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8th Holocaust Memorial Lecture

Dr. Peter F. Hayes, Northwestern University.

Dr. Peter F. Hayes, Northwestern University.
"German Corporate Complicity in the Holocaust."

Delivered: Monday, 26 September,2005

"We either remember or forget events depending on how important the event was," Peter Hayes told a reporter for The Daily Northwestern in a 2001 interview. "We haven’t heard anyone speak in person who attended the Gettysburg Address, but we still pay attention to it." Thus does Professor Hayes explain the continued interest in the Holocaust, 60 years after the defeat of Nazi Germany. We study history, Hayes believes, in an "attempt to learn from the past’s experience."

Hayes (PhD, Yale, 1982), the Theodore Z. Weiss Professor of Holocaust Studies at Northwestern University, is the author of over forty articles and of several books, including Industry and Ideology: IG Farben in the Nazi Era (Cambridge University Press, 1987; New Edition, 2001), a study that was awarded the 1988 Biennial Book Prize of the Conference Group for Central European History (a section of the American Historical Association), and From Cooperation to Complicity: Degussa in the Third Reich (Cambridge University Press, 2004). He is currently working on two other books: Profits and Persecution: German Big Business and the Holocaust and The Failure of a Generation: German Elites and National Socialism. Teaching at Northwestern University since 1980, Hayes is also the consummate educator. In 1988 he received Northwestern’s Distinguished Teaching Award and in 2003 the Alumni Association’s Excellence in Teaching Award. Hayes directs the Summer Institute on the Holocaust and Jewish Civilization at Northwestern (funded by the Holocaust Educational Foundation), he serves on the Academic Committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, and he is a member of the Academic Advisory Board of the German Society for Business History (Gesellschaft für Unternehmensgeschichte).

Why study the Holocaust through the lens of Germany’s business community? Hayes believes that it is far too easy to identify the Nazi villains and thereby focus the blame for the Third Reich’s unmatched atrocities on the likes of Himmler, Heydrich, Göring, Goebbels, and, of course, Hitler. What of the thousands who adjusted their principles for these men? By focusing his research on the mindset of a powerful corporate elite, Hayes fixes our attention on the moral dimension of human conduct, showing how otherwise respectable men compromised their ethics by placing either their own interests or those of their firms above those of the regime’s victims. The result is troubling in that these are men who we, too, would have respected. What should that tell us?

Sidore Lecture Series Jerry Fowler, Staff Director for USHMM Committee on Conscience, The Crisis in Darfur, October 18, 2005.

"We have to believe that we can reduce it, that we can fight it when it happens, and we can strive for the day when it is eliminated." – Jerry Fowler

Jerry Fowler Jerry Fowler is Staff Director of the Committee on Conscience at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The Committee’s mandate is "to alert the national conscience, influence policymakers, and stimulate worldwide action to confront and work to halt acts of genocide or related crimes against humanity."

Through conferences, public programs, special exhibitions, teacher training, public speaking and other vehicles, the Committee works to carry out its mandate. Special attention is currently being paid to the urgent crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan. In January 2004, the Committee issued a "Genocide Warning" for Darfur, and in May, Mr. Fowler visited Sudanese refugee camps in Chad to obtain first-hand accounts of the situation. In July, the Committee declared a "Genocide Emergency" for Darfur, the first time in its history that it used this highest level of alert.

Other programs have focused on the threats of genocide in Bosnia, East Timor, and Chechnya. The Committee recently produced and distributed a film about the Rwandan genocide, featuring Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, to educators, activists, and policymakers in more than 30 countries, including the entire U.S. Congress and more than 1,000 U.S. high school teachers.

Mr. Fowler previously was legislative counsel for the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, where he worked on a broad array of human rights issues, including international justice and refugee and asylum policy. His publications include the essay, "Out of that Darkness: Preventing Genocide in the 21st Century," in the 2nd edition of Century of Genocide: Eyewitness Accounts and Critical Views (Routledge, 2004).

Mr. Fowler has taught at George Mason University Law School and George Washington University Law School, and has been a Scholar-in-Residence at American University’s summer Human Rights Institute. He is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Princeton University. From 1983 to 1987, he was stationed in Germany as an officer in the United States Army. From 1993 to 1995, he served as Special Litigation Counsel for the U.S. Department of Justice.