Cohen Center 2004 Summer Institute Report
A Successful Summer InstituteThe participants at our 2004 Summer Institute on the Holocaust, held in July, left Keene State College with a deeper knowledge of the Holocaust and with new ideas for teaching the subject. Keene State College and the Cohen Center for Holocaust Studies were proud to be in partnership with the New Hampshire Humanities Council and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation in presenting the 2004 Summer Institute on the Holocaust. We are grateful for the support of the Council, the Foundation, and a gift from Kapiloff Insurance Agency for allowing us to conduct this year’s Institute.
Seventeen Fellows took part in the 2nd biennial Summer Institute, which offered graduate-level lectures on the history of the Holocaust and group discussions about applying the lessons to the classroom. Participants included educators from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, as well as Estonia and Germany. The mix of American and overseas teachers added much to the collective experience. The residential program - participants stayed in Keene State housing - brought together English and social studies teachers and Holocaust center staff who are committed to building on their knowledge of the Holocaust. Pictured here is this year’s group, which convened from July 11 – July 16.
The tone for the Institute was set at the initial dinner on July 11. Thomas Weisshaus gave a deeply personal talk about his experience as a survivor from Hungary. He told of his life in Budapest with a sense of dutiful responsibility. It is only in recent years that he has confronted the terrible memories he had so carefully suppressed. He witnessed the ravages of war and was rescued by Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands. He often remembered the women in his life who played a direct role in his survival. His mother, though herself unable to get to a Wallenberg safe house, made certain that her son did. She would bring him food and one day stopped coming. Tom related the story of sneaking into a work detail to get to the part of the town where his mother was only to find that they had been murdered. He was stopped by an Hungarian police officer (who very well may have participated in the killing) who, by some miracle, allowed Tom to escape. At another time, while awaiting deportation to the camps with his uncle on an island packed with Hungarian Jews, a soldier took both he and his uncle to the officer’s tent. The Hungarian officer, praising the courage of Tom’s aunt who had directly intervened on their behalf, released them. Tom’s story was invaluable to the Fellows. He used his personal history to advocate for social justice. Tom became a lightning rod for questions and was a gracious and thoughtful presenter. He often related how his survival was mere chance, but aided by courageous women. Tom now actively works with the Center in furthering our mission.Once again, the Institute was enriched by the contribution of our five overseas educators. Our two German participants shared their personal stories and deeply moved the Fellows and community members in attendance. Dr. Elke Heege presented, "Jewish History in Einbeck, Germany" and Ingeborg Hüttig discussed "Jewish Connections in My Family." Their stories were riveting as they both had direct contact with the memory of events and the difficulty in dealing with it in today’s Germany. (See home page for Inge’s story.)
The most rewarding aspect of the Institute was the unique multi-disciplinary approach to Holocaust studies that our teachers were exposed to. Few institutes approach the topic in this fashion. This allowed for greater breadth of interpretation and made the history much more accessible and complex.
The Fellows left the Institute with lessons plans and ideas for the classroom that will make their presentations more thorough, complicated, and challenging. One major impact has been the realization that using Nazi film footage or even Nazi stills can dehumanize the victims and even serve as entertainment for students who can safely watch grotesque, violent, and disturbing images from the relative safety of their classroom. We cannot allow the Nazis to desensitize us to their brutality. Instead, the Fellows will be focusing on the humanity of the victims by focusing on pre-war Jewish life and focusing on Judaism and Jewry. It is important, as one Fellow wrote, "not to show films/photographs that ‘victimize’ the Jews and others. Instead, I will show them as people with families/friends doing the everyday things that people do…hopefully, this human connection will make them more apt to be agents of change."In the short-term, this shifting of Holocaust education from a study of victimization to humanizing the experience will have a significant impact. It will serve to not only make better connections with students who can easily displace the historical events as something that happened to "those" people "back then," but also to allow our teachers to stop victimizing themselves while trying to present this topic. One of the many obstacles teachers face in approaching Holocaust education is that they are afraid of seeing all the evil and forcing despair on everyone. Instead, our approach, while still keeping the scope and magnitude of what happened, allows teachers and students to focus on human choices and decisions while humanizing those who were engulfed in this unprecedented genocide.
This year’s presenters and topics included:
- Thomas Weisshaus – Holocaust survivor: Keynote address.
- Dr. Paul Vincent: Antisemitism; The Nazi Racial State; From Kristallnacht to Auschwitz; and Jewish Resistance.
- Rabbi Micah Becker-Klein: Judaism: Evolving Religious Civilization of the Jewish People: an overview; Commandment, Custom, and Community (mitzvah, minhag, and kehillah) in Jewish life; Tree of Life: Synagogue and Denominations in Contemporary Jewish Life; and Practicum on teaching Judaism."
- Dr. Larry Benaquist: American film and the Holocaust; The constructed documentary, the interview documentary, and the public record documentary; Forms of resistance, and the effect on the survivors.
- Dr. Nona Fienberg: The Holocaust through Poetry & Prose.
- Dr. Helen Frink: Women in the Holocaust.
- Dr. Therese Seibert: Assessing Explanations of the Holocaust; Rescue.
- Dr. Sander Lee: Ethics, Politics, and Theology after Auschwitz.
- Tom White: Teaching the Holocaust: Methodological Considerations; Pedagogy.
The following books were provided for all participating Fellows to the Summer Institute:
- Dwork, Deborah, ed. Voices and Views: A History of the Holocaust.
- Fink, Ida. A Scrap of Time and other Stories.
- Kluger, Ruth. Still Alive, A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered.
- Schleunes, Karl. The Twisted Road to Auschwitz.
- 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.
- Larry Benaquist, Ph.D., Professor of Film Studies, Keene State College
- Nona Feinberg, Ph.D., Professor of English, Keene State College
- Helen Frink, Ph.D., Professor of German and Women’s Studies, Keene State College
- Sander Lee, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Keene State College
- 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 Weisshaus, Holocaust Survivor.
- Thomas White, MAT, Coordinator of Educational Outreach, Cohen Center for Holocaust Studies, Keene State College
Comments from Participants
Participating in the 2004 Summer Institute on the Holocaust was an inspiring experience for me personally and as a teacher…It was the most powerful, intense and open educational experience I have ever had." – Clare Fedolfi, Tobey School
The week long Summer Institute was an experience that I know I will not easily put aside." – Diane Bush, Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School
"Everyone involved in the Institute, including the Fellows themselves, made this week an incredible learning experience by allowing me to see the issues surrounding the Holocaust in so many different ways. It gave me great pride and happiness to work with so many educators who shared common goals: achieving peace, love, and respect (not tolerance) in this world. After this week, I realized, there is hope." – Brooke Chaney, Cawley Middle School
"…I realize that I have been given a truly wonderful gift in the form of extraordinary presenters and the company of participants from diverse backgrounds. This gift, however, is one that comes with strings attached. By taking part in the Institute, we have all accepted a share of the responsibility in assisting the Cohen Center achieve its aim…I am most grateful for this opportunity." – Linda Minickiello, Monadnock Regional High School.
"The effects of the week will, I suspect, have lasting and rippling impact. I comprehend more viscerally the difference between tolerance and mutual respect…Yet critical in teaching of the Holocaust is an essential need to be more careful than my standard emotional reactions represent. That may be the most important lesson I’ve learned at the Institute." – Alan Shulman, Sunapee Middle High School.
"I want to thank the Cohen Center for providing an excellent and meaningful week of scholastic examination of the Holocaust…The participation of other teachers from Germany and Estonia added immeasurably to everything that was discussed both in class and outside of class." – Ellen Barry, Winnisquam High School.
"I loved this week. I grew – I stretched – I know I will be a better teacher and person."
"I cannot express how much I enjoyed the Institute."