Raising Awareness of the History of the Holocaust

Steve Adubato goes One-on-One with David Gerlach, Ph.D., Associate Professor & Chair, History Department, and Director, The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Saint Peter's University, to discuss the importance of bringing awareness to the history of the Holocaust.

12/4/19 #2264






"We are pleased to welcome Doctor David Gerlach, Associate Professor and Chair, History Department and the Director, the Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies at Saint Peter's University. Good to see you Doctor. Oh, thank you for having me. Break it down. It's been 75 years. The Holocaust still matters because? I think it's... well I mean particularly today, we see the rise of ethno-nationalism, the resurgence of anti-Semitism, xenophobia, even racism, in our own country, and in Europe. And I think it goes to show these are part of the human condition really. And these are the ideological basis, if you will, for projects that lead to genocide. And so, you know, while genocide itself is an extreme event, of course, I think there's an important role that a center like this can play in trying to make sure that we're aware of the dynamics of genocide, and the kind of... being able to address the underlying circumstances that appear again and again in our world to try to, you know, prevent that from happening again. You know, the term genocide? Mm hmm? Used a lot? Mm hmm. Define it in a way that people can operationalize it in their heads. And more importantly, in their hearts. Well if we go back... again, I'm a historian. So if we go back... you know, the originator of the term, Raphael Lemkin, got this passed into the United Nations, the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide, back in 1948. And I think the key really is, the idea... the intent is kind of the key word. The intent to destroy, or wipe out, a group of people based on their ethnic, religious backgrounds. And so for me, what that means in practice is looking at how minorities are generally treated in societies where, again, there might be other kinds of things like war or economic dislocations, and things like that, that are going to lead to further problems for these kinds of minorities down the road. And so they become targets, if you will, for these projects. Describe the work of the center. What do you see the center doing in terms of making a difference? The mission for the center is sort of threefold. So education is at the forefront. We need to understand and teach our students and community about the history of genocide, and about, you know... and that's done by bringing in speakers and developing courses and things like that. I think the second part is research. This is something we'll have to build on. My own research is in that area a bit. But we'd like not only faculty, but students to take up research on this topic, so that, again, generations from now, this isn't forgotten..."