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Rituals of Memory & Oblivion

Now in its 39th year, Vanderbilt’s annual Holocaust lecture series is the longest-running program of its kind at any university in the U.S. This year’s theme is Rituals of Memory & Oblivion. How do we deal with loss? How do we deal with survival amid loss? Do we try to honor who or what we have lost through stories, memorial, memory?  Do we try to hide or obscure that loss through different stories, silence, forgetting? Do we try to restore community that has sustained such loss through the construction and transmission of a shared past across generations and by collective acts? We, as a community and as members of a community, often draw upon ritualized practices—sometimes traditional, sometimes newly created—to work through or to disavow our losses. The Shoah and its aftermath have called forth innumerable ways of dealing with the ensuing losses, with the occasional triumphs, and with the sustenance—of life and livelihood, of home and humanity, of family and faith. This year, as it takes our community from theatrical productions in Theresienstadt through the recognition and recovery of the burial sites of the “Holocaust by Bullets” to the many ways families have dealt with surviving the Shoah, the Vanderbilt University Holocaust Lecture Series examines “Rituals of Memory and Oblivion” through lecture, testimony, film, drama, and your participation.


1st Event (Tuesday Sept. 13):  Lost Theatrical Works of the Holocaust with Prof. Lisa Peschel

Location: Wilson Hall 126, 7 pm

Peschel is a lecturer in the Department of Theatre, Film, and Television at the University of York.


2nd Event (Thursday, Oct. 6): Three Generations of Memory with Rachel Chojnacki, Esther Remer, and Evan Remer

Location: The Commons Center MPR, 7 pm

A survivor, daughter of survivor, and grandchild of a survivor share their experiences.


3rd Event (Monday, Oct. 10): Film: My Mother’s Courage (1995)

Location: Sarratt Cinema, 7 pm

The deportation of 4,000 Jews from Budapest to Auschwitz in July 1944, as told by George Tabori, and how the narrator’s mother escaped it, owing to coincidence, courage, and some help from where you’d least expect it.


4th Event (Wednesday, Oct. 26): Moving from Indifference to Action with Fr. Patrick Desbois

Location: Blair School of Music Ingram Hall, 7 pm

In addition to serving as a Roman Catholic priest, head of the Commission for Relations with Judaism of the French Bishops’ Conference, and consultant to the Vatican, Father Debois is the founder of the Yahad-In Unum, an organization dedicated to locating the sites of mass graves of Jewish victims of the Nazi mobile-killing units in the former Soviet Union. Fr. Desbois’ grandfather was a French soldier deported to the Nazi prison camp Rava-Ruska on the Ukrainian border with Poland.

5th Event (November 4–6 and 10–12): A Shayna Maidel presented In partnership with VU Theatre

Location: Neely Auditorium

Two sisters—one a survivor of Nazi concentration camps, the other brought up as an American—meet in 1946 after a separation of almost 20 years in this powerful and deeply affecting portrait of a family in the aftermath of the Holocaust.

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