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2012 “We Were There, We Are Here”

The thirty-fifth annual Vanderbilt University Holocaust Lecture Series will examine the enduring saga of genocide. While we may educate ourselves in humanity’s acts of extreme violence against its own, we must also ask whether we can rise above moral indignation alone and actively harbor persecuted peoples from ethnic cleansing and genocide in our own time.
Genocide, mass violence committed against a specific group of civilians with exterminationist intent, occurred long before Raphael Lemkin–a Polish Jew who found refuge in New York as the Holocaust was taking place in Europe–coined the term. And as Lemkin noted, the Jews were not the only group subject to destruction by the Third Reich and its collaborators.
The European Roman (or “Gypsies”) were victims of this persecution as well. In his presentation this fall, Ian Hancock will detail the persecution and mass murder throughout Nazi-occupied Europe against the background of centuries of discrimination, hostility, and prejudice. The film, A People Uncounted will also show the devastating effects of the Holocaust for the Roma people to this day.
At the end of October, filmmaker Pierre Sauvage will screen his latest documentary We Were There and present the challenge that Holocaust rescuers make to us. Mr. Sauvage himself is alive today thanks to the villagers of Le Chambon who opened their homes and gave refuge to his parents an thousands of other Jews. One way we may meet the challenge to rescue/protect is by legalizing R2P–the Responsibility to Protect. Sheri Rosenberg will explore when and how the international community should intervene to protect civilians from violence perpetrated by their own government.
On behalf of the 2012 Vanderbilt University Holocaust Lecture Series Committee, we cordially invite you to attend all of our thought-provoking programs.
Shelby Begany, ’13, Student Co-Chair
Veta Greenstone, ’13, Student Co-Chair
Shaiy Baer, Chair

A People Uncounted

Wednesday, September 12th at 7:30pm in Sarratt Cinema

A People Uncounted (2011)
Director: Aaron Yeger
Running time: 99 min

A People Uncounted tells the story of the Roma, commonly referred to as Gypsies—a people who have been both romanticized and vilified in popular culture. The Roma have endured centuries of intolerance and persecution in Europe, most notably during Nazi Final Solution where an estimated 500,000 were murdered. A People Uncounted documents their culturally rich yet often difficult lives, and demonstrates how their present state has been deeply shaped by the tragedies of the past. A People Uncounted is a powerful journey exposing the tragedy of Europe’s largest minority group.

Dr. Ian Hancock

Thursday, September 13th at 7pm in Furman Hall 114

View the video

Porajmos: The Genocide of European Roma (“Gypsies”), 1939-1945
Professor Ian Hancock
Drawing support from many non-Nazi Germans who harbored social prejudice towards Roma, the Nazis judged Roma to be “racially inferior.” The fate of Roma in many respects paralleled that of the Jews. Under the Nazi regime, German authorities subjected Roma to arbitrary internment, forced labor, and mass murder. German authorities murdered tens of thousands of Roma in the German-occupied territories of the Soviet Union and Serbia and thousands more in the killing centers. Estimates of the death toll of Romanies in World War II range from 220,000 to 1,500,000. Antiziganism, that is, hostility, prejudice or racism directed at the Romani people continues in many European countries today. Ian Hancock is a Romani scholar, and political advocate. He was born and raised in England, and is one of the main contributors in the field of Romani studies. He is director of the Program of Romani Studies and the Romani Archives and Documentation Center at The University of Texas at Austin, where he has been a professor of English, linguistics and Asian studies since 1972. He has represented the Romani people at the United Nations and served as a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council

Dr. Sheri Rosenberg

Thursday, October 11th at 7pm in VU Law School’s Flynn Auditorium

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Legalizing the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)
Sheri Rosenberg

The NATO intervention in Libya and the failure of the international community to stop violence in Syria has raised questions about when the international community bears a responsibility to protect civilians from human rights abuses perpetrated by their own government.  While there is growing agreement that such a duty exists, the absence of clear legal standards on when it is triggered has led to inconsistent action and disagreement on when and how the international community should act.  Professor Sheri Rosenberg, director of the Human Rights and Genocide clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, offers her perspective on what standard the international community should apply in determining when to intervene in a human rights crisis, and what steps should be employed before considering the use of military force.

Dr. Ben Kiernan

Monday, October 15th at 7pm in VU Law School’s Flynn Auditorium

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Genocide: A Primer
Professor Ben Kiernan

Before 1944, the word “genocide” did not even exist. It is a very specific term that refers to mass violence committed against groups of civilians with the intention to destroy their very existence. For more than three decades, Ben Kiernan has been deeply involved in the study of genocide and crimes against humanity. His writings have transformed our understanding the historical phenomenon of genocide. He identifies connections, patterns, and features that in nearly every case gave early warning of the catastrophe to come: racism or religious prejudice, territorial expansionism, and cults of antiquity and agrarianism. The ideologies that have motivated perpetrators of mass killings in the past persist in our new century, says Kiernan. He urges that we heed the rich historical evidence with its telltale signs for predicting and preventing future genocides.  Kiernan is the author of Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur (2007), which won the 2008 gold medal for the best book in History awarded by the Independent Publishers association. Ben Kiernan  teaches at Yale University where he is the Whitney Griswold Professor of History, Professor of International and Area Studies, and  Chair of  the Genocide Studies Program.


Thursday, October 16th at Noon in Sarratt 216/220

Genocide in Cambodia
Ben Kiernan

Under Pol Pot’s leadership, and within days of overthrowing the government in 1975, the Khmer Rouge embarked on an organized mission in which they ruthlessly imposed an extremist programmed to reconstruct Cambodia (now under its Khmer name Kampuchea). The population must, they believed, be made to work as laborers in one huge federation of collective farms. Anyone in opposition – and all intellectuals and educated people were assumed to be – must be eliminated, together with all un-communist aspects of traditional Cambodian society. All political and civil rights were abolished. Children were taken from their parents and placed in separate forced labor camps. Factories, schools and universities were shut down; so were hospitals. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, engineers, scientists and professional people in any field (including the army) were murdered, together with their extended families. Religion was banned, all leading Buddhist monks were killed and almost all temples destroyed. Music and radio sets were also banned. Civilian deaths in this period, from executions, disease, exhaustion and starvation, have been estimated at well over 2 million.

Ben Kiernan founded the award-winning Cambodian Genocide Program at the Yale Center for International and Area Studies in 1994, and the comparative Genocide Studies Program in 1998. He is the author of over 100 scholarly articles on Southeast Asia and genocide. Kiernan currently teaches history courses on Southeast Asia, the Vietnam War and genocides through the ages. In 1995 a Khmer Rouge court indicted, tried and sentenced Kiernan in-absentia for “prosecuting and terrorizing the Cambodian resistance patriots”.


Tuesday, October 16th at 7:30pm in Sarratt Cinema

S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (2003)
Director: Rithy Panh

Running Time: 101 minutes

In 1975-79, almost two million Cambodians lost their lives to murder and famine when the Khmer Rouge forced the urban population into the countryside to fulfill their ideal of an agrarian utopia.

The notorious detention center code-named ‘S21′ was the schoolhouse-turned prison where 17,000 men, women and children were tortured and killed, their “crimes” meticulously documented to justify their execution.

In this astonishing documentary, survivor Vann Nath confronts his captors, some of whom were as young as 12 years old when they committed their atrocities. Winner of numerous film awards including International Human Rights Award 2004 and Francois Chalais Award, Cannes Film Festival.

Pierre Sauvage

Tuesday, October 30th at 7pm in the Student Life Center Ballroom

We Were There and the Challenge for Today
With a screening of We Were There: Christianity and the Holocaust
Director: Pierre Sauvage
(67 min., 2011)
Screening and talk

Pierre Sauvage, the documentary filmmaker, Holocaust survivor, and founder of the Chambon Foundation, will screen his latest documentary We Were There: Christianity and the Holocaust and then discuss the challenge it presents to us, we who are here. His multiple award-winning Weapons of the Spirit (1989) told the story of the French Huguenot village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon that defied the Nazis and their Vichy collaborators and gave life-saving refuge to five thousand Jews, including Sauvage and his parents. In We Were There Sauvage explores Christian rescue during the Holocaust and the Christian share of responsibility for the crime through three distinct but interconnected short films. “Three Righteous Christians” provides the eloquent testimony of three French rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust. In “We Were There: Rev. Franklin Littell Confronts the Holocaust,” the pioneering Holocaust educator and theologian Dr. Franklin Littell forcefully argues that the Holocaust was and is a crisis for Christians as well as for Jews. “An Interview with Magda Trocme” offers up the equally direct and articulate testimony of the extraordinary widow of the pastor of Le Chambon during the Holocaust.