Conference to Examine Aftermath of the Holocaust and Apartheid

Yale University will host a three-day conference, “Searching for Memory and Justice: The Holocaust and Apartheid,” Sunday, Feb. 8, through Tuesday, Feb. 10. The conference will be jointly hosted by the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies and the Orville H. Schell Jr. Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School. All sessions are free and open to the public. Due to limited seating, tickets for Monday and Tuesday will be available in advance of the conference at the Schell Center for Human Rights, 127 Wall St.

In conjunction with the conference, Sterling Memorial Library will mount an exhibit from Yale’s collections of Holocaust and apartheid materials, including posters, photographs, “Yizkor” books and a ballot from South Africa’s 1994 election. The exhibition will open Feb. 2 and run through March 1 in the display cases opposite the circulation desk.

“We are making no attempt to compare these two very different events,” says Joanne Rudof, archivist for the Fortunoff Video Archive, “but we hope to increase our understanding of both by considering the two traumatized and oppressed populations together.”

“One of the biggest issues regarding human rights abuses is, what do you do afterward? How does a society recover?” says Rosa Ehrenreich, associate director of the Schell Center. “At one extreme, you insist that you must prosecute and punish human rights abusers, under the theory that a society can’t heal unless there is accountability. At the other extreme, you more or less push all past abuses under the carpet, on the theory that society needs to put the divisive past behind it in order to move on. Then there is a middle road, such as South Africa is taking with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: you investigate and acknowledge the crimes that were committed, but you don’t punish those who admit their abusive acts, and then you try to move on. This conference will explore different responses to dealing with such grave abuses as genocide and systematic racial oppression.”

Keynote addresses will be presented on Sunday, Feb. 8, at Yale Law School, following opening remarks at 9 a.m. Dullah (Abdulah Mohamed) Omar, minister of justice of South Africa, and Holocaust scholar Saul Friedlander will speak.

Omar was born in South Africa in 1934 to a Muslim family. He earned his B.A. and law degrees at the University of Capetown, where he was a student activist against apartheid. From his earliest years as a lawyer, Omar has defended political prisoners, helped to organize workers into trade unions, and advocated for human rights in South Africa. When the ANC was “unbanned,” he joined and has served on several of its key committees, including the constitutional committee. After the historic 1994 elections, Omar was elected to parliament and appointed Minister of Justice.

Born in 1932, Friedlander was hidden as a child in France during World War II to protect him from Nazi persecution. He earned his Ph.D. degree from the University of Geneva in 1963. Friedlander’s most recent book, “Nazi Germany and the Jews, Vol. 1: 1933-1939,” recently won the National Jewish Book Award. Among his other publications are “Probing the Limits of Representation” (ed., Cambridge, 1992), “Reflections of Nazism” (New York, 1984 ), “History and Psychoanalysis” (New York, 1979), and “Pius XII and the Third Reich” (New York, 1965). He holds the first endowed chair for Holocaust Studies in the United States, the 1939 Club Professorship of the History of the Holocaust at U.C.L.A., and is the Maxwell Cummings Professor of Modern European History at Tel Aviv University.

“What part do bitter and traumatic memories play, communally and personally, in the lives of individual survivors and in the life and thinking of society?” asks Geoffrey Hartman, Sterling Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature at Yale, and advisor to the Fortunoff Video Archive. “I’ve been studying the Holocaust for the past 50 years and pondering in what way is it possible to integrate the experiences of the past into the present? Survivors of both the Holocaust and apartheid struggle with what to do with their memories. This conference will not try to compare the two experiences, but bring together leading scholars and personalities from both communities to discuss how these bitter and traumatic memories play out.”

“The peaceful transition from an apartheid government in South Africa – based on the oppression of the Black majority – to a Black majority government, was an extraordinary and, in some ways, quite unexpected event,” notes Robert Burt, the Bickel Professor of Law at Yale. “The effort of this government to come to terms with the injustice of the prior regime in a spirit of reconciliation is also extraordinary. It’s not clear that this effort will succeed in its own terms,” he cautions, “but this is a turning-point moment, an invaluable moment to explore the possibilities and the difficulties that lie on the path of reconciliation between victim and victimizer.”

Burt continues, “Comparing the South African social response to past injustice with the variety of social responses to the Holocaust will present opportunities to deepen our understanding of the ways in which victims, bystanders, and aggressors can – and cannot – come to terms with a terrible past.”

The conference schedule is as follows:

Sunday, Feb. 8. All events at Yale Law School, 127 Wall St.

9 - 9:15 a.m. Welcoming remarks

9:15 - 10:45 a.m.Keynote addresses

Dullah Omar, Saul Friedlander

11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. “Hearing the Victims”

Pius Langa, justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa

Lawrence L. Langer, Emeritus Professor of English, Simmons College.

1:30 - 2 p.m. Video session

Survivor testimonies from the Fortunoff Video Archive and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, South Africa.

2 - 2:45 p.m. Panel and audience discussion

Omar, Friedlander, Langa and Langer

Moderator, Geoffrey Hartman, Yale University

2:45 - 3 p.m. Video session

Excerpts from the trial of Adolph Eichmann and proceedings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa

3 - 4:30 p.m. “Conceptions of Justice”

Michael R. Marrus, dean of Graduate Studies, University of Toronto

A.L. Sachs, justice, Constitutional Court of South Africa

4:30 - 5 p.m.Response

Martha Minow, Harvard University Law School Lawrence Douglas, Amherst College

5 - 5:45 p.m.Panel and audience discussion

Sachs, Marrus, Minow, Douglas

Moderator, Robert Burt, Yale Law School

6 - 6:45 p.m. Reception

Monday, February 9 - All sessions at the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, 80 Wall St.

9 a.m. - noon”Reconciliation: Possibilities and Impossibilities”

Volkhard Knigge, director, Buchenwald Museum

Wynand Malan, commissioner, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa

Charles Villa-Vicencio, director, Research Department, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa

Annette Wieviorka, Centre Nationale de Recherche Scientifique, Paris

Moderator, Harlon Dalton, Yale Law School

1:30 - 3:30 p.m.”Healing the Victims: Possibilities and

Dumisa Ntsebeza, commissioner, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa

Heidi Grunebaum-Ralph, University of Capetown, South Africa

James Young, University of Massachusetts

Moderator, Dori Laub, Yale Medical School

3:45 - 5:30 p.m.”Future Generations”

Graeme Simpson, director, Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, South Africa

Yaron Ezrahi, Hebrew University

Mbasa Mxenge, son of human rights lawyers Griffiths and Victoria Mxenge, South Africa

Moderator, Philip Gourevich, journalist, The New Yorker

8:30 - 9:30 p.m.Dramatic Reading

“Remnants,” Henry Greenspan, University of Michigan, based on survivor testimonies

Tuesday, February 10 - Celebrating the 15th Anniversary of the Fortunoff Video Archive. All sessions at the Slifka Center.

9:00 - 10:30 a.m.”Research Use of Video Testimonies”

Robert Kraft, Otterbein College

Vera Schwarcz, Welesyan University

Nathan Beyrak, Video Testimony coordinator, Tel Aviv

Sidney Bolkosky, University of Michigan-Dearborn

Moderator, Joanne Rudof, Fortunoff Video Archive

10:30 - noon”Classroom Use of Video Testimonies”

Lynne Bryce, St. Cloud University

Dominick LaCapra, Cornell University

Henry Greenspan, University of Michigan

Noon - 1 p.m.”Reflections”

Vivian Liska, University of Antwerp

Dori Laub, Yale University Medical School

Moderator, Geoffrey Hartman, Yale University

The Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies is dedicated to the recording, collection and preservation of videotaped oral testimonies of survivors and witnesses. The Fortunoff Video Archive holds more than 3,800 testimonies and over 10,000 recorded hours of videotape, recorded in cooperation with 37 affiliate projects in North America, South America, Europe, Israel, and the former Soviet Union. The archive catalogs its testimonies to make them intellectually accessible to students and scholars, and loans programs based upon testimony excerpts to educators and community groups.

The Orville H. Schell Jr. Center for International Human Rights was established in 1989 in memory of Orville H. Schell Jr., a distinguished New York City lawyer with a keen interest in human rights. The Center provides a forum for practitioners in the area of international human rights to consider the large, long-term theoretical issues their work entails, and for scholars to conduct interdisciplinary research and discussion on international human rights. The Center sponsors lectures and conferences, provides research fellowships, and supports undergraduate and graduate education, both theoretical and practical, in international human rights.

Conference sponsors include the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Alan F. Fortunoff, and the following programs at Yale: Orville H. Schell Jr. Center for International Human Rights, Child Study Center, departments of English and French, Judaic Studies Program, Kempt Fund (administered by the Provost’s Office), the President’s Office, and the Slifka Center.

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