And the moons – there are certainly two. One moon for the nations, gentle love, which offers smiles to the world, and hears the song of joy and happiness. And a moon for our nation. Cruel and brutal, which stands patiently, solidified, and it hears the moans and the screams of the hearts of millions trying to cope with their impending death.– Zalman Gradowski
On October 7th, 1944, the Sonderkommando* of Auschwitz launched a short-lived rebellion against their oppressors, planned by the Sonderkommando in cooperation with the women of the forced labor unit in the nearby munitions factory who had access to explosive materials.
The uprising lasted one day, but it may as well have lasted forever; it left crematorium IV destroyed, three SS guards dead, and more guards injured. In retaliation, the Nazis massacred approximately 450 prisoners, one of whom being Zalman Gradowski. He was tortured and hung.
About a month ago, on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel (Yom HaShoah), I returned to my job as a guide in the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. After over a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, I eagerly dove back into Holocaust education – a responsibility I sorely missed.
What does the future of Holocaust studies look like in the uncertainty of our time? Academia is observing and, in turn, adapting to the world’s new reality. Universities face particular challenges regarding how to serve students’ needs best and ensure that new modes of remote learning are effective and engaging. As an international program, we are committed to exploring innovative solutions that will allow the program’s culture to be experienced by all students, especially those joining the digital classroom. What has become apparent over recent months is the amount of work still needed to combat Holocaust denial and antisemitism. Global conflict is once again accompanied by old-world antisemitism. Digital spaces are hotbeds for hate speech, and the current pandemic has only intensified preexisting prejudice. In these changing times, we are honored that the next generation of Holocaust scholars, educators, and advocates have chosen to begin their journeys here, with us.
“You could feel the excitement in the air on the bus ride that took our cohort from the University of Haifa to the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum (GFH). After months of classes over Zoom due to COVID-19, we were all eager to see each other in person and begin the annual GFH seminar. While wearing masks and social distancing is the new normal, it did not impact our ability to learn about the museum and participate in the exciting program the staff had organized for us.
Throughout our three days on the GFH campus, we got to explore its historical exhibitions, hear the story of the museum’s connection to the kibbutz it is built on, and learn about the exciting work being done at its Center for Humanistic Education. Our seminar began with a presentation by the museum’s director of pedagogy, Yaron Tzur. He told the story of how the GFH museum, or Beit Lohamei HaGhetaot, was founded in 1949 by a community of Holocaust survivors who immigrated to Israel after World War II. The founders, including Chavka Folman-Raban, Zivia Lubetkin, and Yitzhak Zuckerman, created the museum with the intention of “going beyond the grief and horror” of the Holocaust by emphasizing the courage of ghetto fighters and survivors. Sadly, most of the founders have passed away, but their vision for how the museum would tell the story of the Holocaust and Jewish resistance still emanates from the exhibitions and galleries today.
Weiss-Livnat alumna, Esther Selman, participated in the inaugural cohort of theWeiss-Livnat Innovation Hub for Holocaust Education and Commemoration, in which she developed the idea to create a podcast where people could engage with the Holocaust in an accessible way. ‘Without the Footnotes’ was born.
Esther spent four intensive months at the University of Haifa’s Weiss-Livnat Innovation Hub, which was created to offer graduates of the Weiss-Livnat MA Program and professionals in the field from around the world a dynamic space where they can develop innovative projects for Holocaust education and commemoration using new technologies.
Piyush Kumar Banerjee is a current student of our Holocaust Studies MA program. In this post, he shares about his favorite guest lecture of the program so far,The Mass Graves in Camp III: Archaeological Excavations of Sobibor by archaeologist Yoram Haimi
“I have always had a fascination with archaeological excavations. The Mummy and Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark are two of my favorite movies ever. I suspect that may be why I found our recent lecture from Dr. Yoram Haimi of the Israeli Antiquities Authority about his archaeological research conducted at the site of the former Sobibor Death Camp to be so incredibly fascinating.
Since starting my MA degree at the Weiss-Livnat MA Program in Holocaust Studies at the University of Haifa last October, I have been privileged to hear several fascinating lectures by some of the world’s leading scholars in this field. However, Dr. Haimi and his colleague Wojciech Mazurek presented one of the finest lectures I have heard inside the classroom.
Our annual ‘Top Ten Holocaust Books’ as recommended by this year’s cohort of students. As we have done for the past two years, our International MA students in Holocaust Studies compiled a list of Holocaust books which they found most thought-provoking, impactful, and moving.
All of the books on this year’s list are appearing for the first time. It is a unique collection made up mostly of nonfiction, academically inspired works but also includes a graphic novel, two fiction novels, and a suitable read for older children. Here are ten recommended Holocaust books worth reading today.
1. Promise Me You’ll Shoot Yourself: The Downfall of Ordinary Germans, 1945, Florian Huber, 2015 (Nonfiction)
The extraordinary German bestseller on the final days of the Third Reich. One of the last untold stories of the Third Reich is that of the extraordinary wave of suicides, carried out not just by much of the Nazi leadership, but by thousands of ordinary Germans, in the war”s closing period. Florian Huber’s remarkable book, a bestseller in Germany, confronts this terrible phenomenon. What drove whole families, who in many cases had already withstood years of deprivation, aerial bombing and deaths in battle, to do this? In a brilliantly written, thoughtful and original work, Huber sees the entire project of the Third Reich as a sequence of almost overwhelming emotions and scenes for many Germans. He describes some of the key events which shaped the period from the First World War to the end of the Second, showing how the sheer intensity, allure and ferocity of Hitler’s regime swept along millions. Its sudden end was, for many of them, simply impossible to absorb.
Soumyaditya is a current student in our Holocaust Studies MA program. He is one of two inaugural students from India this year. In this post, he shares his thoughts on the importance of language within the field.
“In the very first blog that I am penning down ever in my life, I wish to talk about an essential aspect of Holocaust Studies, i.e., knowing the language of the geographic region that one is interested in. It can be any mainland European language, be it Hungarian, or German, or Italian, or any other Slavic languages, or the languages of the survivors and victims, like Hebrew or Yiddish. This is more valid for native English speakers and also individuals like me, who are neither European nor native English speakers.
Students of the Weiss-Livnat MA Program were recently treated to a guest lecture from Adi Altschuler, the social entrepreneur and founder of the alternative Holocaust commemoration project Zikaron Basalon.
“Zikaron Basalon is a social initiative that takes place on the Israeli Holocaust Memorial Day and various other dates around the world. Literally meaning “remembrance in the living room” in Hebrew, the idea was born from the understanding that the connection between today’s society and the memories of the Holocaust, has significantly deteriorated.”
“When visitors come to Yad Vashem, they brace themselves for a day of difficult history and deep reflection. Surely, they do not expect to be greeted by 20 students awkwardly rolling suitcases across the entrance pavilion. Yet there we were, a diverse group of MA students from the Weiss-Livnat Holocaust Program, excited to attend the annual Yad Vashem seminar. For four days, we had the opportunity to participate in lectures by leading Holocaust researchers, interact with the memorial-museum, and bond as a group – getting to know each other in new and meaningful ways.
For me, the seminar was both my first time at Yad Vashem and in the city of Jerusalem. While much of our time there was dedicated to attending lectures and utilizing the extensive archives and databases open to us, I also took the time to visit the various memorials housed on the Yad Vashem campus. The Valley of the Communities was especially compelling for me, and as our first semester is coming to an end, it was also a valuable opportunity for personal reflection. Continue reading →