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Coming together for Holocaust awareness

Uta Poiger grew up in 1970s Ger­many, a time in which the his­tory of the Holo­caust was glossed over in the country’s classrooms.

“The per­se­cu­tion of Jews was not a major topic of my trip to a con­cen­tra­tion camp,” the North­eastern pro­fessor and chair of the his­tory depart­ment told stu­dents, fac­ulty and staff who filled the Raytheon Amphithe­ater on Tuesday morning for the Holo­caust Aware­ness Break­fast. “I knew that Black Amer­i­cans had to fight for the right to sit in the front of the bus before I under­stood the notion of what it meant to be a Jew.”

The break­fast — which was spon­sored by the Human­i­ties Center in Northeastern’s Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties — kicked off the university’s annual Holo­caust Aware­ness Week. The two-​​day series of pro­grams and events aim to cel­e­brate the memory of Holo­caust vic­tims and serve as a reminder of con­tem­po­rary acts of genocide.

Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun addressed the com­mu­nity on Tuesday morning. North­eastern, he said, is in a “unique posi­tion as an edu­ca­tional insti­tu­tion to take the lead in dis­sem­i­nating” the truth about the Holocaust.

“We have to remember and never forget,” he added. “It’s an everyday mission.”

Aoun also praised the lead­er­ship of Lori Lefkovitz, the Morton B. Rud­erman Pro­fessor of Jewish Studies, who he cred­ited with invig­o­rating Jewish life and learning on Northeastern’s campus.

Poiger, who has lived in the United States for 25 years, noted Germany’s changing atti­tude toward the Holo­caust, but acknowl­edged that “nothing will ever make things right.”

“Things changed with the passing of time and the end of the Cold War,” she explained. “By the 1990s, the old and new cap­ital of Berlin was full of memo­rials and ref­er­ences to the Holocaust.”

The break­fast also fea­tured a pre­sen­ta­tion by Emili Kaufman, a senior com­mu­ni­ca­tions major with a dual minor in his­tory and Jewish Studies.

Last year, Kaufman received the Gideon Klein Award to study the art­work of German sur­re­alist painter Felix Nuss­baum, who was killed at Auschwitz in 1944. On Tuesday morning, Kaufman pre­sented her findings.

Nussbaum’s apoc­a­lyptic painting of skele­tons beating drums and tooting horns, she found, “rep­re­sents the end of the world and his own impending death before being deported to Auschwitz. It mag­ni­fies the feeling of being the living dead.”

Kaufman, who was intro­duced as a “brave, adven­turous and won­derful person,” com­pleted the project in honor of her father, a Jewish pro­fessor of illus­tra­tion who passed away in 2010. “This project gave me a way of dis­cov­ering what it means to be Jewish,” she said.

Kaufman’s award, which included a $5,000 prize, honors the memory of Gideon Klein, a bril­liant pianist and com­poser who was impris­oned in con­cen­tra­tion campus until his death in 1945. North­eastern dis­tin­guished pro­fessor of chem­istry Bill Giessen, who grew up in Nazi Ger­many and passed away in 2010, estab­lished the award in 1997 in memory of his mother, Gustel Cor­mann Giessen.

– by Northeastern News

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