Monday, October 24, 2011

Poland: Auschwitz’s future secure, preservationists worry about ‘forgotten’ Nazi camps

Auschwitz’s future secure, preservationists worry about ‘forgotten’ Nazi camps

By Ruth Ellen Gruber · October 12, 2011

ROME (JTA) -- Auschwitz, the most notorious camp in the Nazi killing machine, may soon claim success in its campaign to preserve the legacy of the Holocaust.

The foundation supporting the site in southern Poland has attracted tens of millions of dollars from donor countries, and the camp’s barracks and other buildings seem set to be preserved for decades to come. The museum memorial at the former Nazi death camp attracts more than 1 million visitors per year.

Some fear, however, that the concentration of resources and attention on Auschwitz could overshadow other preservation efforts and threaten the integrity or even the existence of the memorials and museums at lesser-known camps and Holocaust sites in Poland.

"Because Auschwitz is treated as the symbol of the Holocaust and the whole world is supporting only this museum, everybody in Poland, including the government, seems to think that this is enough," said historian Robert Kuwalek, a curator at the state-run Museum at Majdanek, the Nazi concentration camp and killing center near Lublin in eastern Poland. "The problem is deeper because it is the lack of basic knowledge that the Holocaust happened in forgotten sites like Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdanek and Chelmno.”

Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka were the three killing centers of the so-called Operation Reinhard plan to murder 2 million Polish Jews in 1942 and 1943. During that operation, Kuwalek said, "more people were killed in a shorter time than in Auschwitz-Birkenau during the whole period that that camp functioned."

Despite their importance in the history of the Holocaust, these and other sites -- such as the forced labor camps at Stuffhof and Gross-Rosen -- are overlooked by the vast majority of visitors who want to learn about the Holocaust or pay homage to its victims firsthand. All are marked by memorials or even museums. But some are located in remote parts of the country, and most are in serious need of upkeep and preservation.

Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Arise and Build: American Synagogues and Jewish Identity

West Hartford, CT. Interior of sanctuirary, restored in 2006. Photo: courtesy of Cong. Beth Israel.

Arise and Build: American Synagogues and Jewish Identity

Samuel D. Gruber lecture at Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, Connecticut

Sunday, October 23, 12 noon

In the last century, American Jews have built synagogues at a rate never seen in the world before, and in the process they have integrated the synagogue into the American landscape, and Judaism into the American cultural mainstream. This illustrated lecture explores the evolving form and meaning of the American synagogue, especially in the 20th century, as shaped by architects and their congregational patrons.

Through synagogue design, I'll trace changes in the organization of the American Jewish community and its relationship to American culture as a whole. The location, size, shape, and stylistic language adopted for synagogue designs throughout the century is a reflection of the changing needs and values of American Jews.

West Hartford, CT. Congregation Beth Israel. Exterior. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (1997).Beth Israel is an apt setting for this talk. The synagogue, listed on the National Register of Historic Places was designed by Charles Greco and dedicated in 1936. The sanctuary was fully restored in 2006 - I'm looking forward to seeing it.

You can read more about the congregation and building history here. It is one of the few synagogues in america entirely contructed in the 1930s. Synagogues in Hartford, West Hartford and nearby areas are significant in their won right, but also representative of broader trends.

Synagogues in Hungary: A Conversation with Rudolf Klein

Synagogues in Hungary: A Conversation with Rudolf Klein

Two of my colleagues will be teaming up in conversation on Tuesday, October 25th, to discuss the synagogues of Hungary. They are celebration the publication of Rudolf Klein’s massive new book on Hungarian synagogues which is being presented in New York next week. Gavriel Rosenfeld, who was my host at Fairfield University last spring, and with whom I will be presenting at the upcoming Association of Jewish Studies meetings in December, will “interview” Klein. Both are extremely knowledgeable and good talkers, so it should be lively, interesting and informative evening.

Tuesday, October 25, 6:30 pm

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street New York, New York 10011 • Tel: 212.294.8301

Admission: $10 general; $5 CJH members, seniors, students

The book, which I still have not seen in its entirety, is massive - and in Hungarian, but it is packed with hundreds of photos with extensive English captions, and an impressive English "summary" that in itself is almost book length. This work is more than a book about synagogues - it is also about Jewish settlement and activity, and even what it has meant - religiously, culturally, symbolically and physically to be Jewish at different times in Hungary's history. The geographic reach is also greater than Hungary's present-day borders, including much territory once part of the Austro-Hungary.

One aim of Rudi's visit to the United States is to find support for a full translation and the publication of an American edition.

Readers with ideas - or funding suggestions - can contact me.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Call for Graduate Student Papers: "Jewish Spaces, Jewish Places," Graduate Student Conference, Carleton University, February 2012

Call for Graduate Student Papers: "Jewish Spaces, Jewish Places," Graduate Student Conference, Carleton University, February 2012

The Second Annual Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference in Jewish Studies at the Max and Tessie Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa
will be held February 9, 2012, on the topic "Jewish Spaces, Jewish Places."

Michael Meng of Clemson University, with whom I participated in a session at last year's AJS conference, will be the keynote speaker.

Papers are sought from graduate students at any university working on research projects in Jewish Studies in any field or discipline. According to the organizers
"The conference aims to explore the plurality and diversity of Jewish spaces and places, past and present, and we are particularly interested in papers that focus on the socio-cultural processes of how Jews construct space and/or mark place.

Possible themes include:

-processes of making place and performing space

-space, place and identity
-gendered spaces
-diasporic spaces and spaces of migration
-negotiating Jewish and non-Jewish spaces
-spaces of remembrance and commemoration
-Holocaust sites in history and memory
-public spaces and private spaces
-secular spaces and religious spaces
-spaces of community

Dr. Michael Meng, Assistant Professor of History at Clemson University and author of Shattered Spaces: Encountering Jewish Ruins in Postwar Germany and Poland (Harvard University Press, forthcoming, Fall 2011), will present a keynote lecture. Professor Meng's visit is co-sponsored by the Campus Outreach Lecture Program of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies.

The conference will also coincide with a travelling exhibit "Names Instead of Numbers," which will be hosted by the History Department with the support of the Zelikovitz Centre at Carleton during the month of February. The exhibit highlights the biographies of twenty-two prisoners of the former Dachau concentration camp, drawn from the Dachau Remembrance Book project. The Remembrance Book project is a collaboration of several non-profit organizations to document the biographies of former camp inmates. Students, adults and relatives of former prisoners participated in the project of reconstructing and commemorating prisoners' life stories.=20

Papers should be 15-20 minutes long. Please send a 300-word abstract and a brief biography to: Please also indicate in your proposal if you will be requiring any audio-visual needs for your presentation.

Proposals are due November 10, 2011.