Seminar at Yad Vashem: Insider Look at the Third Day

The members of the fourth cohort highly anticipated our trip to Jerusalem for the four-day seminar at Yad Vashem. Yad Vashem is a world-renowned research institution and museum, and its partnership with the University of Haifa is of particular benefit to the students in the program. The four-day seminar was meaningful and educational. Read on for a break down of our third day!


Day 3: Historical Research Presentations

Day 3 was devoted to presentations by three historians on very diverse and interesting topics. First, Dr. Gerhard Weinberg the author of A World at Arms: a Global History of World War II spoke to our students. This was a special treat for our students as they had previously read his work for multiple courses in our program. Dr. Weinberg spoke about Pope Pius XII and WWII. The presentation focused on the Vatican’s reaction to five killing programs. Dr. Weinberg shared and discounted the motivations behind the Pope’s silence in the face of Nazi atrocities put forth by other historians. As such the presentation left students with more questions than answers, which require the opening of the WWII archives of the Vatican. One piece of information that greatly shocked the audience was how the Pope requested that the Allied forces not use black soldiers in the occupation of Rome. This request was angrily turned down by the Allied commanders as inappropriate and infeasible.


Professor Gerald Steinacher, of the University of Nebraska and author of Nazis on the Run, was the next presenter. Dr. Steinacher spoke about humanitarian politics, specifically the actions and inaction of the International Red Cross during the Holocaust. The ICRC failed to strongly condemn Nazi atrocities; the proposed appeal was watered down and given a first class funeral. Dr. Steinacher focused on the official justifications and what he believes to be the actual justifications for this lack of an outcry, such as fear of German occupation of Switzerland and desires of some members to maintain good relations with Hitler to help broker a peace deal and keep communism at bay. Dr. Steinacher recounted the competition between Sweden and Switzerland to be the better humanitarian after it became clear the Allies would win the war and how the ICRC was almost relocated to Stockholm after the war due to Geneva’s failures and Stockholm’s better track record as a rescuer.


The final presentation on Wednesday was given by an Italian historian, Dr. Amadeo Osti, on the persecution of Jews in Italy. Osti combated the myth of the “good Italians” and how they rescued Jews because it is only partially true. Although the Italian Army tried to save Jews in their regions of occupied France, Croatia, and Tunisia once Germany occupied Italy in 1943 many Italians collaborated with the Germans for economic reasons etc. Italian police prepared lists of Jews to be deported. Fascist military units posed a danger to Jews and tortured captured Jews to get additional names. German forces paid 5,000 liras for every Jew arrested. According to Osti some Jews informed on other Jews. This lecture was particularly interesting for our students because the Italian narrative is less central to the majority of our course offerings.

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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