CORVALLIS - The 13th annual Holocaust Memorial Week will be commemorated on April 11-16 by Oregon State University, the city of Corvallis and School District 509-J with a variety of community, school activities and prominent national speakers.
"Our observances are in keeping with the university's stated goal of combating prejudice," said Paul Kopperman, OSU professor of history and chair of the Holocaust Memorial Committee. "Educational institutions can do much to counter bigotry and foster respect for diversity by promoting an awareness of the Holocaust, perhaps the most horrific historical indicator of what price hatred can exact."
The Holocaust Memorial Week program regularly includes public lectures at OSU by internationally known scholars in Holocaust studies. But some of the most important activities associated with the program take place off campus, Kopperman said.
In area high schools in Corvallis, Albany, Philomath, Lebanon, and elsewhere, survivors of concentration camps speak to students about what they experienced, saw, and learned during the Holocaust. There are also age-appropriate events in the middle schools.
Holocaust Memorial Week events this year will include the following, all of which are free and open to the public:
At the symposium, Ute Deichmann of the Institute of Genetics, University of Cologne, will speak on "Jewish Chemists and Biochemists in Nazi Germany." Deichmann is best known as the author of the highly acclaimed "Biologists under Hitler."
Michael J. Neufeld, curator of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, will speak on "Wernher von Braun and the Third Reich," a discussion of von Braun's politics, his involvement with slave labor, and the broader issue of such labor in the factories of the Reich. Neufeld is the author of "Rocket and the Reich: Peenemuende and the Coming of the Ballistic Missile Era," and has also edited a forthcoming book, "The Bombing of Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Attempted it?"
"Politics, Race and Gender: Lise Meitner and the Discovery of Nuclear Fission" is the title of the paper to be presented by Ruth Lewin Sime, a member of the chemistry faculty and award winning author at Sacramento City College. Meitner made major contributions to the discovery of fission, but received little credit, owing to her forced emigration from Germany and the political conditions of the time.
Commenting on the papers will be Alan D. Beyerchen, professor of history at Ohio State University. Beyerchen's 1977 book, "Scientists under Hitler Politics and the Physics Community in the Third Reich," is of fundamental importance to its field and has been translated into five languages.
This symposium is funded by the Thomas Hart and Mary Jones Horning Endowment. Primary organizers and event participants are Mary Jo Nye, OSU Horning Professor of the Humanities, and Ronald E. Doel, both of the OSU Department of History.
A central figure in Holocaust studies for more than two decades, Langer is a professor emeritus at Simmons College in Boston. His book "The Holocaust and the Literary Imagination" remains a classic study of Holocaust literature, and in 1996 the New York Times listed Langer's 1991 work, "Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory," as one of 13 "books of particular permanent interest" published in the preceding 100 years.
Langer has confronted the question of how the enormity of the Holocaust may be communicated - if, in fact, it can be. He explores whether mere words convey a true sense of what the Holocaust was, what role can the structured prose of Holocaust literature play in communication, and what part must be taken by survivor testimony, among other questions. In his OSU presentations Langer will discuss the respective value and limitations of the various media, and include film clips of survivor testimony and slides of paintings by Samuel Bak, a survivor of the Vilna Ghetto.
The support of OSU Convocations and Lectures has helped to make Professor Langer's appearance possible.
Each year, the Holocaust Memorial Week program includes a personal narrative by a survivor of the Holocaust. Even among survivors, however, the speaker this spring is exceptional in how long he was able to endure life in the camps.
Born in Vienna, Bergman joined other Jewish children in being transported to the Netherlands - out of harm's way, it was thought - in 1938. In 1942, however, he was apprehended and during the next three years he was held in nine camps, including Auschwitz-Birkenau, before being liberated at Bergen-Belsen. He now lives in Oregon.
As the Holocaust recedes into history, the media occupy a dominant position in translating to the public mind the destruction of European Jewry. American film and television, like the print media, regularly deal with Holocaust themes. Doneson will explore whether they trivialize the subject, to what extent should we allow our sense of what the Holocaust was to be shaped by their portrayal, what risks lie in recounting the Holocaust for a broad audience, and whether they outweigh potential benefits. Her lecture will include videotaped portions of Holocaust films and television programs.
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Paul Kopperman, 541-737-1265