Is There a Right and Wrong Way to Retell the Holocaust?

By Daniel Berkowitz, chair of the Holocaust Learning Center

A Kristallnacht commemoration will take place at WJC Thursday, November 8th, at 7:45pm featuring keynote speaker Professor Joram Warmund. A delicious and light supper buffet will also be served.

JoramWarmund is currently professor and recently retired Chairman of History at Long Island University?s Brooklyn campus. He received his Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD degrees from Queens College (1961), Columbia University (1962), and New York University (1968) respectively. He is a two-time recipient of the Fulbright Award, as well as the recipient of aD.A.A.D (DeutscheAkademischeAustauschdienst) Award.

His German history specialization led him to concentrate on Holocaust studies, resulting in his development of several graduate and advanced honors undergraduate level courses for select students.He then authored “The Gray Zone Expanded” in the Legacy of Primo Levi (2004) and another book chapter entitled “Warum?” (“WHY?”) in Answering Auschwitz: Primo Levi’s Science and Humanism After the Fall (2011).

Currently, Professor Warmund and his wife of fifty-six years, Solange, enjoy the many accomplishments of their children and grandchildren. It is our good fortune that Dr. Warmund is an active participant in our Holocaust Learning Center, for he is a truly vital member of our committee whose life’s work has paralleled the mission of our committee, which is to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive and to continue teaching our members and children what we need to know.

In 1955, the renowned French filmmaker, Alain Resnais, produced an approximately half-hour long film entitled Night and Fog, which depicts the Nazis’ systematic destruction of people they considered unworthy of living. Forty years later, Steven Spielberg produced an hour-long documentary, Survivors of the Holocaust. Both relied on the same collection of archival visual material to produce distinctly different presentations. Although the topics were similar, the visual materials and the musical and audio presentations were used by each to support their own distinctive agendas and to draw different conclusions.

Now, eighty years after “Kristallnacht,” a pivotal turning point in the story of the road to “the Final Solution,” we will review these two films—Night and Fog in its entirety and selections from Survivors of the Holocaust—and we will compare their strengths and weaknesses. The emphasis of the presentation will not be on the Holocaust itself, which most of us know all too well, but on the diversity of its representations. By now, deniers excluded, we know the essentials of what happened, but the challenge remains in how to present it to the still uninformed and to the next generation. Yes, the story needs to be told over and over again, but how we tell that story is also important.

You will be surprised by the answers!

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