Current Events, Current Students, Holocaust Education

PhD Candidate Presents in Austria

Lukas Meissel, a PhD candidate within the Strochlitz Institute for Holocaust Research at the University of Haifa, was recently invited to present his current research at the “International Conference Photographs from the camps of the Nazi Regime” in Graz, Austria. The conference was hosted by the Karl-Franzens-Universität.

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Lukas’ speech is titled, “Perpetrator Photography: Motives of the Erkennungsdienst at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp.” This was also the topic of his MA thesis. After his presentation he was able to get good feedback from veteran researchers in the field. It was also a great opportunity to speak with other presenters after their talks. Lukas’ PhD dissertation is also in the field of photography in the Holocaust, so attending a conference dedicated to this specific topic was significant.

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The approach that Lukas takes in studying photographs is unique, but hopefully his research will change how historians look at photographs. Lukas said, often times historians use photos to bolster arguments that are founded in documentation. The manner that Lukas looks at photos is almost completely opposite. He’s basing arguments off of the photographs as they hold their own historical significance, and using documentation in tandem to create a discussion that will lead to new perspectives in Holocaust Research.

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Lukas’ presentation focused on specific photos from Mauthausen Concentration camp, just outside of Linz, Austria. The group of photos that Lukas concentrated on were photos taken by the perpetrators. The photos taken inside the camps are rare, as it was forbidden in the camp, only SS-men of the Erkennungsdienst (Identification Department) were allowed to take pictures, but some still exist, these were smuggled out of the camp by some Spanish prisoners. All the photos are now in Vienna, in the Mauthausen archive.

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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/

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Current Students

Meet Cohort V!

alexaAlexa Asher

From: San Francisco, CA
Background: Interdisciplinary Center of Herzliya, Israel. BA in Persuasive Communications

What brought you to the University of Haifa?
I was attracted to the multidisciplinary style of the program. The courses offered give students the opportunity to explore so many different areas of Holocaust scholarship.

Interests in Holocaust Studies: Women’s Holocaust experience and the psychological impact on motherhood and family life.

What is your favorite aspect of the program?
The diversity of the student group.

What is your favorite part of living in Israel?
The feeling of family everywhere you go.

What would you like to do with your degree?
Eventually to pursue a PhD in either Genocide Studies or Human Rights Studies with an emphasis on the female experience.


tamarTamar Taylor

From: London, UK
Background: BSc in Critical Care from Kings College University

What brought you to the University of Haifa?
Living here as a volunteer for the last two years, I heard that Haifa University not only had an International School, but offered the course in Holocaust Studies. So I applied, and here I am!

Interests in Holocaust Studies: From a very young age, reading my first book ‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel, profoundly affected me as someone non-Jewish, and has led me to a deep empathy and love and support for both the Jewish people and Israel. Now that I have spent some time living in Israel and have met Holocaust survivors and have heard some of their stories, I want to ensure that many others from a non-Jewish background would gain more understanding of this period of Jewish history.

What is your favorite aspect of the program?
Meeting students from all over the world, getting to know some, hearing others’ stories about why they are here, doing this course.

What is your favorite part of living in Israel?
The people, the way they love and embrace life, unique to Israel I feel. The beaches are pretty nice too!

What would you like to do with your degree?
I would like to use it as a platform to inform and educate non-Jewish people, particularly of how the effects of the Holocaust are still felt today, throughout the generations of those who survived, and the part it has played in the modern State of Israel.


elanaLani Berman

From: The United States/Israel
Background: B.A. in English Literature from Yeshiva University
My undergraduate thesis explored Art Spiegelman’s “Maus,” attempting to understand the literary devices utilized by a second generation survivor telling his father’s story. After completing my BA, I moved to Israel and completed an MA in Contemporary Jewish History from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I am a guide in the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum and teach online courses on the history of the Holocaust and the modern roots of antisemitism and racism.

What brought you to the University of Haifa?
The Weiss-Livnat MA offers a unique perspective on the Holocaust and provides opportunities to pursue the Holocaust from different angles.

Interests in Holocaust Studies: As we transition to no longer having Holocaust survivors to tell their story firsthand, I want to play a role in shaping Holocaust education for future generations.

What is your favorite aspect of the program?
I find the multidisciplinary approach of the Weiss-Livnat program to be innovative, exemplifying the direction of Holocaust education I want to be a part of. Embarking on this journey with students from diverse backgrounds is equally exciting and enlightening.

What is your favorite part of living in Israel?
I love feeling connected to the history of this country and watching my children play an active role in the chain of Jewish history.

What would you like to do with your degree?
I hope to pursue a PhD and to develop new curricula on the Holocaust.


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You could be a part of Cohort VI! You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/

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Current Events, Current Students

A Thankful Thanksgiving to Remember

This article was written by Meredith Scott, Cohort V:

Thanksgiving Day 2016 was one I will never forget. I had so much to be thankful for on this day. I was in the Eshkol Tower working in the seminar room for our program, when the fires broke out all over Haifa. Yael Granot-Bein, the Director of the program, came in and told me she had to leave to pick up her children from school, because many of the schools were closing all over Haifa due to the fires. Some other students and I went to one of the windows facing the fires and saw huge clouds of smoke rising above one of the neighborhoods in Haifa. Then we saw the flames jumping up into the sky.

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In our state of shock we decided together what to do next. They both live off campus, so they went home to make sure everything was okay there and to pack a bag for evacuation. I left to pack a bag as well, just in case. On the way to my apartment (Talia Dorms), Yael called me and a told me to meet her back at the parking lot of the Eshkol tower, with a bag. She said, we could go to her parents home in Nesher which was unaffected and safe. I grabbed all my valuables and ran back up to Yael. This the first of many things that made this the most thankful Thanksgiving I’ve ever had.

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Yael’s father picked us up just outside of the university and he took us back to his home. As we watched the news coverage, we saw the neighborhood that had been Yael’s family home in childhood. It was completely destroyed. Another staff member in the Weiss-Livnat Holocaust Studies program lost her home to the fires.

As we watched the news, Yael’s first priority was making sure that all the students and staff were safe. She called all of the students and made sure they had a place to go. The other students in the program who don’t live in Haifa were offering their homes to Haifa residents. Even though there was so much devastation, the response was amazingly beautiful. Yael’s family hosted my Thanksgiving dinner that night, and I really couldn’t thank them enough for welcoming me to their home.

Toward the evening, we found that Yael’s home was safe, so we went to stay the night there. Yael had been in contact with another student, Jasmine, who had been at the Shuk and was not able to get back to campus before it had been evacuated. Fortunately, she had met an Israeli on the road the hosted her that afternoon and evening. In the late evening, Yael was able to pick Jasmine up and we both spent the night in Yael’s home.

Meanwhile, all the international students were well taken care at the Haifa City Center. In the morning, we just got word that the International School planned to take all the students, around 200, to the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, just south of Tel Aviv. Yael wanted to see all her students, so we all went down to the Center. Jasmine and I decided to stay with the international school. Yael hosted students again this night who wanted to stay in Haifa. 

We took busses down to Rehovot and the Weizmann Institute warmly welcomed all the students.

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That night, the Weizmann Institute organized volunteers to host us for Shabbat dinners. They had more volunteers than students for Shabbat dinner. This really speaks to Israeli culture. Specifically, after this weekend I understand why people say the Israeli culture is the most hospitable. We got to meet some really amazing and incredibly intelligent people from the Institute.

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That night we all had warm, safe beds to sleep in. During the next day, we all caught up on the news and were, for lack of better words, shocked. While we were receiving such amazing hospitality, the nation of Israel was also receiving help from nations all over the world including Russia, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Croatia and Turkey.

Some of the fires have been confirmed as arson. This is a reminder of the depths that humanity can fall to, as we’re studying the Holocaust we’re constantly reminded of how terrible humans can be. However, this Thanksgiving I am so grateful toward the families that took me into their homes, the Weizmann Institute and to the different countries that lended a hand in fighting the fires. Students and staff are back at the University of Haifa now. We’re all safe and alive. I think I can speak for all of us and how grateful we are toward the vast array of people that helped us.

I just want to add a personal thank you to Yael and her family for the hospitality they gave me.

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Current Events, Current Students, Holocaust Education, Special Projects

Dr. Rachel Perry’s Class Works with the Ghez Collection

This week Dr. Rachel Perry’s class explored the Ghez Collection. The Hecht Museum has a permanent exhibition of a small portion of the Ghez Collection, but the rest of the paintings, drawings and sculptures are in storage.

Oscar Ghez was a prolific art collector, specifically after World War II. During the war, Oscar Ghez and his family fled to New York in 1940, but returned to Paris in 1945. During his time in Paris Oscar Ghez slowly procured what is now the Ghez Collection in the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa. Each of the paintings are from an artist who was either killed in the Holocaust or narrowly survived it. The bulk of the collection is from Nathalie Kraemer and drawings by George Kars. There are 130 pieces total, from 18 different artists. In March 2017,  Dr. Rachel Perry’s class will curate and exhibit in the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa. Part of their work will include creating an exhibition catalogue, graphics for the exhibition, and research on the Ghez Collection itself.

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One of our students doing research in the Hecht Museum archives.

The Ghez Collection was donated the the University of Haifa to honor the artists you were murdered and tortured in the Holocaust. This collection is often referred to as a labor of love. Oscar Ghez’s other collections are shown in the Petit Palais in Geneva. Though, the pieces in the Ghez collection may not be masterpieces from Monet or Seurat, but they are invaluably significant because of their story and provenance. These pieces represent lives and beauty cut short. These artists influenced different movements including the School of Paris and Impressionism. Some of these artists were only in the beginning of their career, what their full impact would have been can never be known. We partner with Ghez in celebrating these brilliant artists and their work whose lives were destroyed.

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Dr. Rachel Perry enjoying the Ghez Collection.

Each of the students in the class is researching at least one artist, for the catalogue which will be published as a part of the exhibition. The students have also been asked to take on specific projects for the exhibition. For example, one of our students is a graphic designer, she will create a poster displaying the origins of the artists before they came to Paris, and where they went after Paris. Most of the artists were killed in Auschwitz, but some, not many, survived by fleeing to New York and other places.

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Dr. Rachel Perry and students, Annika and Jason, in the storage facility.

Our students are working directly with the University Museum Director and Curator. This is invaluable work experience, specifically for our students concentrating on Museum Studies within our program. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of our program, our students are able to have museum work experience, conveniently on campus. We’re looking forward to see the exhibit in March!

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/

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Current Events, Current Students, Genocide Studies, Guest Lecturers, Holocaust Survivor, Program News

Survivor, Shaya Harsit, Visits Cohort V in Research Forum

A few years ago, From Rebirth to the Skies was created to commemorate 138 Holocaust Survivors who became pilots and formed the pillars of the Israeli Air Force. A representative from this organzization, Shaya Harsit, came to share his story with the students of Cohort V.

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His story begins in the 18th Century. Shaya’s family was Italian, but moved to Poland in the 1790’s because King Stanisław August Poniatowski allowed Jews to own land. In 1934, Shaya was born in Poland to wealthy, traditional Jewish family. In 1938 Shaya’s father had a foreboding sense about the horrors that would befall Jews in Poland, so he fled to Russia with Shaya’s brothers. A year later, the Germans invaded Poland. On September 29, 1939 the Germans bombed Warsaw. For the first time, at the age of five years, Shaya saw a dead man; many dead men and dead horses crowded the streets of Warsaw. Soon after, his father sent a professional smuggler to rescue the rest of the Harsit family. The smuggler told them to gather what they could, in 24 hours they would leave for Russia. Shaya said he remembers the house being swarmed with tailors and shoemakers to hide valuables in their clothing and shoes. He never saw this as serious but a game, as any five year old would. His brother had studied medicine in Genoa, and in Russia he mobilized in the Russian Army as a Doctor, along with his wife, a nurse.

About a year later, in March, the KGB knocked on their door, very early in the morning.  They told the whole family to take only what they could carry, a cattle car would be leaving shortly to take them to a camp for political prisoners. He never saw his brother and sister again, who stayed in the Russian Army.

There was nothing in the train car but a bucket for a toilet. They were in the train for days, occasionally the soldiers would throw in bread, “really a brick,” and some soup. “Something I never want my friends to experience is lice, hunger and cold.” His mother could not make herself use the bucket as a toilet, so once when the train stopped she ran outside to urinate there, but with more privacy. The train left her, but Shaya’s brother and his friends jumped out of the train car to save her. They picked her up and threw her in the train before they jumped in.

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They arrived at the camp and there were small huts with no heat. Two to three families were supposed to live in these huts. At the camp, Shaya went to a kindergarten. At the school they practiced indoctrination, teaching the children that their new father was Stalin and their mother was Russia. The lived at this camp for more than one year. His father employed himself as a “fixer” and his mother worked in the kitchen. She would hide food in her clothing when she came home, and this is how they survived.

On the twenty-second of January, 1941 Operation Barbarossa started, the nazi invasion of Soviet Russia. Two to three days after the invasion the Harsit family woke up to no guards, no guns, and the gates to the camp were open. They walked through wilderness, when they came to railroad tracks they followed them. Different families jumped on different trains. First, they went first to Uzbekistan, then to Kazakhstan. In Kazakhstan they lived in a small town that was a crossroads for many different railways. He was then seven years old, and weighed only ten kilos because he had nothing to eat. He was hungry all the time.

His father decided to take him to an orphanage, what he called a “children’s home” because he felt that he and his wife could not care for him as they should. At the orphanage his father left quickly, so they Shaya would not see him cry. The orphanage was not welcoming, on the first day Shaya decided he would run away. He started to hoard food and rags for his journey home. He left in the night two to three weeks later. He was only seven and half years old. Without any shoes, he traveled the twenty or more kilometers back to his parents. He remembered that there was a river on their left coming to the orphanage so he kept the river on his right on the way back. Then he saw the towers for the crossroads of the railroads, and he knew that they would lead him home. He fell asleep several times, sometimes he had to crawl on his knees, but he kept going through the night. When he arrived at home his mother looked to her husband and said “you never take my son from me again”

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His father and brother obtained jobs putting tar on roofs. But the family was still hungry. At the time in Soviet Russia, food spoiled a hundred kilometers from where you were, but you were still hungry. From the roofing job, his father spotted a chicken coop, and took eggs from there periodically. These eggs saved the family’s lives.

One of his father’s friends was the person in charge of distributing food from the United States to the surrounding area. One day she was very upset because she was just told that in a few weeks there would be an inspection of her office. She knew she would fail this inspection because people had been stealing from her. His father had been an accountant before the war, and he worked on the books for her, which saved her life. As a result, she gave him extra food and vodka every week afterward. Shaya said, “This is very important. The vodka was very important.”

In 1943, the Harsit family found out that Shaya’s brother and sister-in-law had died. The nazis bombed the hospital they had been working in. This changed the family forever. After the war, the family made their way back to Poland. The car they took was absolutely filled with vodka. All over there were obstacles but the vodka solved them. He bribed the officials at different checkpoints and over borders.  When they arrived in different towns, people said “Who said all the Jews were burned and gassed? This can’t be true. Here they are.”

When they arrived in Warsaw they decided to immigrate to Palestine. The Joint and Mossad LaAlyiah Bet helped them with these goals. First, they were smuggled to Munich. There they lived in a settlement for SS men and their families. “They we had luxury, even more than luxury, but there were a lot of Naxis,” Shaya said. His father started police organization for the community and ensured his family’s safety. Then one day he said “it’s coming, we are moving to Palestine.” They had heard of a ship for the elderly and children going to Palestine. They thought that the British would not stop them on this ship. Jewish American Soldiers helped them get to the port in the South of France. There they boarded a huge black ship made out of wood, called “Exodus.” The ship came to Haifa, but it was turned around and taken to Cyprus, then back to the shores of France. The French would not accept them either. They went to Gibraltar and finally disembarked in Hamburg. Altogether, they were on the ship for two to three months.

In Hamburg, they were taken to camps. These camps were not concentration camps, they had no gas chambers or crematoriums, but they had dogs, fences, towers, guards. A camp for displaced peoples. Shaya had his Bar Mitzvah in this camp. Then just like the camp in Russia they woke up one morning without guard or dogs. The Jewish British Brigade brought his family, again, to the south of France, and they made their way to Palestine. At first they lived on Mt. Carmel and in tents, among orange orchards; he ate his fill everyday.

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After the War of Independence and then they bought a house in Jaffa. For the first time Shaya went to a real school, a Jewish high school. He started school in the seventh grade, and had to compete with sabras, who had been in school all their lives. After school, he volunteered as a paratrooper. Subsequently he was invited to take exams for flight school. He did well in the exams and became an airman. He was in the Israeli Air Force for 24 years, and fought in the wars of ‘56, ‘67, ‘73 and ‘82. He became the Head of Planning and Organization of the Israeli Air Force. Upon retirement he had 4,200 flight hours.

When asked about his parents and how they handled this trauma he replied “They danced, they enjoyed life. But when you looked in their eyes you never saw a smile in their eyes.”

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To learn more about From Rebirth to the Skies visit:

www.Tkumatosky.org

Here you can find more stories about the other 137 pilots.

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/

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Current Events, Newsletter

Newsletter: Fall 2016

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Newsletter: Fall 2016

Thank you for following the Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies at the University of Haifa.  Your support and interest help to make our program the success it is. We are very excited to have started our fifth year of the MA studies. The new cohort is a diverse and highly skilled and intelligent group. We look forward to sharing their stories with you throughout the year.

Arieh Kochavi and Yael Granot-Bein


Opening Seminar of Cohort V with Guest Lecturer Professor Steven Katz


 

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A few days before the start of the new academic year, the students of Cohort V in the Weiss-Livnat program of Holocaust studies participated in an opening seminar. The day started with a speech made by Prof. Arieh Kochavi, head of the program, followed by presentation of the faculty staff and students themselves.

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During the opening seminar, Prof. Steven Katz, director of the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies at Boston University, spoke on the topic of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust.

Prof. Katz’s lecture gave the new students, a glimpse into one of the many debates in Holocaust research, which is the complex question regarding the existence of resistance actions in the Holocaust among the victims, as well as the philosophical question of what is considered resistance activity under various definitions.

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The lecture started by defining two opposing approaches to resistance. The first approach judges the existence and success of the resistance acts on the basis of the actual consequences of those actions, which were mostly unsuccessful. The second approach focuses on whether the actions made were following initial conscious intentions to stand against the caused atrocities and not surrender. In this approach, such conscious acts count as a successful resistance activity, regardless of their result.

Prof. Katz stated that he supports the more humanistic second approach that says that emphasizes intentions. To emphasize his statement Prof. Katz indicated a number of possible factors for lack of resistance, such as geographical differences between the many ghettos and camps, indifference of the local society surrounding the Jews, demographical and political diversity inside the Jewish communities that caused obstacles for attempts to organize, such as dealing with strong opposition to resistance inside the community in the ghettos or camps.

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When those factors, combined with the poor physical conditions and the immediate risk, are put together, it allows us to understand that it is also possible to look at non-violent actions such as immigration as acts of resistance. Moreover, daily actions can be treated as constant deeds of resistance as well if they are made with appropriate intention and aspiration to keep the victim’s dignity in spite of being labeled as sub-humans. Those daily actions could come in the form of holding on tightly to religion and culture, or simply humanity.

From that perspective, like Prof. Katz mentioned, those daily actions not only contradict the question of why there was no impactful resistance among the victims during the Holocaust, but conversely raises the question of why there were so many acts of resistance.

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By presenting all those thought provoking anecdotes, Prof. Steven Katz showed how broad and complex the topic of the Holocaust is and how many questions without easy answers are included in it.

Starting the academic year with such a lecture, made the students excited and eager to jump in and explore this period of time in human history during their upcoming studies at the University of Haifa.


New Students of Cohort V


chenda

 

Chenda Seang
Cambodia
BA in English from Norton University

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Paige Massey
United States
BA in Philosophy from Pepperdine University

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Yael Marganit
Israel
BA in Psychology from the Open University

jasmine

 

Jasmine Munn-McDonnell
Australia
Honours Degree in History, and a Bachelor of International Studies from the University of Adeliade


Polin Workshop


The following is written by Lindsay Shapiro about her experience at Polin Museum:

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This summer, four of our students were selected to participate in the Summer Meeting Point conference at the POLIN Museum of the History of the Polish Jews in Warsaw. This conference brought together 40 Israel, German and Polish students of all different degree backgrounds, experiences and heritages to learn about their shared history. This year’s seminar focused on post-WWII reconstruction, the establishment of the State of Israel, and evolving identities in Poland and Germany. The program featured a list of established professors, scholars and historians to discuss the postwar violence, trauma, reconciliation and rebirth. Students got to participate in many different types of learning experiences during the two-week seminar, including lectures, workshops, film screenings and discussions, and in-depth tours of the newly opened POLIN Museum. 

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Students continued to learn from one another as they shared all three meals together every day, either at the Museum’s Bisamim restaurant or at local restaurants and cafes around Warsaw. Each meal was filled with students engaging in casual conversation with one another, asking questions about each others’ heritage, national customs and personal lives. Throughout the seminar students grew increasingly close with one another. Lindsay Shapiro, fourth cohort of the Weiss-Livnat MA Program, said “One of the best parts of the seminar was getting a chance to meet people I probably wouldn’t have had the chance to otherwise, and learn from them. I’m really lucky that all of the other students were pretty open to discussion about some deep topics, so I got to learn not just from the professors but from my peers as well. I also got the opportunity to share my experience as a student coming from Israel.”

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In addition to learning about the history of postwar relationships, the POLIN seminar also utilized oral history and student projects to which created a shared history and mutual respect. Students were divided into mixed German-Israeli-Polish groups to conduct interview with original sources on their memories of WWII, year following the war, and the role that home played in their postwar lives.

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In addition to learning within the Museum, students also had some experiential learning. They went on small group tours around the site of the Warsaw Ghetto, part of which is now occupied by the POLIN Museum. They also got to meet and tour with local experts on Warsaw to explore the new city of Warsaw in contrast with what the city was in 1939, prior to the onset of the war. Israeli student, Jason Hochman from the Fourth cohort of our program recalled, “I was fortunate enough to interact and meet with members of the current Jewish community of Warsaw and learn a little about the growing albeit small community that exists today as well as the different types of denominations of Judaism practiced by the community. It was truly an amazing experience.” The entire group, including visiting professors from Israel and Germany, took a two-day trip to Wrocław, west of Poland, to experience this different city, learn about its Jewish history and WWII past. They were even given a tour by a Weiss-Livnat alumnus, Jan Kirstenbaum, who now works in Wrocław educating on the city’s Jewish history.

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The seminar culminated with a special Shabbat dinner at a local kosher restaurant, which included many members of the Nissembaum family, one of the main donors of the program. Students, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, got to experience Shabbat together in a warm, tasty and joyous meal, which ended with singing in five different languages- Yiddish, Polish, German, English and Hebrew. On the last day of the program, the POLIN Museum hosted an open gallery curated by participants of the program, in which they displayed their oral history projects to both the Nissembaum family and the general public. Projects included an interactive pop-up exhibit filled with belongings take one might haven taken when fleeing from their home, a video project based on student testimonies about the cultural side of the Holocaust, an app in which personal histories can be recorded and mapped, and many more. The final event was a panel discussion with student participants, and finally a closing graduation ceremony. It was a unique and incredible experience for all students involved. “The Meeting Poland Meeting Point Summer Program at the POLIN Museum, was one of the best experiences I have ever had. Being able to meet, make connections, and friendships with other Israeli, Polish and German students was really special,” said Hochman.

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


ronenEarlier 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


New Theses Our Students Published


Chronicle of Destruction: 
The Jews of Raseiniai County during WWII and the Holocaust
Natali Beige
natali_0Although an extensive historiography of the Holocaust in Lithuania exists, very little has been written about the history of the Jewish communities in provincial Lithuania. Most research addresses the history and fate of Lithuania’s largest communities- Vilnius, Kaunas and Šiauliai. However, the provincial towns in Lithuania are crucial to understanding the Holocaust as well as the development and implementation of the “Final Solution” in the history and fate of Lithuania’s largest communities- Vilnius, Kaunas and Šiauliai. However, the provincial towns in Lithuania are crucial to understanding the Holocaust as well as the development and implementation of the “Final Solution” in the area.  Within the last decade studies have raised new issues and questions regarding the Holocaust, and have placed greater emphasis on developments that took place in the rural areas and provinces of Lithuania, but the subject still remains insufficiently studied.
According to the Jäger Report, Raseiniai County was one of the first places where the murder of women and children took place as early as mid-July 1941. Therefore, a thorough examination of Raseiniai County and its Jewish communities raises important issues and questions, and can contribute to scholarship about the rapid and brutal elimination of Jewish towns and villages in provincial Lithuania and the transition to total annihilation.
This study examines the fate of small Jewish towns (Shtetlekh) in Raseiniai County through an integration of a variety of sources. Creating a synthesis of documents, testimonies and literature identifies the stages of persecution and extermination, the relationship between the Germans and the Lithuanians, the connection between bureaucracy and ideology, and the various groups of perpetrators involved in the extermination of the Jews in Raseiniai County. In addition, this study can also shed light on the Holocaust in Lithuania in general in light of the fact that more than 50% of Lithuanian Jewry lived in rural areas and provinces. Furthermore, it raises questions that can be relevant to the destruction of Jewish communities in other rural Eastern European areas when considering factors such as the participation of the local population in the murders, their motivations, and how regional dynamics influenced the development of the Final Solution in those areas.

Holocaust Museums and Artifacts:
Linking History and Culture
Gabriel Mayer
gabrielmayerThis thesis entails an examination of three prominent Holocaust museums: Yad Vashem and Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum (GFH) in Israel and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC.  They were chosen because of a combination of prominence as regards their early inception-the two Israeli museums- and the extent of influence on Holocaust historiography, scholarship, and the related cultural ramifications. Utilizing methodology drawn from the discipline of material culture, much of the work was focused through the lens of artifact collections. Part of the objective was to relate cultural and political influences to museum ethos, and in turn, take notice of the impact of museum development on the culture without. An indirect but unavoidable relationship was noted in the evolution of Holocaust historiography. The methodology consisted of an examination of specifically chosen artifacts from each museum, conducting an in-depth examination of the circumstances related to their acquisition and collection, along with detailed historical analysis of background information of involved individuals, families, communities, and as it turned out toward the end of the exercise, the involvement of the curating staff. The research work included a number of interviews with individuals closely linked and involved during the developmental stages of each museum, along with examination of internal documents, whenever available. An overall viewpoint emerged regarding each museum individually and as relates to Holocaust narrativization in combination. As the work progressed it also became clear, that wholly separate from institutional influence, the artifacts related information (history) accrued from individualized narratives, which remained unaffected by these external forces. Thus the artifacts collections appear to render a “populist” message of witnessing, very much in keeping with personalized memory transmission. The museums were seen as representing an ethos, mostly shared as regards Holocaust narrativization, while the artifacts-individually and as items of acquisition and collections-addressed ethnos, relayed individual agency and represented personalized narritivization.

The Masa to Poland and Kibbutz Narratives of Holocaust Memory:
A Case Study of Kibbutz Yagur
Naomi Schuster
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This thesis presents a unique case study of students from Kibbutz Yagur who have participated in the masaot to Poland in recent years. The study is focused on the topic of national Holocaust commemorative narratives and practices and how they have been transmitted to and interpreted by the current generation of kibbutz youth. The study begins with a brief outline of the history of the masa to Poland from the Carmel Zvulun Regional High School located on Kibbutz Yagur. It then continues to explore the possible ways in which kibbutz ideological principles and Zionist values have been transmitted to the current generation of kibbutznikim who choose to participate in the journey. The study shifts to an examination of materials and methods used to facilitate pre-trip learning and discussion. The goal of this section is to discover if any underlying connections can be drawn between those materials and methods to the kibbutz ideology at large. The next section of the thesis is focused on understanding the impact the masa has on the kibbutz students’ sense of identity as individuals, but also as students born and raised on the kibbutz as compared to non-kibbutz participants from the regional high school. The objective is to understand to what extent in-group “gibush” (bonding) that may or may not already be present amongst kibbutz participants who were born and raised in an insulated environment, has impacted their unique experience as “kibbutznikim” on the trip itself. The final chapter examines the patterns of Holocaust commemoration throughout Israel’s history and presents potential causes of friction within the discourse of Shoah memory narratives. It further seeks to understand if and how kibbutz specific interpretations of the Shoah narrative are affecting the current generation of kibbutz youth.

Contextualizing Transformation:
A Case Study of Pilgrimage to Poland
Shelby Weltz
shelby_weltzIn this paper, I will qualitatively investigate the affect of the Poland pilgrimage on a sample of Modern Orthodox American Jewish females, a population less represented in present day Poland pilgrimage scholarship. I begin this paper by exploring the conceptual framework of the Poland voyage as pilgrimage.  I then offer a purview of the history of educational youth trips to Poland as well as provide a glimpse into the educational philosophy of Heritage Seminars, the program under present investigation. Original research in the form of semi-structured, in depth interviews conducted with recent and veteran Heritage Seminars participants is then presented. Thematic analysis was used to address which themes surfaced when recent and veteran participants spoke of their trips to Poland, with particular emphasis placed on how participants felt they were impacted and/or transformed by the journey. By exploring how six participants engaged with, interpreted and synthesized their experiences of Heritage Seminars, I draw conclusions about the impact of the Poland pilgrimage on a sample of Modern Orthodox American Jewish females.


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_perryWe 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:

 

hecht-artCourse 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 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.

epsteinIn 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.

haberFinal 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 artist (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.

dscf0160Museum 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.


Coming Soon: Holocaust Commemoration:
New Trends in Museums and Memorials
Special Issue of “Dapim – Studies on the Holocaust”


The complexity of the Holocaust in its full magnitude, reaches into countless subjects, disciplines, and professions. In order to begin to fully deconstruct, analyze, and understand the Holocaust, interdisciplinary research that transcends all boundaries must occur. The Strochlitz Institute for Holocaust Research at the University of Haifa is proud to announce this upcoming special issue  of Dapim: Studies on the Holocaust, our interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed academic journal.

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Introductions
James Young, Guest Editor and Michal Ahaory and Gavriel Rosenfeld, Editors

Holocaust and Heroism in the Process of Establishing Yad Vashem (1942–1970)
by Doron Bar

Is Eastern European “Double Genocide” Revisionism Reaching Museums?
by Dovid Katz

From the Periphery to the Center of Memory: Holocaust Memorials in Vienna
by Heidemarie Uhl

Transmitting the Survivor’s Voice: Redeveloping the Sydney Jewish Museum
by Avril Alba
Mixed Metaphors in Muranów:  Holocaust Memory and Architectural Meaning at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
by Gavriel Rosenfeld

Yad Layeled at the Ghetto Fighters’ House: A Museum about Children in the Holocaust or a Museum for Children about the Holocaust?
by  Nadav Heidecker

Genocide and Relevance: Current Trends in United States Holocaust Museums
by Leah Sievers

Subjects of Memory? On Performing Holocaust Memory in Two German Historical Museums
by Irit Dekel

Poetics of Memory: Aesthetics and Experience of Holocaust Remembrance in Museums
by Jennifer Hansen-Glucklich


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THANK YOU
for supporting the International MA Program in Holocaust Studies at the University of Haifa.  We are proud to have friends and followers around the world!

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/

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2016 Teresa Levinger-Weiss Annual Scholarship Recipient

Anat Leviteh Weiner was recently awarded the Teresa Levinger-Weiss Annual Scholarship for outstanding student in Holocaust Studies. Congratulations Anat!anat

Anat was born and raised in Israel, she graduated from the University of Tel Aviv with a Bachelor’s Degree in Occupational Therapy. Anat has lived and worked in New Haven, Connecticut as the Education Director of Youth Programs at the Jewish Community. As Director she initiated, implemented and subsequently directed the “Adopt a Survivor” program for six years. Anat was also responsible for the community Holocaust commemoration ceremony and Holocaust related programs and seminars. Anat was part of our third Cohort and has recently received her Master’s degree. 

 

Here’s a account from Anat on her time as an intern at the Nofim Elementary School:

anat-1As part of the International MA Program in Holocaust studies we have had the opportunity for hands on experience. I participated in the engaging and powerful internship at the Nofim elementary school.  The interns developed and implemented an interactive and educational series of lessons for 6th graders.  We chose the theme, “Children in the Holocaust,” and focused on personal stories. Concentrating on personal accounts allowed us to untangle the masses and focus on the individuals. Using this method was a powerful way to teach the events of the Holocaust allowing the students to empathize with the individual eyewitness accounts and to attempt to understand the complexities of Holocaust history, including the scope and scale of the events.  The 28 sixth-graders who participated in the program had the opportunity to explore, discuss, encounter and internalize in their own level of development some issues that children had to face while living through the Holocaust. We made sure to incorporate life before the Holocaust as well. Personally, it was a meaningful experience to create, teach and witness the attentive response of the students. The overall experience was rewarding, including the teamwork between the interns and the development of the curriculum.  We worked tirelessly, but it was worth every minute.

  ~Anat Leviteh Weiner

Congratulations again Anat! We wish you all the success!

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/

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