SMU’s Human Rights Education Program is cosponsoring a three-month series of lectures, symposiums, film screenings, photography exhibits and musical performances examining how the Holocaust continues to affect the world.
“Holocaust Legacies: Shoah as Turning Point” begins Sept. 9 with a 7 p.m. reception and a 7:30 p.m. introductory panel discussion in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Forum. The program will run through the end of November with events held both on and off the SMU campus, and all events are free and open to the public.
Panel members on Sept. 9 will include Christopher Anderson, associate professor of sacred music in Perkins School of Theology; Janis Bergman-Carton, art history chair in Meadows School of the Arts; Elliott Dlin, executive director of the Dallas Holocaust Museum; Rick Halperin, director of SMU’s Human Rights Education Program and Tom Mayo, director of SMU’s Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility.
Halperin, who each December escorts educational groups to former Nazi death camp locations in Poland, is committed to raising awareness of what he calls “the crime within the war,” even as the number of people who lived through the war, and the Holocaust, dwindles with each passing year. September marks the 70th anniversary of the Nazi German invasion of Poland and beginning of World War II.
“It’s safe to say most Americans don’t think about World War II any more,” Halperin said. “We fought the war, defeated the Nazis, and came home the good guys. We mushroomed into a world power. Most Americans since then have lived a relatively safe and comfortable life.”
But the legacy of the Holocaust continues at many levels, Halperin said: The Nazis committed the greatest art theft in history, looting the collections of Jewish families whose descendents are still litigating to see their treasures returned. All major war crime tribunals bear the stamp of the post-World War II Nuremburg Trials, and the United States in May deported a nearly 90-year-old man, John Demjanjuk, for Nazi war crimes.
Halperin noted that in Europe, sensitivity to the Shoah’s legacy is reflected even in restrictions to how people talk and write about the Nazi regime. “You can buy a copy of Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf in the SMU Book Store – that’s free speech,” Halperin explained. “You can deny the Holocaust in the U.S., and that’s free speech, too. You can’t do that in Europe.” Halperin said he expects the series to be “a powerful, emotional, somber and sobering series of events.”
Co-sponsors for the 2009 Fall Program Series are SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility, the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance, SMU Meadows School of the Arts, SMU Perkins School of Theology, TCU’s Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Department of Social Work and the University of Dallas.