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Past Events

Writing History, Writing Biography: Capturing H.G. Adler’s Many Worlds
Peter Filkins | Bard College
Wednesday, April 24 | 4:00pm | Harris Hall 108

H.G. Adler

H.G. Adler (1910 – 1988) lived at the center of his times and on their margin. A survivor of Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and two other concentration camps, he chronicled his experience and the loss of others in two dozen books of seminal history, modernist fiction, formally intricate poems, and insightful essays. Yet, despite close friendships with Leo Baeck, Elias Canetti, and Heinrich Böll, he remained a writer’s writer, largely unknown and neglected. Thus, unlike with better known figures, the story of his life must be told through the times in which he lived, as well as how the same lived through him. On the publication of H.G. Adler: A Life in Many Worlds, biographer and translator Peter Filkins discusses the intersection of biography and history in shaping the story of Adler’s life and work.

Peter Filkins, the Richard B. Fisher Professor of Literature and the Division Head of Languages and Literature at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, is an award-winning poet and translator, as well as the author of the recently published biography on H.G. Adler: H.G. Adler: A Life in Many Worlds (Oxford UP, 2019).

This lecture is presented by the German Department, and co-sponsored by the Chabraja Center for Historical Studies, the Comparative Literary Studies Program, the Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies, the Weinberg College Office of the Dean, and the Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University.

Being in Auschwitz: Space, Sense and Sensibility – Theodore Zev Weiss Annual Lecture
Tuesday, April 9, 7:30 PM
Harris Hall 108

‘I pass on to you merely a small part of what took place in the hell of Birkenau-Auschwitz’, Zalmen Gradowski, a Polish Jew, tells readers in a secret manuscript, buried in 1944 near the gas chambers. ‘It is for you to imagine the reality’. But how can we imagine Auschwitz? What did it mean to be in Auschwitz?

This lecture examined elements of lived experience in Auschwitz that often remain hidden on the edges of historical visibility. It moved the spotlight from Auschwitz as a symbol of death to the historical reality of living and dying in the camp. Focusing on physical objects, the environment and human bodies, it examined a succession of spaces – buildings, boundaries, landscapes – that reveal subjective dimensions of perception and emotion in Auschwitz.

Professor Nikolaus Wachsmann headshotProfessor Nikolaus Wachsmann teaches modern European History at Birkbeck College (University of London). He has written widely on Nazi terror, most recently KL: A history of the Nazi concentration camps (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015), winner of the Wolfson Prize, the Mark Lynton History Prize, and the Jewish Quarterly-Wingate literary prize. He serves on the advisory boards of memorials in Sachsenhausen, Ravensbrück, Belsen and Mauthausen, and has devised an AHRC-supported educational website on the concentration camps.

Saints and Liars: American Relief and Rescue Workers during the Nazi Era
Thursday, October 18, 5:00 PM
Harris Hall 108

A number of Americans — Quakers, Unitarians, Jews, secular people — traveled around the globe to offer relief and to rescue victims of Nazi Germany and its allies. Who were these intrepid souls who perceived possibilities for action where so many of their fellow citizens saw none? What did they accomplish and how? Exploring the experiences of Americans who undertook these initiatives and the imperiled people they helped, Professor Debórah Dwork (Senior Research Scholar and Founding Director, Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Clark University) opens a window on the derring-do and the daily grind of desperate rescue operations.

This lecture is co-sponsored by the Chabraja Center for Historical Studies; for additional information, visit their website.

Did Gender Matter during the Holocaust? Theodore Zev Weiss Holocaust Educational Foundation Annual Lecture

Marion Kaplan is the Skirball Professor of Modern Jewish History at New York University and author of Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany. One of three books by Kaplan to have won the National Jewish Book Award, this volume, published in 1998, was among the first to explore how gender influenced individual and collective Jewish responses to Nazi policy. Since then, research on gender and the Holocaust has proliferated. Prof. Kaplan discussed the state of the field before and since the release of her pivotal and seminal work. The lecture took place on Thursday, May 3 2018 in Harris Hall 108.



Americans and the Holocaust: An Exhibition at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University, along with the Department of History, is pleased to celebrate the work of our colleague Daniel Greene, who is curating a new exhibition on Americans’ responses to the Holocaust at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. Greene will discuss the exhibition and his contributions to it.

This lecture took place in Harris Hall 108 at 5:00 PM on Tuesday, January 30.



The Criminalization of Kindness: Forced Migration and Sanctuary from World War II until the Present

The Holocaust Educational Foundation, in partnership with the Buffett Institute for Global Studies and the Department of History, presented the panel discussion “The Criminalization of Kindness: Forced Migration and Sanctuary from World War II until the Present.” The panel featured Prof. Galya Ben-Arieh, “Sanctuary, Solidarity, and Sanctions: Civilian Assistance for Refugees and State Responses in the U.S. and Italy”; Benjamin Frommer, “Emigration, Flight, and Internal Resettlement during the Holocaust”; and Lauren Stokes, “Sanctuary Evanston: Refugees in The Daily Northwestern, from the 1930s to Now.”

This lecture took place in Harris Hall 108 at 5:00 PM on Tuesday, January 30.

Polish “Blue Police” and the Extermination of the Polish Jews, 1939 – 1945

The Chabraja Center for Historical Studies and the Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University presented a lecture by Prof. Jan Grabowski (University of Ottawa), “Polish ‘Blue Police’ and the Extermination of the Polish Jews, 1939 – 1945.”

The Polish “Blue” Police were created by the Germans shortly after the conquest of Poland.  The organization, which numbered some 20,000 officers was, from the early days of the occupation, responsible for the enforcement of various German regulations directed against the Polish Jews such as branding, restrictions on the usage of public transportation, curfews, registration of Jewish property, supervision of Jewish forced labor as well as the resettlement of Jews into the ghettos. The lecture will  focus on the role of the “Blue” police during the  later period, when the Polish officers took part in the brutal liquidation of the ghettos in Poland.   Sometimes acting under the German orders and sometimes demonstrating a surprising degree of own agency, the Polish “Blue” police became one of the deadliest, non-German agents in the destruction of European Jews.

The lecture took place in Harris Hall 108 on Monday, October 23 at 5:00 PM.

Jews and Justice in Communist Poland in the Immediate Aftermath of the Holocaust

In the aftermath of the Holocaust, survivors and Jews the world over were anxious to see Nazis and their accomplices put on trial for their crimes. Poland’s surviving Jewish remnant played a particularly active role in the effort to bring Nazis and Nazi collaborators before the bar of justice. This lecture by Prof. Gabriel Finder (University of Virginia), examined various ways in which Polish Jews participated in the pursuit of justice for the victims of Nazi-era crimes. Although Jews operated within constraints, not least of which were those brought to bear by Poland’s communist regime, they were resolved to become agents in the legal response to the Holocaust.

This lecture was presented by the Department of German and the Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University. It took place at 2:00 PM on Friday, May 26, in the Rock Room (Norris University Center 207).

2017 Theodore Zev Weiss Annual Lecture: The Ravine: Researching the Holocaust

The Holocaust is one of the most well documented events in history. Official records number hundreds of millions. Victims and survivors wrote in ghettos, camps, and in hiding, and in every decade since. Photographs, films, and artifacts fill archives at national and regional repositories. Much of this material is digitized and available on the web. Global archives change the ways in which history is researched, written, and remembered. How does a researcher navigate all this and what stories offer new insights? Explaining how and why Holocaust Studies pioneered interdisciplinary methods, Professor Wendy Lower demonstrated how one photograph can open a path of discovery in archives, in survivors’ homes, and at killing sites in Ukraine. The lecture took place in the McCormick Tribune Forum at 4:00 PM on Wednesday, May 10.

Wendy Lower is Acting Director of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies. Her research and teaching focus on the history of genocide, the Holocaust and human rights. Lower is the author of Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields (Houghton, 2013) which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and has been translated into 23 languages. She wrote Nazi Empire Building and the Holocaust in Ukraine (UNC Press, published in association with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2005), and edited The Diary of Samuel Golfard and the Holocaust in Galicia (Routledge, published in association with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2011). Lower joined the faculty of Claremont McKenna College in 2012 as the John K. Roth Professor of History. Prior to that she taught at Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich Germany (2007-2012) where she was German Research Foundation grant recipient.

Trial by Documentary: The Harlans, from Jud Süss (1940) to Notre Nazi (1984)

In availing themselves of unconventional strategies and appealing to non-legal discourses, documentary films have exceptional latitude in critiquing the legal and judicial spheres. Professor Brad Prager (University of Missouri) examined the 1984 documentary Notre Nazi, which was produced by Thomas Harlan, the son of the notorious Nazi filmmaker Veit Harlan, who was best known for directing the propaganda film Jud Süss (1940). In Thomas Harlan’s film Alfred Filbert, a former SS perpetrator, stands in for the elder Harlan, and the proceedings that take place in the film’s makeshift courtroom work through the German past by foregrounding all manner of affects, including filial ambivalence, shame, and rage.

The talk took place in the Hagstrum Room (University Hall 201) at 2:00 PM on Wednesday, April 19th. It was sponsored by the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, and co-presented by the German Department and the Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University.

Confessional Performance and the Holocaust Perpetrator: Gitta Sereny’s 1971 Interview with Treblinka Commandant Franz Stangl

In this talk, Professor Erin McGlothlin (Washington University in St. Louis) investigated the ethical implications of Gitta Sereny’s journalistic biography Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience (1974).  The book is based on Sereny’s extensive interviews with Franz Stangl, who was then serving a life sentence for his role in the Holocaust.  McGlothlin analyzed Sereny’s intersubjective encounter with Stangl and her construction of his experience as one of ethical epiphany.

This lecture took place on Tuesday, March 7, 2017 at the TGS Commons (2122 Sheridan Road), and was presented by the Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University and the Department of German.

Paul Jaskot Lecture – A Plan, a Testimony, and a Digital Map: Architecture and the Spaces of the Holocaust

The Holocaust was a profoundly spatial experience that involved not only the movement of millions of European Jews but also their confinement and murder in sites specifically built for the genocide. Professor Paul Jaskot’s (DePaul University) talk addressed how perpetrators thought of their building projects and, conversely, how victims experienced these oppressive spaces. Analyzing the architecture of the Holocaust helps us in understanding the larger development, implementation and context of this crucial event in human history. Taking an architectural plan and a specific survivor testimony as examples, the lecture also explored how recent methods in the Digital Humanities–particularly digital mapping–can be used to investigate plans and testimonies to raise new questions about the spatial and historical significance of the Holocaust. The lecture yook place on Tuesday, September 27 at 12:30 PM in Harris Hall 108. This lecture was co-sponsored by the Chabraja Center for Historical Studies.

2016 Theodore Zev Weiss Annual Lecture

Prof. Eric Sundquist of Johns Hopkins University delivered the annual Theodore Zev Weiss Lecture in Holocaust Studies on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. The partisan and poet Abba Kovner recalled opening the door to a room in the Vilna Ghetto and finding a man seated at an old sewing machine who was sewing not cloth but empty white paper.  What, Kovner asked in astonishment, was he doing?  “I’m writing,” he said. On a sewing machine?  “I’m writing the history of the Ghetto.”  Without thread?  “I will thread it later.  When we survive this, I shall put the thread into the holes.”  What such a text might have told us we can only guess, but we may see in it an allegory of Holocaust writing, tantalizing in its diversity and fragility.  Focusing on testimony written during and soon after the war, Writing the Holocaust presented a wide-ranging view of work that was remarkable for speaking candidly of the unbearable with equal measures of brute force and subtlety.

Anna Bikont Lecture – The Crime and the Silence: Confronting the Massacre of Jews in Wartime Jedwabne

On Wednesday, April 13, Anna Bikont discussed her bookThe Crime and the Silence, which tells the story of the July 1941 massacre of Jews in the Eastern Polish towns of Jedwabne and Radziłów, where local Poles rounded up their Jewish neighbors and burned them in a barn. She investigated the long silence in the years following these events, and the fierce debate initiated in Poland by historian Jan T. Gross’s book Neighbors. The debate broke some of the taboos central to the Polish sense of identity, but left many untouched, among them the anti-Semitism prevalent in the Catholic Church before, during, and after WW II and the scale of these crimes. She talked about the events of 1941, telling the story of Stanislaw Ramotowski, one of the main characters in the book. She also spoke about the present-day impact of the Jedwabne massacre in Poland. The lecture was presented in partnership with the Evanston Public Library amd the Chabraja Center for Historical Studies, and took place at the Evanston Public Library.

Jonathan Petropoulos Lecture – Culture, Barbarism, and Justice: Recent Developments Concerning Nazi Art Looting and Postwar Restitution

Jonathan Petropoulos, John V. Croul Professor of European History at Claremont McKenna College, gave a talk at Northwestern University on October 27, 2015. Professor Petropoulos’ lecture, “Culture, Barbarism, and Justice: Recent Developments Concerning Nazi Art Looting and Postwar Restitution,” demonstrated how the Nazis were not only the most systematic mass murderers of all time, but the greatest thieves. Nazi art looting and the Holocaust are inextricably linked, and this imparts certain responsibilities for those engaged in the recovery and restitution of looted artworks.  In this lecture, Professor Jonathan Petropoulos drew on over thirty years of experience working on the topic of looting and restitution. He talked about why Allied restitution efforts came up short in the early postwar years, and then discussed more recent cases where he has been an expert witness, including Altmann v. Austria (which concerned six paintings by Gustav Klimt), Grosz v. MoMA (three pictures by George Grosz), and Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza (a work by Camille Pissarro). There has been, in Stuart Eizenstat’s words, “imperfect justice” and the work to complete “the unfinished business of World War II” continues.

2015 Theodore Zev Weiss Annual Lecture

Professor Peter Hayes of Northwestern University delivered the Theodore Zev Weiss Annual Lecture in Holocaust Studies. Professor Hayes’s lecture, “Antisemitism and Homophobia in Nazi Germany: Different but Related Hatreds,” described the differing contexts, motives, objectives, and scales of the Nazi persecutions of European Jews and German gay men. He illustrated that similar justification, escalation, degradation, and lasting damage characterized each process. The lecture concluded with an examination of the contrasting aftereffects of each form of persecution on the respective prejudices after World War II.

The lecture was held in the McCormick Tribune Forum on the Northwestern Evanston campus.

David Barnouw Lecture – Who Owns Anne Frank in the 21st Century?

At the moment a brand-new play The Diary of Anne Frank is successful on stage in Amsterdam, we are expecting two new Anne Frank movies and historians are working on two (!) new scholarly editions of Anne’s Work. What is the matter and why are the Anne Frank Foundation in Basel and the Anne Frank Foundation in Amsterdam fighting with each other? In ‘Who Owns Anne Frank in the 21st Century,’ David Barnouw, director of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, talked about the issues surrounding ownership of Anne Frank’s diaries. The lecture was co-sponsored by the Evanston Public Library.

David Barnouw (1949) is a Dutch historian specializing in WW2. Until recently he was a staff member of the Dutch NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies. He is a world renowned Anne Frank specialist and gives often lectures in Europe and the USA. In 1986 he published with a colleague for the first time the complete ‘Diaries of Anne Frank’ (translated in five languages and 100,000 copies sold). His last book Het fenomeen Anne Frank (2012) (The Anne Frank Phenomenon) will be published next year in Germany. Click here for the lecture flyer.

Christopher Browning Lecture – 45 Years as a Holocaust Historian

Christopher Browning’s research focuses on the Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. He has written extensively about three issues: first, Nazi decision- and policy-making in regard to the origins of the Final Solution; second, the behavior and motives of various middle- and lower-echelon personnel involved in implementing Nazi Jewish policy; and thirdly, the use of survivor testimony to explore Jewish responses and survival strategies. The lecture was co-sponsed by the Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University and the Nicholas D. Chabraja Center for Historical Studies.

Some Notable Publications:

Theodore Zev Weiss Annual Lecture

Dagmar Herzog’s presentation, “Post-Holocaust Antisemitism and the Psychiatry of Trauma,” revisited the emotionally charged conflicts among medical professionals in West Germany, the U.S., and Israel in the 1950s-1970s over reparations for mental health damages experienced by survivors of Nazi persecution and concentration and death camps. She showed how, in the midst of widespread popular resentment against survivors, resurgent anti-Semitism, and hostility from prominent professionals, a small handful of doctors first developed the concepts of “massive psychic trauma” and “post-traumatic stress disorder” to aid Jewish claimants for compensation.

Dagmar Herzog is Distinguished Professor of History and the Daniel Rose Faculty Scholar at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She has published widely in the history of religion in Europe and the U.S., on the Holocaust and its aftermath, and on the histories of gender and sexuality. She recently completed Sexuality in Europe: A Twentieth-Century History (Cambridge UP, 2011). She is also the author of Sex in Crisis: The New Sexual Revolution and the Future of American Politics (Basic, 2008), Sex after Fascism: Memory and Morality in Twentieth-Century Germany (Princeton UP, 2005), and Intimacy and Exclusion: Religious Politics in Pre-Revolutionary Baden (Princeton UP,1996; Transaction, 2007). She is the editor and coeditor of six anthologies, including, most recently, Brutality and Desire: War and Sexuality in Europe’s Twentieth Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); and Lessons and Legacies VII: The Holocaust in International Perspective (Northwestern UP, 2007). She is currently writing a book on the transatlantic history of psychoanalysis, trauma, and desire in the postwar era, to be entitled Cold War FreudTZW Lecture 2014 Flyer

Bernard Wasserstein Lecture

The NU History Department, Nicholas D. Chabraja Center for Historical Studies, Crown Center for Jewish & Israel Studies, and the Holocaust Educational Foundation of NU sponsored a lecture by Bernard Wasserstein (University of Chicago). “The Ambiguity of Virtue: Gertrude van Tijn and the Fate of the Dutch Jews” took place Tuesday, March 4th at 12:15 p.m. (with catered lunch).

For more on Prof. Wassestein, see