Faculty, Genocide Studies, Research, Uncategorized

Prof. Stefan Ihrig awarded book prize

Ihrig2016We are delighted to report that Professor Stefan Ihrig has been awarded the 2017 Dr. Sona Aronian Book Prize for excellence in Armenian Studies.

Stefan, who joined the faculty in 2016, was recognised by The National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR) for his book Justifying Genocide: Germany and the Armenians from Bismarck to Hitler (Harvard University Press).

Reacting to the announcement, Stefan said: “I am very humbled to be awarded the Sonia Aronian Prize and thank NAASR and my wonderful colleagues in the field of Armenian Studies.

“I have so far only spent a few years of my life working on the Armenian Genocide and yet they have been among the most meaningful of them all.”

Many congratulations, Stefan.


Alongside Stefan, Abraham Terian was also commended for his translation of a literary work, The Festal Works of St. Gregory of Narek: Annotated Translation of the Odes, Litanies, and Encomia (Pueblo Books).

The full story can be read here, courtesy of Armenian Weekly.

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/

Faculty, Genocide Studies, Holocaust Survivor, Research, Uncategorized

Faculty Feature: Dr. Carol Kidron

s200_carol.kidronDr. Carol Kidron is a senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Haifa. She teaches Anthropology of Memory, Trauma and Commemoration in the Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies.

At the start of her career, Dr. Kidron researched the collective memory and transmitted trauma of second and third generation Holocaust survivors. She then began to compare it with other groups who suffered genocide to assess whether or not the way Jews approach the memory and commemoration of the Holocaust is universal. Dr. Kidron closely examines the case of Cambodia. She found that there is a very different view among descendants of survivors of the Cambodian Genocide and descendants of Holocaust survivors. Overall, Dr. Kidron found that many Cambodians are disinterested in the genocide. Dr. Kidron attributes this in part to Buddhism’s role in their lives. Contrary to Judaism, Buddhism is not so concerned with the past and stresses the importance of the present and the future. Under the Buddhist perspective, one should accept their karma and move forward. Furthermore, through the Buddhist perspective, the suffering of the genocide is not different to other instances of suffering and therefore does not hold an overly special place in the collective memory of Cambodians.

Despite this perspective, there are still many memorial sites around the country. However, Dr. Kidron argues, these are not primarily set up as places of memory for Cambodians themselves, but rather for the international-Western community (including tourists) who are expecting to see a discourse which perpetuates the message of “never again”.

In her multi-disciplinary course Anthropology of Memory, Trauma and Commemoration, Dr. Kidron teaches about the role of the commemoration of traumatic pasts in the person-private and public-collective works of culture. The course explores themes relating to the anthropology of memory, traumatic memory and commemoration and examines the following concepts: representation, history, genocidal trauma, personal and collective memory, testimony and witnessing, and survivorhood. Dr. Kidron says that teaching the course is fascinating for her and that she enjoys the multicultural classroom. For Dr. Kidron, because of the diversity of our students, it is interesting to hear students’ views and critiques.

We are fortunate to have Dr. Kidron as part of our faculty and to contribute to the success of the program’s multi-disciplinary nature. We are looking forward to seeing how our students enjoy her course this coming spring.

To read Dr. Kidron’s article about Jewish-Israeli Holocaust and Canadian-Cambodian genocide legacies click here and to read her article about the presence of the past in the everyday life of Holocaust survivors and their descendants click here.

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/

Faculty, Holocaust Education, Program News, Research, Uncategorized

Faculty Feature: Professor Stefan Ihrig

Ihrig2016Professor Stefan Ihrig received his BA degree in Law and Politics at the Queen Mary University in London, his MA degree in History, Turcology and Political Science at the Free University of Berlin and his PhD in History at the University of Cambridge. Professor Ihrig spent four years as a project assistant and researcher at the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research and has also spent four years as a Polonsky Fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. He has previously lectured at the Free University of Berlin and the Univesity of Regensburg. In 2016 the Weiss-Livnat International MA Program in Holocaust Studies had the pleasure of welcoming him to the faculty. He is also a professor in the Department of General History at the University of Haifa and at the Haifa Center of German and European Studies.

justifyinggenocideProfessor Ihrig’s recently published book Justifying Genocide: Germany and the Armenians from Bismarck to Hitler focuses on some of the connections between the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust. Justifying Genocide shows that the two are much more connected than previously thought. Professor Ihrig focuses on Germany’s close foreign relations with the Ottoman Empire, as well as responses and reactions to the violence and genocide against the Armenians. Professor Ihrig finds that for many Germans, Armenians represented a racial problem and that Germans had portrayed them as the “Jews of the Orient”. After World War I German nationalists and Nazis had justified the genocide in a German genocide debate lasting almost four years. For the Nazis, the Armenian Genocide showed that it was possible to get away with committing such atrocities.

In his course, German Colonialism, Late Imperialism and Racial Theories: Pre-Histories of the Holocaust? Professor Ihrig examines the “long road to Auschwitz” or the “pre-histories” of the Holocaust doing so from the context of German history, including the abovementioned justification of the Armenian Genocide. The course explores topics such as German nationalism and the creation of the Reich, the development and prevalence of racial theories, cultures of violence before and during World War I, as well as the rise of far-right politics and the Nazis. The course has a special focus on colonial and imperial experiences. It debates whether these can help explain the Holocaust. Professor Ihrig says that he enjoys teaching this course because it makes students think critically about the path to the Holocaust.

We are grateful to have outstanding individuals like Professor Ihrig as part of our program and look forward to seeing how our current students enjoy his course this semester.

To read more about Professor Ihrig’s work, see his articles summarizing his last two books in the Daily Beast and Tablet. To buy his book Justifying Genocide: Germany and the Armenians from Bismarck to Hitler, click here.

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/

Faculty, Program News

Dr. Jan Grabowski’s New Course: The Extermination of Polish Jews, 1939-1945

grabowski_smallDr. Jan Grabowski visited the University of Haifa earlier this Spring. During his visit he gave a lecture on Jews in Poland to our students, and moreover he filmed the videos for an online course which will be available to current students. Dr. Jan Grabowski is a professor at the University of Ottawa, originally from Poland, he offers a growing network to our students.

The course will be on the extermination of Polish Jews, it focuses on German initiatives against Jews in Poland, and reactions from the Jewish communities. He will discuss the creation of ghettos, and the strategy of Jewish leadership within the Ghettos. The video lectures will include lessons on the escalation of German terror, and different Jewish responses including those that fled, those that stayed, leaders and the murder of 3 million Polish Jews. In specific, the topics include Aktion Reinhard, the Judenrat, survival strategies within Poland, the role of the Polish Catholic Church, as well as the story of Jews that returned to Poland. The course marries the focus on perpetrators and victims, while also including the narrative of the Polish bystanders, and collaborators.

We welcome Dr. Jan Grabowski to our faculty and we look forward to see where this partnership will lead our students.

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

Faculty, Research

A Nation Destroyed: An Existential Approach to the Distinctive Harm of Genocide


Professor Shmuel Lederman

In his recent article in the Journal of Genocide Research, Professor Shmuel Lederman – a professor a the  Weiss Livnat International MA Studies Program in Holocaust Studies at the University of Haifa – examines the distinctive harm of genocide. He makes specific reference to Hannah Arendt’s conceptualization of the harm of genocide, positing that despite its flaws it brings a valuable perspective to the issue.

Lederman opens by citing the views of historians who distinguish the harm of genocide as stemming from the loss to the world of a unique culture. As he notes, culture is difficult to quantify. If one understands culture as referring primarily to high culture, one would have to argue that the genocide of the Jews is ‘worse’ than the genocide of the Roma, who have not made the same level of cultural contribution. On the other hand, Lederman writes, one could approach cultural loss as the destruction of a distinct way of life. This viewpoint is also difficult to defend, since for example the majority of German Jewry killed in the Holocaust were assimilated into German society and did not live in any way that differentiated them from their non-Jewish compatriots.

Portrait Of Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt

Yet another conceptualization of the harm of genocide is the effect that the destruction of the group has upon the survivors, who are left without a group to which to belong. The evident drawback to this position, is that this harm would be avoided by destroying an entire nation and leaving no survivors. Yet other writers point to the harm of genocide as lying in its destruction not just of individuals but of the mass of accumulated knowledge and wisdom within their group memory. This perspective, Lederman comments, comes close to that of Hannah Arendt, on which he wishes to focus.

According to Arendt’s philosophy, every nation shares similar views to those of other nations but also possesses unique perspectives. If any one nation is destroyed, the entire world will have lost a unique perspective without which we as a whole become conceptually poorer. Arendt espouses a view that she sources in ancient Rome, that only when an idea is fully exposed from every facet can it be said to truly exist. Thus lacking one nation’s perspective on an idea effectively means that the idea is not fully revealed. Arendt writes that the more we are exposed to other points of view, the richer we are both as individuals and nations. In this way, Arendt encompasses cultural genocide, which strips a nation of its differentiated perspective without bloodshed, as a crime for removing some of the plurality of viewpoints from this world. Lederman adds that Arendt also valued the richness of individual viewpoints within each nation. Thus, to Arendt, even partial genocide weakens the whole world by reducing the spectrum of viewpoints therein.

Lederman points out that Arendt’s approach is not the same as any of the earlier-stated concepts of genocide as destroying a culture. Instead, she viewed the harm of genocide as stemming from the loss of that nation’s unique point of view, as formed by their unique political, social and historical experiences. From this perspective, assimilated German Jews had a different point of view to those of their non-Jewish German neighbors, despite sharing the same culture, thus defining the act of genocide.

Lederman summarizes that this approach underlies Arendt’s consideration of the Holocaust as worst of all crimes The Nazis specifically wished to wipe out the plurality of viewpoints. Lederman acknowledges that it is a failing in Arendt’s philosophy that in contradistinction to the Holocaust, she viewed other attempts at genocide to constitute a loss to humanity (through the loss of plurality of perspective) but not a crime, since they were not motivated by a desire to remove a plurality of viewpoints.

Lederman concludes that Arendt distinguished between morality, and existential or political values. To Arendt, genocide is a unique crime because of the existential loss it causes to plurality of humanity, not because it brings a moral loss of human lives. Lederman presents this as a flaw in her philosophy, but nonetheless wishes to add her unique categorization to the understanding of the true harm of genocide.

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

Faculty, Research

Holocaust Hospitality: Michal Rovner’s Living Landscape at Yad Vashem

img_3204Writing in the journal History and Memory in 2016, art historian Rachel Perry of the University of Haifa’s Holocaust Studies Program considers the impact and implications of Living Landscape, the entrance art installation created by Michal Rovner at Yad Vashem’s new Holocaust History museum. Perry discusses the message and thematic expression of Living Landscape as embodying the message of the new Holocaust History museum, with reference to the concept of hospitality as conveyed by Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida.

Perry opens with the question: How does one greet the Holocaust, and how should a Holocaust History museum welcome its visitors in to face the history that it presents? Michal Rovner’s huge permanent installation in the entrance foyer of Yad Vashem’s new museum answers this question in a particular way. Rovner covers the entirety of one wall with a projected loop of film gleaned from footage shot before the Holocaust that depicts ordinary European Jewish life in all its variety, without any signs of Nazism, ghettos, death or humiliation. Perry cites Henri Raczymov’s description of ‘pre-history’ for Rovner’s choice of material for visitors about to plunge into the history of the Holocaust.

Perry comments on the radical nature of Rovner’s artwork. Yad Vashem’s other large iconic art pieces follow the trope of the downtrodden, passive ‘ghetto Jews’ set alongside the self-actualized, proud and fulfilled Jews of Israel, for example Nathan Rapoport’s 1948 Memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In contrast, Rovner’s work shows European Jews as living full, contented lives in the Diaspora as their home, without dejection or passivity.

Living Landscape uses only ‘found footage’ – that is, restored footage that was shot by Jews, in place of film that was created by either the liberators (such as US army cameramen) or perpetrators (Nazi cinematography). Perry emphasizes how Rovner’s intimate use of Jewish-created film celebrates the living, not the dead, welcoming you into their lives. She notes that the welcoming nature of Living Landscape epitomizes the new museum’s approach to Holocaust history, presenting it from point of view of the vanquished. She terms it ‘repersonalization’. The old museum told story of ‘them’, six million anonymous and faceless victims, from a neutral perspective, but the new museum tells the story of the individual. Repersonalization, Perry notes, does not mean that the visitor is absorbed to become them but rather is encouraged to empathize with them.

Rovner’s work shows the leitmotif of waving and hands stretched out towards the visitor, expressing a theme of welcome and hospitality. It is here that Perry references Levinas’ philosophy of hospitality. Levinas and Derrida expounded on the home as the beginning of all memory and the locus of hospitality, and the subjects of Rovner’s work welcome you in and greet you from this place where memory begins, before you step into their memories. Levinas conceptualized of greeting another as the foundation of ethical interaction. The welcome of hospitality demands recognizing the face of the Other and permitting them to enter one’s home and one’s life. Similarly, the visitor is here welcomed in and made to feel at home at the beginning of this foray into the lives and homes of another.

Waving connotes a relationship, bridging a distance between two people who have a connection. But waving can also express farewell. The ominous mournful score and the visitor’s knowledge of what is to come overshadows the welcome in Living Landscape, even though there is no hint of it in the footage. Perry concludes that this is one of the ways that Rovner’s installation crosses the binary lines usually present in a Holocaust history museum – between outside and inside, between dark and light, between mourning the loss or celebrating the victory of ongoing life – forcing the visitor to reflect on his own responsibility to memory and to ethical behavior today.

Rachel Perry is a Professor of Art History at the University of Haifa

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

Faculty, Research

Inciting Hate through Posters, Films, and Exhibitions: German Anti-Jewish Propaganda in the Generalgouvernement, 1939–1945

grabowski_smallJan Grabowski is a professor of history at the University of Ottawa. In the academic year of 2017-18 he will be teaching on online course to the students of Weiss-Livnat International MA program on the Jews of Poland during the Holocaust.

In his 2009 article for the journal Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Professor Jan Grabowski of the University of Ottawa discusses the little-examined issue of the German anti-Jewish propaganda that was distributed in the General Gouvernement (GG) area of Poland during the years of German invasion and occupation, from 1939 to 1945. He notes the resources that were dedicated to this branch of propaganda in particular, with the use of visual media and the involvement of Polish artists and existing Polish anti-semitic material.

The German propaganda effort in GG Poland was considerable, led by a number of German propagandists brought in from Goebbels’ own office in Berlin. In addition, scores of local Polish workers were employed and a great deal of resources poured into the Polish propaganda effort. This was partly because Polish hatred for Germany was already high before the catastrophically destructive German advance into Poland worsened it further. The sole point which united Germans and Poles was their hatred of the Jews and the Bolsheviks. While Germany initially kept their anti-Bolshevik propaganda to a low level, once Russia entered the war the Germans increased to a flood propaganda that linked the Jews and the Bolsheviks as the cause of every Polish woe.

Grabowski points out that the anti-Jewish messages were heavily promoted using visual media, including posters, newsreels, and traveling exhibitions, so as to reach even the 23% of Poles who were still illiterate. Short ‘newsreels’ depicted the Germans as saviors of the Poles, who corralled Jews into ghettos to prevent them from spreading typhus. Hybrid newspaper-cum-cartoons were distributed across rural villages, using large images and short texts that could be understood by the undereducated Polish countryfolk. Huge posters with eye-catching anti-Semitic images were plastered everywhere, and a number of traveling exhibitions used sculptures, images and art to bring German anti-Semitic messages across the GG region of Poland.

Anti-jewish propaganda was not only created by imported German professionals. Notable local Polish artists were employed to create posters that repeated the message that Jews were to blame for world affairs. The traveling exhibitions used original images, sculptures and pictures created by notable top Polish artists to portray Jews as black market profiteers causing food shortages and the menacing puppet-masters inciting America to enter the war and instigating Bolshevik Russia’s aggression.spread German anti-Semitic propaganda. Anti-Jewish poems and rhetoric written by local Polish writers were printed and distributed en masse. The Nazi propagandists often suppressed any indication that the material originated from German sources. In order to encourage the Poles to view Jews as the shared enemy from whom they had been saved by the Germans, they acted to reinforce impressions of pre-war Polish anti-semitism.

While the Germans pulled anti-Western propaganda after just a few months due to its ineffectiveness, anti-Semitic propaganda continued and increased. Even after 1942, when it was toned down elsewhere in Europe in the wake of Western outcry, anti-semitic propaganda was ratcheted up in Poland. With tens of thousands of Polish Jews hiding on the Aryan side of the ghettos, propaganda was a vital tool to prevent Poles from agreeing to help any Jew to survive. Anti-Semitic propaganda continued in Cracow and Warsaw up to the very last days of the war – with anti-Jewish posters distributed in early January 1945, a few days before the Russian army rolled in.

As Grabowski notes, it is difficult to be sure of the impact of German anti-Semitic propaganda in Poland, simply because it did build upon existing anti-Jewish feeling. But he builds upon anecdotal evidence from diaries, eye witnesses and other sources to indicate that such largely visual propaganda did have an effect on Polish Jew-hatred which lasted beyond the end of the war, as can be seen from the Kielce pogrom and other acts of violence against returning Jews.

In short, Grabowski concludes, German anti-Jewish propaganda harnessed existing anti-Semitic sentiments using multiple visual channels in order to override Polish hatred of Germany. They modified their previous successful propaganda with Polish input and the work of notable local Polish artists to better appeal to the local, and largely rural, population. While the impact of this propaganda is difficult to assess, it is concluded to have been significant.