U of T hosts young Holocaust scholars from around the world


The Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto hosted a two-day conference for young scholars studying the Holocaust last week. The conference, titled “New Scholars/New Research on the Holocaust,” took place on October 6 and 7,  and was organized by Doris L. Bergen, the Chancellor Rose and Ray Wolfe Chair of Holocaust Studies, the Centre for Jewish Studies, and the federal government.

The conference welcomed 24 scholars from 11 different countries, who “explore new sources, methodologies and approaches to key themes such as reportage, militaries, subject nationalities, cooperation and collaboration, and postwar issues.” It focused on new ways of looking at sources of Holocaust research; subjects such as gender and sexuality, which have largely been omitted from previous scholarly work on the Holocaust, featured prominently in this conference.

“New Scholars” was partly motivated by Canada’s turn as the chair of the International Holocaust Research Alliance (IHRA) for 2013. IHRA is an intergovernmental body whose purpose is to “place political and social leaders support behind the need for Holocaust education, remembrance, and research both nationally and internationally.” The main aim of IHRA is to “bring political and social leaders together to learn from the Holocaust for the benefit of citizens of member countries and the international public.”

The conference kicked off on October 6 with the screening of a documentary, Numbered, directed by Dana Doron and Uriel Sinai. Numbered looks at the consequences of being stripped of one’s identity through the practice of identification tattooing in the Auschwitz concentration camp, through the testimony of Auschwitz survivors. On October 7, the conference featured a book exhibit featuring works by contemporary and established Holocaust scholars. “New Scholars” also featured six academic panels, which presented new methods and tools of studying the Holocaust, including a panel on Holocaust reportage, visual representations, the role of the military, and enduring postwar issues.

Michal Kasprzak, a Ryerson University faculty member and one of the organizers of the event, said that the main idea behind the conference was to feature new scholars and allow them to present their work. Kasprzak called the conference a success, stating, “it is clearly paying dividends, evident by the amount of discussion, interest and the attendance at the conference.” He also noted that during the initial call for academic papers the organizers received 250 proposals, and only a fraction (24) was presented at the conference. Kasprzak said, “the international response was wonderful to see.”

The Centre for Jewish Studies at the U of T was created in 2008 to recognize and build on the universities’ achievements in the field of Jewish Studies.  The Centre offers programs and interdisciplinary courses at undergraduate and graduate levels, and holds lectures, conferences, receptions, and other events throughout the year.

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