just the start of getting to know someone, an introduction to the victim,” he explains. “We can restore their name to our consciousness.”

An American Jew, Swartzberg has lived in Munich for over 30 years, where he heads up the local Stolperstein initiative. It is but one of 1,000 local pro bono organizations working for the Stolperstein cause.


Today, there are some 70,000 such memorials in 21 countries and over 2,000 cities. There are, for instance, some 8,000 in Berlin. “Wherever you go, you’re confronted with remembrance,” he adds.

Each year, on the anniversary of Reichskristallnacht – the night of broken glass – local Stolperstein members and schoolchildren take to the streets to clean the bronze memorials. Swartzberg is convinced that this generation of German youngsters is more connected to the Holocaust than any that preceded it.

And the project continues to gather momentum. Anyone wishing to organize a Stolperstein-laying ceremony will have a lengthy wait. Demnig is fully booked until September 2018!

Further information on the Stolperstein project is available here.

Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: