cover image of Practical Ethics of Holocaust Memory in the 21st Century project

    Genealogies of Memory 2020: Session 1

    Practical Ethics of Holocaust Memory in the 21st Century

    The online debate will take place on YouTube on 4 November (Wednesday) at 15:00–18:50 CET.
    * Please note that all times are indicated according to Warsaw time, i.e. Central European Time (UTC+1:00).

    Watch the session on YouTube

    Watch the session on Facebook



    Jan Rydel, ENRS

    Małgorzata Pakier (ENRS), Małgorzata Wosińska – Introduction to the conference



    Piotr Cywiński (Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum)
    Remembrance in – and for – the 21st Century



    Sławomir Kapralski (Pedagogical University of Cracow)
    The Roma and the Holocaust: Memory between Recognition and Redistribution

    Olof Bortz (EHESS, Paris)
    Raul Hilberg: A Holocaust Scholar and Agent of Holocaust Memory

    Kimberly Redding (Carroll University, Waukesha)
    Local Journalists, Distant Genocides and Global Bystanders

    Jana Sayantani (University of Southern California, Los Angeles)
    Mass Violence and Silenced Memory: A Comparative Study of the November Pogrom of 1938 in Berlin and the Great Calcutta Killings in 1946

    Chair: Małgorzata Pakier (ENRS)
    Commentary: Ferenc Laczó (Maastricht University)



    Piotr Cywiński

    Remembrance in – and for – the 21st Century

    Bearing in mind the post-war evolution of memory in Poland and Europe, as well as the civilisational changes observed in societies, Piotr Cywiński will propose, on the basis of his own experience of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and others, the courses of action for the coming years in education and memorial narrative that are necessary for reflection and implementation.


    Sławomir Kapralski

    Roma and the Holocaust. Memory Between Recognition and Redistribution

    In this presentation the author discusses the disintegrated and disconcerted character of the Nazi persecution of Roma and their lack of control of the postwar memory of their suffering. In result, Roma do not form a single mnemonic community but a network of such communities which often have very different lived experiences of the past and cultures of commemoration. Moreover, the social construction of the Roma memory of the Holocaust occurred within two dimensions of Roma political activism which are generally perceived as having been in conflict: the politics of identity which has characterized pan-Romani movements, struggling for recognition of Roma as transnational or non-territorial nation, and the fight for economic redistribution by smaller Roma organizations aiming at the improvement of the material situation of Roma communities they represented. In the first dimension, the memory of the Holocaust is often instrumentalized as one of the most important building blocks of Roma identity, largely constructed in the fields of culture and history. In the second dimension, the memory of the Holocaust was activated first in the fight of the German Sinti to obtain the compensation for the Nazi persecution and became an important part of their civic identity as German citizens who were the victims of National Socialism, coexisting with indirect memory manifested in the processes of their cultural retraditionalization. The author presents and attempt to synthesize these two dimensions within a single theoretical perspective, which would draw upon the resources of Axel Honneth’s theory of recognition, modified in view of Nancy Fraser’s criticism, and claiming that cultural recognition of identity and difference may also contribute to the elimination of social and economic injustice. In particular, different Roma memories of the Holocaust will be investigated as an area in which the politics of identity and the fight for redistribution may successfully merge in the process of Romani mobilization of history understood as an exercise in legitimation of their communal goals and building collective identities of different kind.


    Olof Bortz

    Raul Hilberg: Holocaust Scholar and Agent of Holocaust Memory

    This paper analyzes the pioneering Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg and his influence on Holocaust memory. How did Hilberg influence the memory of the Holocaust and how did he react to the advent of large scale Holocaust memory? These are the questions to be probed in this paper. Hilberg is mostly known as a political scientist and Holocaust historian whose magnum opus The Destruction of the European Jews, first published in 1961, is a landmark in the development of Holocaust historiography. It was the first study to present the Jewish genocide as a massive bureaucratic undertaking spanning from 1933 to 1945 and involving the entire German state apparatus. Often described as 'monumental' it was for many decades the most significant study of the Holocaust, inspiring subsequent generations of Holocaust scholars as well as philosophers and intellectuals. However, Hilberg did not only form our understanding of the Holocaust through his research. He was also an agent of Holocaust memory. In the late 1970s, he became a member of the presidential committee on the memory of the Holocaust and the subsequent United States Holocaust Memorial Commission which eventually led to the inauguration of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. In the early 1980s, the Office for Special Investigations started relying on his expertise in a number of denaturalization trials of former Holocaust perpetrators which caught the public eye. In 1985, he was the only historian to appear in Claude Lanzmann's documentary Shoah. The same year, he testified as an expert witness in the Canadian trial of Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel. Thus, during a pivotal moment in the development of Holocaust memory, Hilberg was both present as an expert on the history of the Holocaust and shaped its memory in ways which this paper will elucidate.


    Kimberly Redding

    Local Journalists, Distant Genocides and Global Bystanders

    The contemporary focus on integrated histories of the Holocaust rightly centers on the geopolitical structures of Central Europe, and the multi-faceted roles played by authorities, institutions and individuals throughout a European memory landscape. Outside the European public sphere, however, this focus risks perpetuating an existent exoticization of Holocaust memory. Both in the 1930s/40s and today, geographic distance allows American audiences to distance themselves from the practice of genocide in what E.T. Linenthal describes as the “comfortable horrible.” This distantiated voyeurism facilitates the integration of Holocaust experience into American myths of “the good war,” liberation, ethical certitude and historical exceptionalism. More importantly, perhaps, comfortably horrible memoirs, films and exhibits allow audiences to experience victims, perpetrators and bystanders as distant “others,” thus escaping their own culpability as global bystanders to both the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. Since 2017, the USHMM has challenged such othering strategies through its History Unfolded citizen research initiative, which crowdsources the creation of a digital archive documenting local newspapers’ coverage of Nazi-occupied Europe. I suggest that the presence/witness of international media in Nazi-occupied Europe—and in global pre-genocidal societies today--require the expansion of traditional definitions of bystanders. In an age of professional journalism, bystanders to the Holocaust included not only local and regional “neighbors,” but also millions of American newspaper subscribers who witnessed the Holocaust through their hometown newspapers, local institutions that mediated both content and context for readers. Like proximate bystanders in the 1930s and today, global bystanders face choices about what to do with their knowledge; unlike Europeans under Nazi rule, global bystanders face few repercussions for their choices. Using elements of the sedimentation theory of cultural space, hometown newspapers as a mechanism of civic education, and student analyses of journalistic narratives, this paper explores the potential of the USHMM’s History Unfolded project to simultaneously localize knowledge of the Holocaust, disrupt the dominant othering narratives, and recenter the goal of genocide prevention in Holocaust education.


    Jana Sayantani

    Mass Violence and Silenced Memory: A Comparative Study of the November Pogrom of 1938 in Berlin and the Great Calcutta Killings in 1946

    This paper is part of my dissertation project which is a comparative micro-historical study of two incidents of mass violence that are geographically and culturally removed from each other yet share certain similarities. The Kristallnacht (November Pogrom) took place from 9-10 November 1938 and was a nationwide pogrom orchestrated by the Nazi leadership. In Berlin, SA, SS, Hitler Youth, as well as sections of the public destroyed Jewish homes, synagogues and businesses, while also murdering an unknown number of Jews. The Calcutta Riots was a 5-day period of extreme violence that left stores, temples and homes destroyed, some 5000 people dead and over 100,000 people displaced. Although popularly termed a riot, historical evidence suggests a certain degree of pre-meditation and instigation of violence on the part of the Muslim League Provincial Government in Bengal at the time. Despite the abundance of scholarly works on both the Holocaust and the Indian Partition, it is surprising that there exists very little research on these violent events in Berlin and Calcutta, especially considering the centrality of these cities to the socio-political landscapes of their time. While Berlin was the capital and housed the largest Jewish population in Nazi Germany, Calcutta was the capital city of Bengal, with a majority Hindu population and a substantial Muslim minority, and had been one of the earliest seats of anti-colonial, nationalist uprisings. Based on news reports, oral histories of the USC Shoah Foundation and the 1947 Partition Archive, as well as personal interviews conducted with partition survivors, my paper will thus attempt to recuperate the silenced memory of these events, while also exploring comparative questions of violent nationalism, forced displacement of certain populations and the role of the urban landscape in a pogrom/riot. In doing so, it will try to understand how and why such a conspicuous silence exists in regard to the Kristallnacht in Berlin and the Calcutta Riots in Calcutta and how this, in turn, has affected the national memory of each of these events in their respective countries.



    Piotr Cywiński

    Piotr Cywiński was born in Warsaw in 1972. Doctor of the Humanities, he is a medieval historian and a graduate of Marc Bloch University in Strasbourg, the Catholic University of Lublin and the Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Science. Dr Cywiński has been Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim since 2006. A member of the International Auschwitz Council, he was its secretary from 2000 until 2006. Between 2005 and 2014, he was Deputy Chairman of the Council of the International Centre for Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust and in 2017 he became Chairman of the Programme Board of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. His most important publications include: Epitaph, five volumes from the series titled Miejsce Prawdy [The place of truth], including Sny obozowe w pamięci ocalałych z Auschwitz [Camp dreams in the memory of Auschwitz survivors] and Rampa obozowa w pamięci Żydów deportowanych do Auschwitz [The camp ramp in the memory of Jews deported to Auschwitz]. Dr Cywiński is also a co-author of an extended interview with Professor Władysław Bartoszewski titled Mój Auschwitz [My Auschwitz].



    Sławomir Kapralski

    Sławomir Kapralski is Professor of Sociology at the Pedagogical University of Cracow and a recurrent visiting lecturer at the Graduate School for Social Research / Centre for Social Studies operated by the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. He graduated from the Jagiellonian University in Cracow where he also received his PhD in Sociology and started his academic career. Then for many years he was associated with the Central European University (Prague, Warsaw, Budapest). Sławomir Kapralski’s research focuses on nationalism, ethnicity and identity, collective memory, antisemitism and the Holocaust, as well as Roma communities in Europe. He is a member of the Gypsy Lore Society and the Editorial Board of Romani Studies.


    Olof Bortz

    Olof Bortz is a postdoctoral researcher at the EHESS in Paris and at the Department of History at Uppsala University. He completed his PhD dissertation in 2017 at Stockholm University on the work of Raul Hilberg, a study which he is turning into a book at the moment. Mr Bortz’s postdoctoral project deals with scholarly interpretations of Nazism before the Second World War in France, the United Kingdom and the United States. He is also engaged in projects dealing with Swedish anti-Semitism as well as the history of Swedish diplomacy and the Holocaust.


    Kimberly Redding

    Kimberly Redding was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She earned a PhD in Modern European History from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, conducting research with support from the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies and the DAAD. She joined the History faculty at Carroll University in Waukesha Wisconsin in 2001, and was awarded a senior Fulbright Research Fellowship in 2009. Her scholarly and pedagogical initiatives reflect her interests in memory/oral history, the intersection of local and national narratives and cross-cultural identity. Her essay titled ‘Reteaching/retouching Heimat: expellees, home and belonging in German schools’ postwar curricula’ is forthcoming in History of Education Oral History Review. She is a frequent reviewer for the Oral History Review, has mentored student research for the USHMM’s History Unfolded project since 2017 and serves on the Board of the Waukesha County Historical Society and Museum. Dr Redding has three young adult sons.


    Jana Sayantani

    Sayantani Jana is a fourth-year PhD Candidate in the History Department at the University of Southern California. Her research fields span Modern Europe and Modern South Asia, with specialisation in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Ms Jana is training as a comparative genocide studies scholar, with particular research interests in German and German-Jewish history, history of the Holocaust, history of the Partition in South Asia, histories of empire and decolonisation, gender and violence, memory and trauma studies.



    Ferenc Laczó

    Ferenc Laczó is a historian and an assistant professor with tenure at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University. He is author of several books, including Hungarian Jews in the Age of Genocide. An Intellectual History, 1929-1948 (Brill, 2016) and co-editor, most recently, (with Luka Lisjak Gabrijelcic) The Legacy of Division. East and West after 1989 (Budapest-Vienna: CEU Press-Eurozine, 2020) and (with Wlodzimierz Borodziej and Joachim von Puttkamer) The Routledge History Handbook of Central and Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century. Volume 3: Intellectual Horizons (London: Routledge, 2020). His writings have appeared in ten languages and been reviewed in more than thirty publications.



    Malgorzata Pakier

    Małgorzata Pakier is head of the Academic Section of the European Network Remembrance and Solidarity and a member of the Social Memory Laboratory at the Institute of Sociology, University of Warsaw. She received her PhD title from the European University Institute, History and Civilisation Faculty in Florence. Between 2011 and 2017, Dr Pakier was head of the Research and Publications Department at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. In 2010, she was a Research Fellow at the Centre for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC. She is the author of The Construction of European Holocaust Memory: German and Polish Cinema after 1989 (Frankfurt/M., 2013) as well as a co-editor of A European Memory? Contested Histories and Politics of Remembrance (with Bo Stråth; Oxford-New York, 2010, 2012) and Memory and Change in Europe. Eastern Perspectives (with Joanna Wawrzyniak, Oxford–New York 2015). Her academic interests include: Europeanisation of memory, Holocaust representation, social/cultural memory, museum studies, film, and recently Jewish involvement in the communist movement in Poland from a biographical perspective.

    Jan Rydel

    Jan Rydel is a historian and his research areas are Central and Eastern Europe and Polish-German relations in the 19th and 20th centuries. He is the author of Politics of History in Federal Republic of Germany. Legacy - Ideas - Practice (2011) and Polish Occupation of North Western Germany. 1945–1948. An Unknown Chapter in Polish- German Relations (2000, German edition 2003). Until 2010, he was a researcher and Professor at the Jagiellonian University and is currently Professor at the Pedagogical University of Cracow. Between 2001 and 2005, he headed the Office of Culture, Science and Information at the Polish Embassy in Berlin. Since 2008, he has been Poland’s representative on the board of the Polish-German Foundation for Sciences. He is a voluntary custodian of the Rydlówka Manor Museum of Young Poland in Cracow. Prof. Rydel is Chairman of the ENRS Steering Committee and coordinates the Polish party in the European Network Remembrance and Solidarity (ENRS).

    Małgorzata Wosińska

    Małgorzata Wosińska is a cultural anthropologist and psychotraumatologist. She holds a PhD (ABD) and her research interests cover a wide range of interrelated disciplines from critical Holocaust studies to anthropology of genocide and forensic studies. She is a lecturer (courses in Genocide Theory, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Museum Studies) at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland, the University of Warsaw (the NOHA Network on Humanitarian Action), Northeastern University Boston, USA and King’s College Halifax, Canada. She also works with witnesses of traumatic events. Her doctoral dissertation concerns the identity of genocide survivors in Rwanda, where she has conducted regular field research since 2009. She is an expert in advising on the management of memorial sites and trauma for both governmental and non-governmental organisations of preventive and commemorative nature(e.g. USHMM, USA, CNLG, Rwanda, Aegis Trust, UK). Dr Wosińska is a consultant and expert on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list for the National Heritage Board of Poland (performing arts). For the last three years, she has worked in Poland as a curator of exhibitions and educator at former concentration and extermination camps. Apart from being Director’s Representative for International Cooperation of the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw between 2018 and 2020, she has authored 42 publications in scientific journals and co-edited four books and a collection of reportage reports.

    Read about the project

    With the “Genealogies of Memory” project we facilitate academic exchange between Central and East European scholars of individual and collective memory.

    Learn more about the project



    Main organiser
    logo of ENRS
    Partner institutions
    logo of Stiftung Denkmal fur die ermordeten Juden Europas
    logo of IS UW
    Institutions invited to academic discussion
    logo of Jewish Historical Institute
    logo of UJ Wydział Polonistyki
    logo of Warsaw Ghetto Museum
    logo of Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies
    logo of Deutsche Historische Institut Warschau
    logo of Ghetto Fighters House Museum
    logo of Holocaust Memorial Center Budapest
    logo of Mémorial de la Shoah
    Financial partners
    logo of PL Ministry
    logo of DE Ministry
    logo of HU Ministry
    logo of SL Ministry
    logo of RO Ministry