U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum multi‑year initiative

close up gloved hands and the number detail of a Holocaust prisoner uniform.A collaboration between WSU and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., will bring the Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Annual Lecture and programming to the Northwest year next year and begin a multi-year regional initiative to address anti-Semitism, racism, and histories of persecution in North America. The joint endeavor will put WSU at the center of conversations that engage communities and combat racism.

“We hope that by understanding why and how genocides have happened, that can inform present policy and social attitudes, and prevent things like that from happening in the future,” said Raymond Sun, associate professor in the Department of History.

The spark for the idea of the lecture coming to WSU “was an unexpected outcome of my academic wanderings,” said Sun, who had been working with programming staff at the museum to advance Holocaust studies at WSU.

“We were going to bring them out last spring as part of the Common Reading Program, but that fell through because of the pandemic,” he said.

“That laid the groundwork for future collaboration and then over the summer they offered to have WSU become the host for the Meyerhoff Lecture Series and the programming that goes with it.”

Todd Butler, director of the Center for Arts and Humanities at WSU, is excited to present the Meyerhoff Lecture to the WSU community.

“Seeking justice–especially as a land-grant university–requires us first to grapple honestly with the past, remembering what we have forgotten or sought to ignore, and then use that encounter to imagine better futures,” Butler said. “It’s work that the arts and humanities are ideally positioned to take on, and we’re honored to bring this vital, world-class initiative to WSU.”

Susan Neiman, director of the Einstein Forum, author of numerous books, and former professor of philosophy at Yale and Tel Aviv Universities, will deliver the Meyerhoff Lecture virtually on Feb. 23, 2021. The event and subsequent conversations occurring over the spring semester will be hosted by WSU’s Center for Arts and Humanities.

Neiman brings a unique perspective as director of The Einstein Forum, a foundation of the German federal state of Brandenburg that “serves the public as an open laboratory of the mind.” Her latest book, Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil, explores how different countries attempt to deal with historical wrongdoings.

Susan Neiman

In addition to her lecture, Neiman will join an interdisciplinary faculty panel on March 2, 2021, to address race, racism, antisemitism, and memorialization in postwar Germany, together with scholars who address similar topics and challenges in the Pacific Northwest. On April 21, WSU will host an online Q and A for faculty and students who have incorporated the Meyerhoff Lecture and faculty panel into their courses.

The hope is for faculty from across the academic spectrum to find ways to incorporate the programming into their courses, and encourage their students to participate independently. Already faculty from at least five Inland Northwest institutions have participated in initial conversations hosted by the Center and the USHMM.

Sun’s history studies originally focused on modern German history, but genocide and Nazi Germany became more and more of a focus and he’s spent the past several years studying the holocaust. Next fall he will teach the first stand-alone Holocaust history class at WSU and he’s hopeful the University will continue to expand its offerings in the area.

“It’s one of the defining moments of modern history, and really our identity as a species,” Sun explained. “It’s one of the most well-recorded genocides in history and it’s hugely accessible. It raises so many questions about why and how this could occur in Western Europe. It teaches us primary and fundamental aspects of human nature, for good or evil.”

For more information, contact the Center for Arts and Humanities at arts.humanities@wsu.edu.

Top image: Close up of a Holocaust prisoner uniform from the USHMM website.

By Todd Mordhost, Office of the Provost, for WSU Insider.