Faculty, Research

Holocaust Hospitality: Michal Rovner’s Living Landscape at Yad Vashem

img_3204Writing in the journal History and Memory in 2016, art historian Rachel Perry of the University of Haifa’s Holocaust Studies Program considers the impact and implications of Living Landscape, the entrance art installation created by Michal Rovner at Yad Vashem’s new Holocaust History museum. Perry discusses the message and thematic expression of Living Landscape as embodying the message of the new Holocaust History museum, with reference to the concept of hospitality as conveyed by Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida.

Perry opens with the question: How does one greet the Holocaust, and how should a Holocaust History museum welcome its visitors in to face the history that it presents? Michal Rovner’s huge permanent installation in the entrance foyer of Yad Vashem’s new museum answers this question in a particular way. Rovner covers the entirety of one wall with a projected loop of film gleaned from footage shot before the Holocaust that depicts ordinary European Jewish life in all its variety, without any signs of Nazism, ghettos, death or humiliation. Perry cites Henri Raczymov’s description of ‘pre-history’ for Rovner’s choice of material for visitors about to plunge into the history of the Holocaust.

Perry comments on the radical nature of Rovner’s artwork. Yad Vashem’s other large iconic art pieces follow the trope of the downtrodden, passive ‘ghetto Jews’ set alongside the self-actualized, proud and fulfilled Jews of Israel, for example Nathan Rapoport’s 1948 Memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In contrast, Rovner’s work shows European Jews as living full, contented lives in the Diaspora as their home, without dejection or passivity.

Living Landscape uses only ‘found footage’ – that is, restored footage that was shot by Jews, in place of film that was created by either the liberators (such as US army cameramen) or perpetrators (Nazi cinematography). Perry emphasizes how Rovner’s intimate use of Jewish-created film celebrates the living, not the dead, welcoming you into their lives. She notes that the welcoming nature of Living Landscape epitomizes the new museum’s approach to Holocaust history, presenting it from point of view of the vanquished. She terms it ‘repersonalization’. The old museum told story of ‘them’, six million anonymous and faceless victims, from a neutral perspective, but the new museum tells the story of the individual. Repersonalization, Perry notes, does not mean that the visitor is absorbed to become them but rather is encouraged to empathize with them.

Rovner’s work shows the leitmotif of waving and hands stretched out towards the visitor, expressing a theme of welcome and hospitality. It is here that Perry references Levinas’ philosophy of hospitality. Levinas and Derrida expounded on the home as the beginning of all memory and the locus of hospitality, and the subjects of Rovner’s work welcome you in and greet you from this place where memory begins, before you step into their memories. Levinas conceptualized of greeting another as the foundation of ethical interaction. The welcome of hospitality demands recognizing the face of the Other and permitting them to enter one’s home and one’s life. Similarly, the visitor is here welcomed in and made to feel at home at the beginning of this foray into the lives and homes of another.

Waving connotes a relationship, bridging a distance between two people who have a connection. But waving can also express farewell. The ominous mournful score and the visitor’s knowledge of what is to come overshadows the welcome in Living Landscape, even though there is no hint of it in the footage. Perry concludes that this is one of the ways that Rovner’s installation crosses the binary lines usually present in a Holocaust history museum – between outside and inside, between dark and light, between mourning the loss or celebrating the victory of ongoing life – forcing the visitor to reflect on his own responsibility to memory and to ethical behavior today.

Rachel Perry is a Professor of Art History at the University of Haifa

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

Faculty, Research

Inciting Hate through Posters, Films, and Exhibitions: German Anti-Jewish Propaganda in the Generalgouvernement, 1939–1945

grabowski_smallJan Grabowski is a professor of history at the University of Ottawa. In the academic year of 2017-18 he will be teaching on online course to the students of Weiss-Livnat International MA program on the Jews of Poland during the Holocaust.

In his 2009 article for the journal Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Professor Jan Grabowski of the University of Ottawa discusses the little-examined issue of the German anti-Jewish propaganda that was distributed in the General Gouvernement (GG) area of Poland during the years of German invasion and occupation, from 1939 to 1945. He notes the resources that were dedicated to this branch of propaganda in particular, with the use of visual media and the involvement of Polish artists and existing Polish anti-semitic material.

The German propaganda effort in GG Poland was considerable, led by a number of German propagandists brought in from Goebbels’ own office in Berlin. In addition, scores of local Polish workers were employed and a great deal of resources poured into the Polish propaganda effort. This was partly because Polish hatred for Germany was already high before the catastrophically destructive German advance into Poland worsened it further. The sole point which united Germans and Poles was their hatred of the Jews and the Bolsheviks. While Germany initially kept their anti-Bolshevik propaganda to a low level, once Russia entered the war the Germans increased to a flood propaganda that linked the Jews and the Bolsheviks as the cause of every Polish woe.

Grabowski points out that the anti-Jewish messages were heavily promoted using visual media, including posters, newsreels, and traveling exhibitions, so as to reach even the 23% of Poles who were still illiterate. Short ‘newsreels’ depicted the Germans as saviors of the Poles, who corralled Jews into ghettos to prevent them from spreading typhus. Hybrid newspaper-cum-cartoons were distributed across rural villages, using large images and short texts that could be understood by the undereducated Polish countryfolk. Huge posters with eye-catching anti-Semitic images were plastered everywhere, and a number of traveling exhibitions used sculptures, images and art to bring German anti-Semitic messages across the GG region of Poland.

Anti-jewish propaganda was not only created by imported German professionals. Notable local Polish artists were employed to create posters that repeated the message that Jews were to blame for world affairs. The traveling exhibitions used original images, sculptures and pictures created by notable top Polish artists to portray Jews as black market profiteers causing food shortages and the menacing puppet-masters inciting America to enter the war and instigating Bolshevik Russia’s aggression.spread German anti-Semitic propaganda. Anti-Jewish poems and rhetoric written by local Polish writers were printed and distributed en masse. The Nazi propagandists often suppressed any indication that the material originated from German sources. In order to encourage the Poles to view Jews as the shared enemy from whom they had been saved by the Germans, they acted to reinforce impressions of pre-war Polish anti-semitism.

While the Germans pulled anti-Western propaganda after just a few months due to its ineffectiveness, anti-Semitic propaganda continued and increased. Even after 1942, when it was toned down elsewhere in Europe in the wake of Western outcry, anti-semitic propaganda was ratcheted up in Poland. With tens of thousands of Polish Jews hiding on the Aryan side of the ghettos, propaganda was a vital tool to prevent Poles from agreeing to help any Jew to survive. Anti-Semitic propaganda continued in Cracow and Warsaw up to the very last days of the war – with anti-Jewish posters distributed in early January 1945, a few days before the Russian army rolled in.

As Grabowski notes, it is difficult to be sure of the impact of German anti-Semitic propaganda in Poland, simply because it did build upon existing anti-Jewish feeling. But he builds upon anecdotal evidence from diaries, eye witnesses and other sources to indicate that such largely visual propaganda did have an effect on Polish Jew-hatred which lasted beyond the end of the war, as can be seen from the Kielce pogrom and other acts of violence against returning Jews.

In short, Grabowski concludes, German anti-Jewish propaganda harnessed existing anti-Semitic sentiments using multiple visual channels in order to override Polish hatred of Germany. They modified their previous successful propaganda with Polish input and the work of notable local Polish artists to better appeal to the local, and largely rural, population. While the impact of this propaganda is difficult to assess, it is concluded to have been significant.

Faculty, Research

Holocaust Discourse as a Screen-Memory: The Serbian Case

IMG_3450Professor Lea David, a Professor of the Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies at the University of Haifa, writing in the journal History and Politics in the Western Balkans: Changes at the Turn of the Millennium, addresses an aspect of Holocaust memory discourse in Serbia. Through examination of agendas within Serbian Holocaust discourse, she argues that Holocaust memorialization in Serbia is utilized in a way which is far from the human rights’ ideal of preventing future human rights violations. On the contrary, David concludes that Holocaust discourse is being used as a form of ‘screen-memory’ to conceal the true role that Serbians played in the 1990s Balkan Wars. Instead, the Serbian political elite has hijacked Holocaust imagery and symbolism to present Serbians as righteous victims and justify a new nationalist ideology.

David begins by noting that during Communist rule in the former Yugoslavia, the Holocaust was mostly ignored and neglected by the government. When marked at all, it was in the context of the wider ‘anti-Fascist’ struggle which did not single out the genocide of the Jews. Under the government of Milosevic in the 1990s and early 2000s, Serbian suffering in the Holocaust began to be commemorated within Serbia. The focus of Serbian Holocaust remembrance is the Jasenovac concentration camp, which was operated not by Germans but by the Croatian Ustasa. But Serbian officials continued to show indifference to non-Serbian victims of the Holocaust and did not participate in any international Holocaust memorialization events.

Professor David focuses her study on the sudden adoption of Holocaust discourse in Serbia from 2005, when the UN established International Holocaust Memorial Day and the EU made membership contingent upon Holocaust remembrance. In the same year, the EU’s Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) recognized the Jasenovac Committee of the Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church as an example of excellence in educating about the Holocaust. The Jasenovac Committee was part of the Serbian Orthodox Church, a body that had become increasingly powerful through the 1990s and emerged as a right-wing nationalist force by the new millennium.

From 2005, David notes, all Holocaust discourse in Serbia was directed by the Jasenovac Committee, so as to keep Holocaust education within the bounds of Serbian memory. The Holocaust was the context in which the massacres of Serbs took place, with Jewish and Roma victims remembered as ‘our brothers in suffering’. Enabled by monk Jovan Culibrk, the Jasenovac committee immediately made ties with Yad Vashem, who did not realise what Holocaust memorialization would be made to serve in Serbia. The Serbian political elite then hijacked the images and symbols of the Holocaust in order to equate Serbian victims with Jewish victims, and promote Serbian righteous victimhood as enduring throughout the 1990s wars. In this way, the Holocaust serves as a screen-memory, used to repress another aspect of history which the Serbian political elite does not wish to be seen.

Having established Serbs as victims of the Holocaust, the Serbian government then moved to sideline the roles of Serbian Communist partisan fighters and to rehabilitate quisling Cetnik members and other right-wing figures. As part of their nationalist resurgence, Serbian responsibility in the 1990s wars is deliberately ignored. Holocaust discourse is utilized to close off every arena for public debate about the wars, which are only mentioned to reinforce the image of Serbs as victims.

International human rights’ bodies intended that Holocaust memorialization would go hand in hand with addressing human rights violations of all types. But in Serbia, Holocaust discourse is not promoted as a way of grappling with human rights abuses. Holocaust discourse is used as a tool to improve Serbia’s international image, but domestically it is solely utilized to promote Serbian nationalism. The Holocaust is only remembered as a screen-memory, in order to contextualize the suffering of Serbian victims as being on a par with the Jews and to justify a new right-wing mindset to sideline the 1990s wars.

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

Program News

Multi-Disciplinary Approach in Holocaust Studies

The Weiss-Livnat International MA in Holocaust Studies offers an array of multidisciplinary courses that support a core of historical studies that provide our students with a holistic approach. The students come to the program with differing backgrounds and research goals and become specialists in their unique fields through our multidisciplinary program.

One of our historical backbones is Dr. Kobi Kabalek’s “Nazi Germany” course. In this course, students research Nazi culture and identification. It further gives a basic foundation to the political structure of the Third Reich.

Dr. Shosh Stephanie Rotem teaches a course called “Holocaust Museum: Three continents, three generations.” In this course, Dr. Rotem opens dialogue on the social, cultural, and political aspects of Holocaust museums. Through analyzing these different factors, students can offer thorough perspectives and questions to their futures in museology.

“Visual Culture and the Holocaust” taught by Rachel Perry marries the fields of Holocaust Studies and Art History. This interdisciplinary course studies the art of avant-garde and the National Socialist artists. Dr. Perry includes the time leading up to the Holocaust, during the Holocaust, and the responses to the Holocaust in art after the Holocaust.

Other historical courses, among others, include “Final Solution” taught by Dr. David Silberklang and “World War II” by Dr. Daniel Uziel. Students also have the opportunity to take courses in psychology, law, education, historiography, and literature. For more information on our faculty click this link.  For more information on our classes, click here.

The video below offers more information on the programs Multi-Disciplinary Course.




Jackie Metzger, of Yad Vashem’s International school, talks about Poetry and the Holocaust

IMG_3351Dr. Jackie Metzger shared his talk “Literature in the Holocaust: Teaching the Holocaust through Poetry” with our students during their seminar at Yad Vashem. Here are three of the poems he discussed.

Written in Pencil in a Sealed Freightcar | By Dan Pagis
Here in this car
I am Eve
With my son Abel
If you see my older boy
Cain son of Adam
Tell him that I…

This was the first poem Dr. Metzger presented. Dan Pagis, 1930-1986, was a revered Professor at Hebrew University from Bukovina, Romania. This poem, Written in Pencil in a Sealed Freightcar, is written on a memorial at Belzec Death Camp. In his presentation and discussion, Dr. Metzger suggested a relationship between Eve and life, Cain and death, and Abel with the murdered. Pagis draws attention to the first murder in relation with mass murder and the Holocaust. Dr. Metzger suggested that as Cain and Abel were brothers, so were the Germans and Jews, because we are human therefore we are related. The poem touches on the incomprehensibility of the Holocaust.

Testimony | Dan Pagis
No no: they definitely were
human beings: uniforms, boots.
How to explain? They were created
in the image.

I was a shade.
A different creator made me.

And he in his mercy left nothing of me that would die.
And I fled to him, rose weightless, blue,
forgiving – I would even say: apologizing –
smoke to omnipotent smoke
without image or likeness.

Pagis makes a distinction between them and me, “they were created in the image,” and “a different creator made me.” In saying that a different creator made him, he’s rejecting the monotheistic idea of God. Dr. Metzger made an interesting conclusion, saying, “Who you fear is your god, the Germans feared Hitler.” Is Pagis rejecting the idea of Hitler as a god? Pagis, acknowledges his god in the last stanza, “He in his mercy,” which confers this idea.

Shema | Primo Levi
You who live secure
In your warm houses
Who return at evening to find
Hot food and friendly faces:

Consider whether this is a man,
Who labors in the mud
Who knows no peace
Who fights for a crust of bread
Who dies at a yes or no.
Consider whether this is a woman
Without hair or name
With no more strength to remember
Eyes empty and womb cold
As a frog in the winter

Consider that this has been:
I commend these words to you.
Engrave them on your hearts
When you are In your houses
When you walk on your way
When you go to bed, when you rise
Repeat them to your children.
Or may your house crumble,
Disease render you powerless,
Your offspring avert their faces from you.

This poem was written 15 weeks after the liberation of Auschwitz. This last poem is named after a prayer that devout Jews say three times a day, affirming the name of God. Levi wrote this poem as a sort of prayer, as a plea to remember the Holocaust. The first stanza is directed at the Germans and anyone that wouldn’t help him. Then Levi describes the Holocaust in the second stanza. The last stanza takes words from the Shema and  commands the reader to tell everyone about the Holocaust, it is imperative to pass on to future generations.

If you are interested in learning more about poetry and the Holocaust, read this educational guide by Yad Vashem.


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

Faculty, Research

Holocaust and Genocide Memorialization Policies in the Western Balkans and Israel/Palestine

In a recent article the journal Peacebuilding, Professor Lea David, for the Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies at the University of Haifa, discusses the consequences of human rights-based Holocaust and genocide memorialization policies on conflict and post-conflict situations. She examines the effects of such policies on specifically Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovnia after the 1990s Balkans conflict, and on Israel/Palestine.

David acknowledges the importance of memorialization after a conflict, but notes that memory can transition from a sense of ‘duty to mourn’ for those lost to an externally-imposed and internationally-supported ‘proper way to remember’. Human rights’ policies have elevated the importance of memorialization in strengthening human rights values after a conflict. In fact, she argues, enshrining memorialization in a ‘proper way to remember’ can reinforce ethnic boundaries and nationalism as it causes competitive victimhood over who is the ultimate victim and thus perpetuates the very conflict that it intended to soothe.

David references the recent demand for ‘transitional justice’. In lieu of punishment, countries that have committed mass human rights violations are required to face their past by expressing broader accountability and responsibility as well as accepting criminal prosecutions and reparations. Since the 1980s, she notes, there has been a rise in the belief that ”by compelling the act of honouring the memory of those who died, the ‘duty to remember’ would be an insurance policy against the repetition of such crimes.” This viewpoint became enshrined as part of international human rights policy by the UN.

David cites the establishment of International Holocaust Memorial Day, which enforces memorialization of the Holocaust in Western formats even for countries far beyond the original genocide. Mandatory Western-style Holocaust education in EU member states further reinforces the Holocaust as the ultimate genocide and Jews as the ultimate victim group. While this was intended to prevent a recurrence, the unintended consequence has been to create a jostling for position as victims among other peoples. David conjectures that the Holocaust has been unintentionally established as the paradigm through which other genocides are perceived; thus, even Palestinians have accepted Holocaust education to some extent. By memorializing the Holocaust, Palestinians, Serbians, Croatians and others assume a platform of morality that allows them to push their own claims for victim status, and for similar reparations and memorialization of their own genocides.

In the Balkan states in particular, the unintended consequences of enforced memorialization have been high and are still evolving. The Srebrenica massacre was recognised as genocide by the EU and the 11th of July was established as an official European Day of Remembrance. For Bosniaks, this was an important conferral of victim status upon their people, bringing with it permanent claim to moral rectitude and evasion from guilt for future or past actions. But to Serbians, the recognition of Srebrenica as genocide rubs salt into the wound of the deliberate sidelining of the massacre of Serbians by the Croatian Ustasa in the Jasenovac concentration camp in World War Two. Thus the attempt at reducing human rights abuses by enforcing memorialization of the Srebrenica genocide only fuels local ethnic conflict by exacerbating the Serbian struggle for victim status.

Based on her examination of events in the Balkans and in Israel/Palestine, David concludes that the transition from an internally-motivated, natural ‘duty to remember’ to an external and out-of-context mandatory ‘proper way of remembrance’ is not just ineffective in preventing a repeat of genocide. It is instead actively harmful to the restoration of peace in the conflict region. Obligatory memorialization brings justice for some, but also renders them sanctified victims and ignores other victim groups. This instigates competing hierarchies of suffering laid out across ethnic lines, thus reinforcing the very tensions that first provoked the conflict. While we should acknowledge human suffering, David writes, we must also be aware of the unintended consequences of mandatory memorialization.

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


Internships Available for Students of the Weiss-Livnat International MA in Holocaust Studies

The Weiss-Livnat International MA in Holocaust Studies program is proud to announce another call for applications for our prestigious international internships. The program will allocate six internships to our students who have not yet graduated.

  • Two students will be selected to intern at the Wiener Library for the Study of Holocaust and Genocide in London. (www.wienerlibrary.co.uk)

  • Two students will be be selected to intern at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. (www.polin.pl/en)

  • Two students will be selected to intern at the Jewish Museum in Budapest. (www.enmilev.weebly.com)

Each unpaid internship will be four to six weeks long, and the Weiss-Livnat program will provide costs of flights and rent for the duration of the internship (up to $1,500).

The candidates will be selected by a committee of staff from the Weiss-Livnat MA Program together with each institution

This offer is exclusive to the students of the Weiss-Livnat Program. The selected students will start their internships in the autumn-winter 2017-18. The exact dates will be decided upon by the students and each museum.

Those interested in applying please send these documents to Dr. Eila Perkis (eperkis@univ.haifa.ac.il)

  • Updated CV with details of the languages you speak, write and read in.

  • One letter of recommendation.

  • One page essay explaining why you would like to intern at the specific institution (it is recommended to apply to more than one position to improve your chances of being accepted.)

If selected, students will conduct a Skype interview with the museum(s).

Deadline for submissions is June 30, 2017.

To read about the experiences of our students during their internships or about the internships themselves, read the articles tagged below.