Sixty years on: how the Holocaust looks now

Sixty years on: how the Holocaust looks now

The Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust Studies
United Kingdom
Vom - Bis
11.04.2005 - 14.04.2005
Szejnmann, Claus-Christian Werner

A conference organized by The Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust Studies to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps.

KEY-NOTE SPEAKERS: Wolfgang Benz, Eveline Goodman-Thau, Peter Longerich, Michael Marrus

The aim of this conference is to reflect on the significance of the Holocaust sixty years afterwards: to remember what happened, to review the present state of knowledge about it, to highlight deficits in current research on it, to assess how the post-Holocaust world has treated it, to explore how it remains latent in contemporary society and culture.

As organizers we approach the issue of commemorating the Holocaust with the following considerations in mind. The Holocaust is embedded in collective memory, even though the world seems to have changed in the past sixty years. Racism, dictatorship, expansionism - the tenets of Nazism - have become unacceptable in the western world; the Cold War has come and gone; a European political identity is slowly emerging; a globalized multi-culturalism has become the norm. Conversely, nothing has actually changed. Since 1945 crimes against humanity and human rights abuses have occurred throughout the world: in Europe, the former Soviet Union, the Middle-East, Africa, Asia, and South America. The Holocaust thus pre-figures a "death-drive" in contemporary culture: the idea that the ability to deliver death - be it through economic strategies, the politics of social alienation, terrorism, or war - is the supreme expression of self-affirmation.

"Holocaust" refers to the destruction of the Jews and other persecuted communities during the Third Reich. It persists as a universal index of horror and suffering. However, its legacy proves intractable. On the one hand, the drive to get it universally recognised as a crime against humanity has been successful. It uniquely provides a model for the way that the persecution of religious and cultural belonging generates mass public condemnation. On the other, the fact that genocide and crimes against humanity proliferate, that "holocausts" are still perpetrated, points to a pathological rupture between knowledge and action, thinking and behaviour, the scope of cultural discourse and the conventions of political practice that compromises all attempts to come to terms with what the Holocaust actually was. It may well be necessary to remember history in order not to repeat it. But is it just coincidental that genocide continues to be practiced in a world that has never known so much history?

As the conference organizers, we are inviting papers that will take a synoptic approach to provide insights that will address not just an audience of academic experts with a purely academic focus but a wider public of informed interest. The Holocaust is, after all, an issue that concerns everyone. Moreover, we aim to publish the proceedings of this conference in a volume intended to reach out beyond a purely specialist readership. We would request, in the first instance, an outline (300 words) of the proposed paper by 4 June 2004. If the proposal is accepted, we will then request a draft of the paper to be sent to us one month prior to the conference. The intention is to circulate copies of all the papers to all the speakers before the conference begins, so that they address each other as well as the audience. Below, for guidance, is a list of the kind of topics the conference proposes to deal with.

Please send the proposal by 4 June 2004 to The Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust Studies, School of Historical Studies, University of Leicester, University Road, UK-Leicester LE1 7RH; or email it as an attachment to:

Martin Davies, Aubrey Newman, Chris Szejnmann, April 2004




Contemporary presences:

1. The Holocaust and the uses of public memory.
2. Representing the Holocaust (e.g. museums, the media, etc.).
3. The Ethics of Science (Euthanasia).

Historical contexts:

4. Explaining why the Holocaust happened.
5. Recent research on the Holocaust.
6. Post-Holocaust anti-Semitism / Holocaust denial.

Religious and ethnic perspectives:

7. The Holocaust and Judaism / Jewish identity.
8. The Holocaust and other religious communities.
9. The Holocaust and its non-Jewish victims.

Historical perspectives:

10. The Holocaust and the limits of historical explanation.
11. The Holocaust and the Jewish conception of history.
12. National perspectives on the Holocaust.

Social perspectives:

13. Social preconditions: bureaucracy, instrumentalism, etc.
14. The totalitarian mentality as a continuing social behaviour option.
15. Social solidarity and how it is dismantled

Concluding summary


The Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust Studies
School of Historical Studies
University of Leicester
University Road
UK-Leicester LE1 7RH
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