Today’s blog post is written by our student, Paul Howard. Originally from Ireland, Paul came to our program from Rome. His unique perspective on the history of the Holocaust has made him a valuable resource to his peers, and he has become a valuable asset to the Righteous Among the Nations department at Yad Vashem. Today he shares his experience interning there with us:
“As part of the Masters program each student is encouraged to undertake an internship. The array of institutions from which we can choose is, in my opinion, just one of the many extraordinary aspects offered to us. From the world renowned Yad Vashem to the equally impressive Ghetto Fighters’ House. With the dedication and endless effort made by the department a student truly has the opportunity of a lifetime to gain priceless experience. Depending on the individual, every effort is made to accommodate his or her desires and skills to ensure they are placed at the institute that best caters to their needs. That is why for my internship I choose to develop my skills with the Yad Vashem’s department of the Righteous Among the Nation.
On March 20th, as a group we made our way to the Yad Vashem meeting various professionals representing their department as potential possibilities for internships. After each had spoken about what they do we broke up into small groups and discussed in detail what would be required of us while working with that particular department. Having spoken to the representative of the Righteous Among the Nation I knew it was the place for me. Interning with Gili Diamante has been nothing short of exciting. As the department does not have someone with Italian language capabilities it allowed me to flex my language skills while also assisting in the process of having Italians recognised and acknowledged for saving Jews. When an application arrives a new file is opened, from which we create a profile taking note of particular information relevant to the process. We examine in detail ALL the information provided with the application and then begin looking both on the Yad Vashem’s and the USC Shoah Foundation’s testimonial archives for additional information which is always beneficial for the application. Naturally it is a time consuming and challenging procedure, however the benefits of such an experience are invaluable. By combining ones knowledge from all the courses undertaken it provides one with an outlet to apply that information and actually see the results.
One of my main concerns with studying a course thick and dense with statistics is my ultimate, and perhaps inevitable, desensitization to the information. Numbers and dates, mass murders and executions become somewhat the normal rhetoric and it is through the channel of such an internship we can become, conceivably, re-sensitized. By opening a file I must build his or her case and so I must gather as much information as possible about that individual’s life – when were they born?, when?, had they a family?, what were their circumstances?, who did they save?, how? etc. By undertaking this ‘detective’ work I find myself giving life back to, and a name to an individual. There is no better feeling, I believe, than recreating the life of someone who saved a Jew (whether it be one or one hundred) and ultimately seeing their name among the righteous as it gives form and context to all the information we have had to digest over the past year.
This internship has opened my eyes to the possibilities available to graduates of this MA in Holocaust Studies and I certainly hope, in some capacity, to be able to continue such work upon completion of the program. I am eternally grateful to Yad Vashem, The Weiss-Livnat International MA Program and especially Dr. Yael Granot-Bein for her dedication, passion, and commitment without which this would not be possible.”
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/