The Powell-Heller Conference for Holocaust Education

Powell-Heller Conference for Holocaust Education

New Title

Free and Open to the Public. Please register online to help with our planning.

7:00 p.m. – Holy Secrets: Behind the Scenes (Scandinavian Cultural Center, Anderson University Center)

Documentary filmmaker Steve Pressman discusses his upcoming film, which will explore some of the actions (and inactions) taken by the Vatican during the Holocaust and in the years leading up to it. In particular, the film will focus on a variety of Americans – diplomatic and clerical – who attempted to influence Vatican policies during this period. Pressman will share clips from the film and take us behind the scenes as he talks about the film’s production.

Steve Pressman, documentary filmmaker

9:00 a.m. – Registration (Regency Room Lobby, Anderson University Center)
10:00 a.m. - 11:40 a.m. – The “Pius Wars” (Regency Room, AUC)

“Responsibility, Accountability and Judgement: Pius XII and the Holocaust” – Robert Ventresca
(rest of description expected week of April 24)


Jacques Kornberg, XXXX and Robert Ventresca, associate professor of history, King’s University College at Western University in London, Ontario (Canada) {link to bios}

11:45 a.m. - 12:20 p.m. – Mayer Summer Research Fellow Presentations (Room 113, AUC)

Mayer Summer Research Fellows will offer brief overviews of their summer research projects as the conference participants enjoy box lunches.


Kurt Mayer Summer Research Fellows:
Lottie Duren, Courtney Olsen, and Sadie Powell

1:45 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. – The Question of Catholic Antisemitism (Regency Room, AUC)

“The Plight of Erna Becker-Kohen, a Catholic of Jewish Heritage in Hitler’s Germany” – Kevin P. Spicer and Martina Cucchiara
In 1931, Gustav Becker and Erna Kohen married. He was Catholic and she was Jewish. Erna and Gustav had no idea their religious affiliations, which mattered so little to them, would define their marriage under the Nazis. As one of the more than 20,000 German Jews married to an “Aryan” spouse, Erna was initially exempt from the most radical anti-Jewish measures. However, even after Erna willingly converted to Catholicism, the persecution, isolation, and hatred leveled against them by the Nazi regime and their Christian neighbors intensified, and she and their son Silvan were forced to flee alone into the mountains. Through intimate and insightful diary entries, Erna tells her own compelling and horrifying story and reflects on the fortunate escapes and terrible tragedies of her friends and family. The Nazis would exact steep payment for Erna’s survival: her home, her family, and ultimately her faithful husband’s life. The Evil That Surrounds Us reveals both the great evil of Nazi Germany and the powerful love and courage of her husband, friends, and strangers who risked everything to protect her.

“Weimar Catholics: Antisemites and Anti-Racists” – Martin Menke
Since the Wilhemine Empire, German Catholics defended Jewish rights not because of a particular affinity for the Jews of their era, but because they believed liberal democracy would respect Catholic rights if it were forced to respect all religious rights. During the years of the Weimar Republic, German Catholics all defend the rights of Jews because this defense applied to the rights of Catholics. More importantly, opposing the Nazis, German Catholics condemned racism as contrary to Catholic teaching, but did not understand Antisemitism to be racist. Thus, while German Catholics opposed Nazi racism, they continued to endorse or at least tolerate Nazi Antisemitism.


Kevin P. Spicer, the James J. Kenneally Distinguished Professor of History at Stonehill College, Easton, Massachusetts and Martina Cucchiara, XXXX {link to bios}

Martin Menke, professor of history and political science, Rivier University in Nashua, New Hampshire {link to bio}

3:45 p.m. - 5 p.m. – Resisters and Rescuers (Regency Room, AUC)

“Bernhard Lichtenberg: Priest, Critic and Martyr of the Nazi Regime” – Brenda Gaydosh
Bernhard Lichtenberg: Priest, Critic and Martyr of the Nazi Regime is the definitive English biography of the martyred Nazi-era Berlin provost, Bernhard Lichtenberg. There is no thesis per se. The biography responds to the questions: “Why did Bernhard Lichtenberg take a path through the Nazi regime that differed from the majority of his fellow clergymen?” Why did he resist and protest Nazi measures? Why did he pray for the Jews? Vatican officials told Hermann Goering during his visit to Rome in 1931, that German bishops “had to follow their consciences and their religious convictions.” This seemed to be the Vatican’s expectations during the Third Reich. Bernhard Lichtenberg offered no criticism for papal inaction (the Pius debates), but simply followed his conscience. In hindsight, many criticize the Pope. Lichtenberg, however, who experienced the dire situations first hand, continued to look to the Pope as his Christian leader.


Brenda Gaydosh, associate professor of history at West Chester University of Pennsylvania {link to bio}
One more presenter, XXXX {link to bio}

5:00 p.m. - 6:45 p.m. – Dinner Break (Regency Room, AUC)

For those that have pre-registered, a reception with light fare will be in the Scandinavian Cultural Center

7 p.m. – Keynote Speaker: XXXXX (Regency Room, AUC)

“How the Catholic Church overcame its own Theology and Proclaimed that God loves Jews” – John Connelly

8:15 p.m. – Dessert Reception (Regency Room, AUC)

8:30 a.m. – Registration (Regency Room Lobby, Anderson University Center)
9:00 a.m. - 10:15 a.m. – Post-Holocaust Apologies to the Jews (Regency Room, AUC)

“The Vatican’s ‘We Remember’ and the ‘French Catholic Church’s Apology’: A Comparison.” – Patrick Henry

“The Construction of Holocaust Memory in the Post-Conciliar Church” – Karma Ben Johanan
This lecture concentrates on the ways in which the Catholic discourse on the Holocaust functioned in the construction of the Church’s post-bellum identity and in the re-forging of Jewish-Christian relations from the Second Vatican Council to the present. In particular, Karma Ben Johnanan will consider the theological tension which the negotiation on the nature of Holocaust memory generated among Catholic leaders and theologians and between Catholics and Jews. Focusing on Popes John Paul II’s and Benedict XVI’s pontificates, Ben Johnanan will address the transition of Catholic Holocaust memory from a theological realm centered around Christ’s suffering to a moral-historical realm debating the Church’s responsibility for the destruction of European Jewry. In other words, Ben Johnanan will follow a process during which the Holocaust had ceased to be perceived as “a Christian event” and became a “Jewish event”, albeit one that has consequences for Christians.

David Simpson, Assistant Professor of Social Work, PLU

Patrick Henry, XXXXX {link to bio}
Karma Ben Johanan, post-doctoral scholar at the Polonsky Academy at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, {link to bio}

10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. – Legacies of the Holocaust in Jewish-Christian Relations (Regency Room, AUC)

Raymond C. Sun will be presenting on addressing Holocaust and refugee issues in the contemporary church (not yet titled).

Zuzanna Radzik will present on new theology of Judaism after Vatican II.

Gershon Greenberg will present on Jewish Theologians response to post-holocaust relations.


Raymond C. Sun, XXXX {link to bio}
Zuzanna Radzik, XXXX {link to bio}
Gershon Greenberg, XXXX {link to bio}

12:30 - 2:15 p.m. – XXXXXXXX (Regency Room, AUC)

“Mystics, Martyrs, and Resisters: Three French Catholic Poets of World War II and the Holocaust” – Mary Anne O’Neil

This presentation will examine the works of three French Catholic poets – Max Jacob, Pierre Jean Jouve and Pierre Emmanuel – written between 1939 and 1946 that address the penance for the individual offered by the roundups and deportations of Jews. Jouve, a disciple of Freud with mystical tendencies, interprets the Shoah as the imminent Second Coming of Christ. Emmanuel becomes a member of the French Resistance and sees both the war and the Holocaust as episodes in the history of sin and redemption narrated in the Bible and re-enacted symbolically in the Catholic liturgical year. In conclusion, O’Neil will discuss both contemporary and current critical reactions to this poetry and attempt to situate these three poets in the history of French poetry of mid-twentieth-century France.


Mary Anne O’Neil, professor of French emeritus, Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash. {link to bio}