Today’s post is written by our student Shira Griff. To read Shira’s first post on our blog click here.
“After a very demanding first semester, the Yad Vashem seminar is turning out to be just the refreshing start to the new semester we all needed.
Excited, rested, and ready for new beginnings, a feeling of reward and fulfillment sets in as Professor Dan Michman, the honorable head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem, surveys a variety of essential historiographical works on the Holocaust we are now all familiar with and appreciate through our different encounters with them. We all connect to this historiographical work or the other, and along with Prof. Michman’s examination of the different scholarly approaches, find new ones to discover, connect to, or disagree with entirely. We learn that the possibilities with holocaust writing and interpretations are endless, proving how challenging and often problematic and disputed they can be.
Historiographical writing on the Holocaust has also evolved and improved as it moves through time, and the pioneering historians or social scientists of the early years have gained the back of a new generation of Holocaust scholars, reexamining the older conceptions of the past and testing the boundaries of Holocaust conceptualization, giving it safer ground and also enriching it with new thought and interpretation.
This challenge is great, and those historians who dare take it upon themselves serve a crucial purpose, as despite of all that’s been written, the Holocaust still remains the hardest historical phenomenon to be dealt with, and the struggle to approach it coherently and productively still leaves so much room for interpretation.
We continued later in the day to a guided tour of the Yad Vashem Museum, some of us seeing it not for the first time, but putting it into the contexts each of us had been deeply involved with for the past several months. Putting facts, figures, photographs, artifacts and the unique settings and architecture of the museum together, the experience was certainly gratifying, emotionally intense, and enlightening on very personal levels not every visitor of the exhibit can appreciate as some of us who are currently deeply immersed in Holocaust research. For me, it was the elaborate visualizations of the killing pits of the Einsatzgruppen killing operations in Lithuania, or seeing the actual drawings and paintings of 16 year old Petr Ginz in Theresienstadt, which I had come so close to while analyzing his diary during one of my courses.”