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2016 “Rituals of Memory & Oblivion”

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.

View the promotional poster here

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. She researched theatrical performance in the World War II Jewish ghetto at Terezin (in German, Theresienstadt), completing and staging a play about the cultural life of the ghetto for an MFA degree in playwriting. During her doctoral studies at the University of Minnesota she spent several semesters in the Czech Republic, interviewing Terezin survivors and searching for previous unpublished scripts. In 2008 her annotated volume of plays and cabarets from the ghetto was published in Czech and German; in 2009 she completed a PhD thesis on survivor testimony about theatrical performance in the ghetto.

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

Location: The Commons Center MPR, 7 pm

Rachel Chojnacki is a survivor of the Lodz Ghetto and the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. She recalled, “I could speak German and I could work, my eyes were good, I made little tiny parts for the ammunition, we had to make 7,000 per day to make the quota.” Rachel was nervous when munitions factory supervisors came by, and credits her eye for perfection with saving her life. Rachel will tell her story of survival along with her daughter and grandson. They will speak about the impact the Holocaust has had on their family.

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

Location: Sarratt Cinema, 7:30 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 (Tuesday, Oct. 25): Moving from Indifference to Action with Fr. Patrick Desbois

Location: Langford Auditorium, 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; Nov. 4, 5, 10, 11, 12 at 8 pm and Sunday, Nov. 6, at 2 pm
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.