Legacies of the Shoah

Understanding Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.


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: a conference or meeting to discuss a particular subject
From the Greek symp-po-sium
: a drinking party or convivial discussion, especially as held in ancient Greece after a banquet

Why a symposium?

The biennial international symposium at Pacific Lutheran University is one of the ways that the Wang Center supports the university’s goal of being an ever more globally focused university. PLU is nationally recognized for its international study away experiences that immerse students in other cultures and allows them to examine the complexity of global issues from other local, national and regional perspectives. However, not all PLU students are able to take advantage of these study away programs. Even with 50 percent of every PLU graduating class participating in a study away program for a month or more (the national average is under 3 percent) it means nearly 50 percent do not. For these students we need to bring the world to them and the campus, and the symposia are part of this effort.


Each year brings significant changes to the increasingly diverse and challenging world in which PLU graduates will live and work. Some of the challenges these changes bring are new, some are old, and some are only now being recognized. Through presentations by professionals, authors, academics and hands-on practitioners, the symposium is designed to stimulate serious thinking on a single global challenge. If one is at all in doubt about this being a different world, consider that there are now 193 counties following a labyrinth of political systems and economic models, and a global population that now exceeds 7 billion.


Just as the symposium reaches out to challenge the assumptions and understanding of the PLU campus community, so too is it intended to reach out to the broader Puget Sound Community. Come join us as we consider questions and confront the challenges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.


Previous symposia have been on China: Bridges for a New Century, Norway’s Pathways to Peace, Advances in Global Health by Non-Governmental Organizations, Understanding the World though Sports and Recreation and Our Thirsty Planet – A look at Earth’s most precious resource.

In recognition of four decades of Holocaust studies at PLU, in commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, and to celebrate the launch of PLU’s minor in Holocaust and Genocide Studies Program, the university is honored to host two major conferences this spring.


The first is the 6th Biannual Wang Center Symposium. Scheduled on February 20-21, the symposium focuses on the topic of Legacies of the Shoah: Understanding Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity and asks the question: “Why do people degrade, exploit and exterminate others?” The event gathers scholars, artists and practitioners to explore the human phenomena of genocide, of war crimes, and of crimes against humanity. It seeks a complex understanding of the logic and implications of these behaviors as well as the wellspring of human resilience, resistance, intellectual, and creative response that meet them at every turn. Legacies of the Shoah is made possible by the generous contributions of Peter and Grace Wang, the Benson Foundation, and the Norwegian Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Symposium is free and open to the public. However, space is limited and registration is strongly encouraged.


The second is PLU’s annual Powell-Heller Holocaust Education Conference. Scheduled on March 12-14, the conference carries forward many of the themes that emerge from the Wang Symposium and features a distinguished line-up of speakers, including renowned historian of the Holocaust, Dr. Christopher Browning. This year’s Powell-Heller Conference explores the stories of survivors and the role of rescuers in the context of the Holocaust. Registration is now open for the Holocaust Education Conference, which is free and open to the public. Interested students, educators, alumni and community members are urged to reserve a space at both the Conference and the Symposium.



Confirmed Program


Day One: Feb. 20

8:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m., AUC Gray Area


Ongoing Registration and hospitality


8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., AUC 201


Study Away Expo


9:55-11:40 a.m., Scandinavian Cultural Center, AUC


Welcome and Community Forum: “Asking The Questions”


*IMPORTANT NOTE: Capacity for this event is limited. Therefore, registration is strongly recommended.


11:50 a.m.-1:35 p.m., Concurrent Panels


A.- Regency Room, AUC 


PLU Student Panel: “Researching Genocide: Interests, Challenges, and Transformations”


Ami Shah, Coordinator, Visiting Assistant Professor for Political Science

Amy Delo, May ’15, Chair

Lauren Corboy, May ’15

Jessica Dexter, May ’14

Eury Gallegos, May ’15


Abstract: Current PLU students, representing a variety of disciplines, will share their stories and perspectives on how they came to be interested in researching genocide, as well as the challenges and opportunities they have encountered in engaging their specific areas of interest.


B.- AUC 133


University of Washington Graduate Student Panel: “Unfinished Sentences: Addressing human rights in the wake of the armed conflict
in El Salvador”


Alex Montalvo, Communications and Program Development, UW Center for  Human Rights

Phil Neff, Project Coordinator, UW Center for Human Rights


Abstract: Representatives from the University of Washington Center for Human Rights will discuss their ongoing project and film, Unfinished Sentences, an initiative that aims to document and share the stories of survivors of crimes against humanity committed in the context of El Salvador’s armed conflict, and to support Salvadoran efforts for truth and accountability. For more information, see: http://unfinishedsentences.org


Introduced by Dr. Tamara Williams, Prof. of Hispanic Studies and Executive Director of the Wang Center


1:45-3:30 p.m., Scandinavian Cultural Center, AUC


Dr. Jean Franco, Columbia University, “The Camp and the Killing Field”


Abstract: In his preface to The Drowned and the Saved, Primo Levi wrote that the Nazi concentration camp “still remains a unicum, both in its extent and its quality,” while dismissing the atrocities of the conquest of the Americas as “things of another time.” But isn’t there a danger in this dismissal, the danger of setting up a competition of the worst? In countries that have experienced genocide – Turkey during the Armenia genocide, Guatemala during the eighties and Germany from the thirties to the mid forties, there are common features: genocide is perpetrated in an area immune from foreign or domestic interferences. It requires totalitarian control over that area and willing executioners.


Introduced by Dr. Giovanna Urdangarain, Assistant Prof. of Hispanic Studies


3:45-5:25 p.m., Regency Room, AUC


Dr. Alex Hinton, Rutgers University, “The Paradox of Perpetration: Reflections from the Cambodian Genocide”


Abstract: From 1975-1979, Cambodians endured the loss of at least 1.7 million of its 8 million inhabitants, almost a quarter of the population, from disease, starvation, overwork, and outright execution. I will examine some of the insights about perpetrators that may be gleaned from the Cambodian genocide. Specifically, I will consider the category of perpetrator and some of the assumptions underlying it and, using a set of metaphors, the ideology, cultural understandings, and microdynamics that inform and structure perpetration.


Introduced by Dr. Ami Shah, Visiting Assistant Prof. of Political Science


7:00-8:15 p.m., CK, AUC


Dr. David Livingstone Smith, “Less than Human”


Abstract: The Nazis described Jews as filthy vermin, Rwandan Hutus described their Tutsi neighbors as cockroaches, and English settlers described Native Americans as ravenous wolves. In this talk, based on his powerful, award-winning book Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave and Dehumanize Others, David Livingstone Smith looks at how and why human beings think of others as subhuman creatures. Smith describes the crucial role of dehumanization in war, genocide, and racism, and uses examples drawn from the Holocaust, the transatlantic slave trade, and the extermination of Native Americans, as well as current events, to drive his point home. Smith explains what it is about the human mind that makes dehumanization possible, and argues that understanding dehumanization should be made a priority if we want to prevent repeats of atrocities like those that occurred in Auschwitz, Bosnia, and Hiroshima.


Introduced by Dr. Peter Grosvenor, Associate Prof. of Political Science


Day Two: Feb. 21

8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., AUC Gray Area


Ongoing Registration and hospitality


8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m., AUC 201


Study Away Expo


9:00-10:15 a.m., Regency Room, AUC


Dr. Dagmar Herzog, CUNY Graduate Center, “Post-Holocaust Antisemitism and the Psychiatry of Trauma”


Abstract: Dagmar Herzog’s keynote revisits the emotionally charged conflicts among medical professionals in West Germany, the U.S., and Israel in the 1950s-1970s over reparations for mental health damages experienced by survivors of Nazi persecution and concentration and death camps. She emphasizes the resurgence of anti-Semitism in the wake of Nazism’s defeat and the complex atmosphere of resentment against survivors as well as the hostility of prominent professionals toward the survivors as key factors prompting the initially small handful of doctors who were sympathetic to the survivors to develop the (ever-unstable but crucial) concepts of “massive psychic trauma” and “post-traumatic stress disorder.”


Introduced by Dr. Robert Ericksen, Prof. of History and Kurt Mayer Chair in Holocaust Studies


10:30-11:00 a.m., Lagerquist Hall


Chapel homily: Dr. Victoria Barnett, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, “Reflections on Bonhoeffer”


11:15 a.m.-12:20 p.m., AUC Scandinavian Cultural Center


Dr. Dorothy Roberts, University of Pennsylvania, “Racism and the Paradox of State Violence”


Abstract: Because of racism, state efforts that purport to control or redress violence have often inflicted worse violence on black Americans. I will examine three examples of this repressive paradox: public torture lynchings, coercive sterilization laws, policies, and programs, and government supported medical experimentation. How does race help to rationalize state violence for the public good and how should we contest these forms of violence?


Introduced by Dr. Lisa Marcus, Associate Prof. of English and Chair of PLU’s Women and Gender Studies Program, and Dr. Beth Kraig, Prof. of History


12:30-1:45 p.m., CK East, AUC


Panel: “The Legacies of Dietrich Bonhoeffer”


Dr. Kevin O’Brien, Associate Professor of Religion, Panel Chair

Dr. Victoria Barnett, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, “Icon of Complexity: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Legacies of the Shoah”

Dr. Vincent Pastro, Holy Spirit Catholic Church (Kent), “Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the Context of the Mexican Immigrant

Dr. Samuel Torvend, Pacific Lutheran University, “The Bonhoeffers: Patriots for Some while Traitors for Others?”


Abstract: Panelists explore the legacies and controversies surrounding the German Lutheran pastor, thelogian and dissident anti-Nazi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.


1:50-3:00 p.m., CK East, AUC


Jay Julius, Lummi Indian Business Council, “Legacy of the Treaty and Sacred Obligations: Visions of Xwe’chi’eXen”


Abstract: The Lummi Nation is one of 47 tribes in the Northwest that oppose the proposal to ship coal from Wyoming to Asia. The project proposes building the largest terminal in North America at Cherry Point just outside Bellingham, Washington. Inhabited by the Lummi for 4,000 years, Cherry Point is sacred ground to the Lummi. In addition to violating this ancient site, the project would also mean the end of fishing as a cultural lifeway for the Lummi. Mr. Julius will describe why as a matter of honor, principle, and sacred obligation, their fight is important to people around the globe.


Introduced by Dr. Troy Storfjell, Associate Prof. of Norwegian and Scandinavian Studies


3:15-4:15 p.m., Regency Room, AUC


Brian Erickson, Policy Advocate, ACLU of N.M., Regional Center for Border Rights. “What our ‘Constitution-Light’ Border means for Communities, the United States and World: Militarization, Abuse and Impunity along the U.S.-Mexico Border”


Abstract: In 2012, the U.S. government spent $18 billion dollars on immigration and border enforcement. The United States dedicates a significant portion of those resources to the U.S.-Mexico border, where agencies like Customs and Border Protection have doubled since 2004 with negligible attention paid to corresponding oversight or accountability mechanisms. The resultant abuses from militarization paired with a lack of transparency and impunity for border enforcement officials is seen most starkly in the alarming trend of deadly force incidents by officials who –nearly all apparently without consequence—have claimed the lives of at least 42 individuals since 2005, including 13 U.S. citizens.


Introduced by Dr. Emily Davidson, Assistant Prof. of Hispanic Studies


4:30-5:30 p.m., CK West, AUC


Dr. Björn Krondorfer, “Unsettling Empathy: Working through Historical and Cultural Trauma”


Abstract: The concept of “unsettling empathy” allows for the inclusion of both a critical perspective on power asymmetries as well as compassion with the Other in light of historical trauma. It describes a posture that blends the critical/political with the affective/interpersonal dimension of reconciliation and memory work. Examples from Krondorfer’s intercultural conflict work will illustrate this concept.


Introduced by Dr. Seth Dowland, Assistant Prof. of Religion


7:30 p.m., Karen Hille Phillips Center for the Performing Arts


Jerry White, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations at the US Department of State, Co-recipient of 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and author of I Will Not Be Broken: 5 Steps to Overcoming a Life Crisis, “The Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations: New Approaches to Conflict Prevention and Religious Engagement”


Introduced by Consul General Hilde Skorpen (Norway) and Dr. Claudia Berguson, Associate Prof. of Norwegian and Scandinavian Studies and PLU Representative to the Nobel Peace Prize Forum

Study Away Expo

Throughout the daytime programs Thursday and Friday, both students and visitors are welcome to stop by AUC 201 to talk to Wang Center staff and learn more about study away options at PLU.

UW Center for Human Rights Presentation on El Salvador

PLU welcomes representatives from the University of Washington Center for Human Rights, who will discuss their ongoing project and film, Unfinished Sentences, an initiative that aims to document and share the stories of survivors of crimes against humanity committed in the context of El Salvador’s armed conflict, and to support Salvadoran efforts for truth and accountability. For more information, see: http://unfinishedsentences.org

Reflection Rooms

Space for reflection will be available during the symposium in the Diversity Center and the Women’s Center.

Join Us for the Powell-Heller Holocaust Education Conference March 12-14

This year’s Powell-Heller Conference for Holocaust Education will emphasize stories of survivors and the role of rescuers during WWII. Pierre Sauvage, a child survivor and child of survivors, will present works based on his feature documentary, Weapons of the Spirit, which begins the program on March 12. Members of the Brill family, survivors of Exodus 1947 will discuss the ship that almost never landed.

Scholars, including Dr. Susannah Heschel, Dr. Christopher Browning and Dr. Hartmut Lehmann will join Dr. Robert Ericksen in Ericksen’s retirement year. Survivor Renee Firestone and rescuer Nellie Trocme Hewett will also present talks during the three-day conference. Ilana Cone-Kennedy and Nick Coddington have prepared a Friday morning dual-track experience for teachers and high school students to explore teaching and learning the lessons of the Holocaust.

Teachers seeking credit or clock hours are encouraged to attend. Clock hours will be provided free of charge upon request, and credit can be earned through coursework monitored by Dr. Frank Kline, PLU Dean for the School of Education and Kinesiology.

The Conference is free and open to the public, but space is limited. Please register now.

Related Exhibitions and Installations

We encourage you to take some time to visit installations related to the symposium in the Mortvedt Library and the Scandinavian Cultural Center:

The Scandinavian Cultural Center will be hosting two installations related to the Legacies of the Shoah symposium, “Us Local People,” which showcases the Sami of Scandinavia, and a photo exhibition entitled “The Danish Rescue of the Jews.”

Mortvedt Library is featuring an installation through March 5, 2014, titled “Reading Room: Genocide and Human Resilience,” where visitors can peruse books and DVDs about genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity and also books by conference presenters. Stop by, enjoy the comfortable chairs and good books, and then share your thoughts on our white board.


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The Wang Center
for Global Education


Made possible by a generous gift from Drs. Grace and Peter Wang, the Center is an academic support unit dedicated to providing faculty, students and staff with the resources necessary to advance PLU’s distinction and vision for global education of “educating for a just, healthy, sustainable, and peaceful world at home and abroad” through faculty development and grant opportunities, delivery of study away programs, on campus programming on pressing world issues, and a commitment to best practices when engaging with educational partners worldwide.


Contact Information


Wang Center for Global Education
Pacific Lutheran University












868 Wheeler St.
Tacoma, WA 98447-0003



Pacific Lutheran University is located at 12180 Park Avenue South, Tacoma, Washington 98447.
To get to PLU coming north on I-5 from Portland or south from Seattle, take the WA-512 exit heading east. Then take the WA-7 exit and turn south on Pacific Highway South. Turn Right on Garfield Street and the university will be at the end of the street.
Once on campus, look for parking lots marked for the symposium.
Find building locations using our campus map.
Link: PLU Campus Map