Cohen Center 2002 Summer Institute Report
The report from the 2002 Summer Institute that brings educators together from around the United States and Europe.
Keene State College and the Cohen Center for Holocaust Studies were proud to be in partnership with the New Hampshire Humanities Council and the Cooper family in presenting the 2002 Summer Institute on the Holocaust. We are grateful for the support of the Council and the Coopers in supporting our outreach initiatives in Holocaust Studies. The Institute was a rich and challenging experience. This year’s Fellows were well-qualified and provided excellent discussion, reflection and insight into our studies. Participants included educators from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, as well as Latvia and Slovakia. The mix of American and overseas teachers added much to the collective experience.
No event in twentieth-century history has so absorbed the attention of scholars, theologians, statesmen, and-of course-survivors as the Holocaust. How and why did it happen? Who was involved? Who knew what was happening, and how much did they know? Who risked life and family to subvert, on some tiny scale, the Holocaust’s deadly progress? Why, in general, did the world do so little? How might we prevent another such catastrophe? The list of questions goes on. Yet the deeper we probe, the clearer it becomes that our answers are rarely sufficiently precise and compact, or entirely adequate. The complexity of the Holocaust does not belie answers; it does, however, demand patience, exactitude, sensitivity, and the ability to say “on the other hand.” We, the living, hold the legacy of the Holocaust. We contend that the living must remember the cruelty, the suffering, and the innocence extinguished, for to forget is not only to run the risk of repetition, it is to fail to embrace our fundamental responsibility to humanity.
It is our conviction that students must be personally engaged by having them examine both the horrific scale and the individual dimensions of the Holocaust. A balance between the magnitude and the personal nature-for perpetrators, victims, and bystanders-of the Holocaust must be established in its presentation. Certainly, students must “see the broader picture.” Nevertheless, the day-to-day complexities of any student’s life-the making of moral and ethical choices, the consequences of seemingly minor actions-find parallels in many of the individual stories of the Holocaust, and should also be the focus of educational activities.
In a society given to the careless use of language, and with Holocaust deniers ever ready to leap on potential inaccuracies in our presentations, it is crucial that teachers clearly define terms. They must strive for precision in language as they present this material to their students-e.g., there were clear differences between concentration and extermination camps, and there are identifiable means to distinguish among mass murder, genocide, and the Holocaust. Today one can hear the term “holocaust” being used to describe a wide range of events. One purpose of the Institute is, therefore, to develop a clear definition of the Holocaust and, through a multi-disciplinary approach, ground participating Fellows in the history of this specific event.
It is also important that secondary-school teachers place the Holocaust in its historical context. By looking, first, at the roots of anti-Semitism, Fellows will gain a better sense of the long-lived antecedents to the Nazis’ hatred of Jews. But it is equally important to understand what life was like, both in Germany and abroad, before World War II. Moreover, the Institute aims, especially through its literary and Judaic content, to present the Jews of Europe as human beings, not simply as victims. Finally, we will also examine the progression of events within the twelve-year period of the Third Reich (1933-1945)-to understand how Nazi racial policy evolved over time. The aim is that teachers avoid simple answers to the complicated history that they will be dealing with and learn how to properly draw parallels to other events while avoiding stereotypical descriptions that are dangerously misleading.
Teachers should also strive for balance in their approach to the Holocaust. Through the Institute’s multi-disciplinary approach, Fellows should gain the broader perspective needed to instruct the complexities of the Holocaust. Too often teachers limit their approach to this topic to a single perspective-often that of the perpetrators. We believe that an informed study must examine perpetrators, victims, bystanders, rescuers, and resisters. These perspectives should be balanced-e.g., while there were certainly millions of victims and tens of thousands of perpetrators, well over eighty percent of Europe’s population comprised bystanders. Romanticizing the role of a tiny number of rescuers in order to engage the interest of students is not by itself an appropriate way to approach this topic. To achieve accuracy, teachers must strive for balance.
In conclusion, it is important that educators have ready access to the complex factual information and that they will be provided in this Institute. It is also crucial that they charge their students with a sense of individual responsibility. Although we believe that the Holocaust must be taught, educators must have the necessary resources and training to teach the subject with accuracy. The history of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust is a warning to us all. Before it happened, Yehuda Bauer argues, the Holocaust was but an abstract possibility; once it became a fact, it began to serve as a possible precedent of what human beings are capable of doing to other human beings. The Institute is designed to ensure that it remains a warning, not a precedent. The in-kind commitment of time and effort by the participating faculty is a demonstration of the importance they place in Holocaust studies.
- C. Paul Vincent, Director, Cohen Center for Holocaust Studies
The following books were provided for all participating Fellows to the Summer Institute:
- Bauer, Yehuda. A History of the Holocaust.
- Browning, Christopher. Nazi Policy, Jewish Workers, German Killers.
- Levi, Primo. Survival in Auschwitz.
- Schleunes, Karl. The Twisted Road to Auschwitz.
- Segal, Lore. Other Peoples’ Houses.
- Telushkin, Joseph. Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People and Its History.
Teacher Resource Guides
In addition to the above textbooks, Fellows received the following resource publications.
- Stillman, Lorry. The Spirit That Moves Us, Volume III: Using Literature, Art, and Music to Teach About The Holocaust at the Secondary and College Level.
- The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. _Teaching About the Holocaust: A Resource Book for Educators. _
Each participant received a two-inch binder containing teacher resources, supplemental readings, posters, booklets, and teaching materials created by the Cohen Center for Holocaust Studies.
Roger Brooks, Ph.D., Elie Wiesel Professor of Judaic Studies, Connecticut College
Nona Feinberg, Ph.D., Professor of English, Keene State College
Sander Lee, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Keene State College
Gerard Lenthall, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology, Keene State College
Walter Rosley, Holocaust Survivor
Therese Seibert, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sociology, Keene State College
Paul Vincent, Ph.D., Director, Cohen Center for Holocaust Studies, Keene State College
Thomas White, MAT, Coordinator of Educational Outreach, Cohen Center for Holocaust Studies, Keene State College
Comments from Participants
One aspect that really came through during the seminar was to show the reality of the Jews before the war…with this approach, the students will be able to see the vast contributions and normalcy of the people (not to see them just as victims). One component that will help students identify with the people is to study the basic foundations of Judaism…this will demystify the faith…I would then discuss the differences between Judaism as a religion and Jewry (its practice).” Jen Chapdelaine, Keene High School
“The Institute greatly impacted the way that I hope to teach the Holocaust and provided very workable models, extremely valuable information, and the opportunity to discuss thoughts, ideas, and questions with the professors and colleagues in attendance.” Jim Johnston, Portsmouth High School
“I thought the workshops and accommodations were awesome and I feel it allowed me to grow intellectually, spiritually, and personally…The professional instruction I received demonstrated an intense understanding of the Holocaust. The instructors shared a contagious enthusiasm for teaching and learning that will stay with me throughout my teaching career. The level of professionalism was outstanding and I hope that i can inspire others the way I was inspired…I can honestly say that the Summer Institute at KLeene State provided me with an exceptional educational opportunity to grow and experience some of the finest educators in Holocaust studies.” Laura Dwyer, Alton Central School
“Having the opportunity to participate in an institute sponsored by the N.H. Humanities Council was more that I could have hoped for. All the Institutes I have attended have always exceeded my expectations, and this one certainly did the same…Listening to Walter [Rosley] tell his stories transferred an impersonal happening into a reality. For me, the fact that he went to school with Anne Frank made him more believable and yet, at the same time, more unbelievable…I cannot possibly convey how wonderful this Institute was.” Joan Paduchowski, Auburn Village School
“The most valuable aspect of the Institute was the demonstration of the range of disciplines that can and should be part of studying and teaching the Holocaust. It was invaluable to have the faculty with us even when they were not actually presenting; their willingness to commit their time to the same extent we have was very meaningful.” Deena Parmelee, Manchester, N.H.
“It’s an excellent summer school for teachers. Great possibilities to learn, to exchange views, to get acquainted with other’s experiences in history teaching.” Nora Snepste, Prelie, Latvia.
“The resources that I received will aid me in my teaching…most importantly, the wealth of information that all the speakers presented was engaging and interesting.” Rachael Summe, Keene High School
“I found the course - teacher - training seminar at the Center for Holocaust Studies at Keene State College very intensive and informative. The different interesting historical sources, literature and handouts that where represented at the seminar will be useful in my work at school. Especially interesting were lectures on Jewish history, on Judaism history and traditions, analysis of the Holocaust with the help of literature, practical psychology, sociology, jurisprudence. Therefore the theme gets a deeper and wider content as well as leads to deeper understanding of Jewish lifestyle…
The second theme that is unknown in Latvia - resistance and research of rescuers. Just this theme we together with Inese Berga had chosen as the presentation theme about our studying in KSC. On 14th -16th August in Valmiera, small town of Latvia, we had the teachers’ in-service training seminar “Teaching about Holocaust. Problems. Solutions.” Our workshop was based on the materials we got in KSC. Victoria Sloan from the US Embassy also took part in this seminar.
The sociological materials of Genocide and Holocaust (definitions, explanations) also will be extremely useful in my work at school. It is very essential to explain the children how a bystander becomes a rescuer…Very interesting addition to the theoretical and practical work at workshops were the film sessions in the evening. Especially useful is the complete list of films and video materials we got at the seminar as well as the interesting discussions about the films.
During the seminar there were wonderful informal relations between the lecturers and students as well as very constructive, business-like atmosphere. In conclusion I would like to say that we as Latvian teachers have more in common than different with American colleagues; our teaching methods and content of history teaching are similar. Especially I enjoyed the open and correct discussions after the lectures - we are still not used to speak freely and to listen carefully to other speakers in our country.
Thank you, for the understanding and warm reception in Keene!”
Jolanta Klisane, Riga, Latvia and Inese Berga, Sigulda, Latvia