Guest Lecturers

An Introduction to the Universalist Approach Toward Holocaust Studies: Lecture with Professor Michael Berenbaum

How do you take people who come from all over the world, transport them back to a horrific past, and make it meaningful and relevant to their lives today? This is one of the essential questions that surrounds most facets of work in the field of Holocaust Studies. Michael Berenbaum, lead curator of the permanent exhibition of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, scholar and publisher of many works including “The World Must Know: The History of the Holocaust as Told by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the current Director of the Sigi Ziering Institute at the American Jewish University, gave a powerful lecture in which he addressed this fundamental question and challenged our students to ask this question of themselves as they continue through their work in various areas of Holocaust Studies.

Michael Berenbaum

Professor Berenbaum discussed the process of choosing the Museum location and designing the permanent exhibition space of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). The decision to build the USHMM on the National Mall and Memorial Park in Washington D.C, the Nation’s capital, was a symbol for the universal relevance that the story of the Holocaust has on humanity. The story is not only one of the Jews, but also a story that belongs to humanity. Beginning with liberation, the museum space works backwards to show the process of how an event such as the Holocaust took place, and the role that individuals and society played in the realization of such a monumental and atrocious event. The curators decided to use a comparative analysis of the Jewish story to that of the other victims of the Nazi regime. The aim was to maintain the Jewish narrative of the Holocaust while also telling the story of the other victims who suffered perpetration under the Third Reich. Professor Berenbaum explained that the location from which an event is remembered largely impacts the way that it is remembered. Telling the story of the Holocaust from the United States is different than telling the story in Germany, Israel, or in other parts of the world. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum portrayed the particular story of the Jewish narrative of the Holocaust while also telling the universal humanistic story, making the Holocaust relevant and meaningful to people from all over the world.

The Holocaust is an ongoing narrative. Although the events are of past, when interpreted and presented in an effective manner, the Holocaust can be a story of humanity, a story that is universal to all people at any point in time, a story humanity can learn from. The Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies was proud to welcome Professor Michael Berenbaum who presented our students with an approach toward Holocaust Studies that can be used as they return to their various countries of origin to pursue careers in various facets of the field.

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


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