Update on Recent Developments

Wyman Institute Update: April 21, 2005

  1. Welcome to the newest member of the Wyman Institute’s Advisory Committee: U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos.Rep. Lantos has served as a Member of the United States Congress since 1981. He is currently serving his 13th term in the House of Representatives. An American by choice, Lantos was born in Budapest, Hungary.  As a teenager living under Nazi occupation, he was a member of the anti-Nazi underground and later of the anti-Communist student movement. He is the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in the U.S. Congress.  Prior to his service in Congress (1950-1980),  Lantos earned a Ph.D. in Economics  from the University of California, Berkeley, and was a professor of economics, an international affairs analyst for public television, and a consultant to a number of businesses. He also served in senior advisory roles to members of the United States Senate.  Lantos is presently the Ranking Democratic member of the House International Relations Committee, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, and co-founder of the House International Relations Committee’s Task Force on Anti-Semitism.Last year, Rep. Lantos authored legislation requiring U.S. government monitoring of antisemitism around the world.  He publicly credited the Wyman Institute with mobilizing the public support necessary to overcome the State Department’s opposition to the bill.  More recently, Rep. Lantos arranged for the Wyman Institute to present a  briefing to the Congressional Task Force on Anti-Semitism on the issue of the U.S. refusal to bomb Auschwitz.
  2. The Wyman Institute in the NewsA.    After the Wyman Institute mobilized over 600 historians and other scholars to sign a protest petition, C-Span canceled its plan to broadcast a lecture by Holocaust-denier David Irving.  C-Span originally said it would air Irving’s speech to “balance” its planned broadcast of a speech by Holocaust historian Prof. Deborah Lipstadt.  The Wyman Institute’s effort was reported in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Chronicle of Higher Education, and in an Associated Press report that appeared in newspapers around the world.  In a note to the Wyman Institute,  Prof. Lipstadt wrote:  “The petition has demonstrated to C-Span how firmly historians and social scientists oppose this maneuver on their part.  You gave the academic community a vehicle through which they could speak out in protest and they did.   For that, I and many others are grateful.”B.     Bella Chagall Meyer, granddaughter of Marc Chagall, was the featured speaker at a gala cultural event benefitting the Wyman Institute, held  at the prestigious Wally Findlay Galleries in Palm Beach, Florida, on April 3. It included a sale and exhibit of important Jewish artists, and paid tribute to Varian Fry, who, in 1940-41, traveled from New York to rescue several thousand artists, writers and musicians — including Chagall– from Vichy France.  Wally Findlay president James Borynack, Rita Stein, and Wyman Institute associate director Benyamin Korn organized the very successful event.  It received prominent coverage in the Palm Beach Post and other local press.C.     In response to the Wyman Institute’s request, the governor of Utah designated April 8, 2005, “Elbert D. Thomas Day,” to honor the late Utah Senator’s efforts to promote U.S. rescue of Jewish refugees from the Holocaust.  The Weber State University Holocaust Commemoration Committee, in Ogden, Utah (Senator Thomas’s home town) organized two events for the occasion.  The first was a lecture at Weber State on April 7 by Wyman Institute associate director Benyamin Korn on “The American Media and the Holocaust: What Did They Report and When Did They Report It?”  The next day, Korn, Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey, and members of the Thomas family spoke at the official ceremony proclaiming Elbert D. Thomas Day.  In addition, the Wyman Institute provided Utah high school principals with background information about Senator Thomas’s efforts during the Holocaust, for teachers to discuss with their students.  The event was covered widely by the Utah press, television, and radio, including a feature story in the Salt Lake Tribune and an interview with Benyamin Korn on the local affiliate of National Public Radio.D.     “America and the Holocaust” is the theme of this year’s “Holocaust Awareness Weeks” sponsored by Hebrew Union College’s Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education, and Wyman Institute scholars are prominent among the featured speakers.  The series is organized by Holocaust Center director Dr. Racelle Weiman, who is also a member of the Wyman Institute’s Academic Council.  On April 7, the Center staged a public reading of portions of Ben Hecht’s “We Will Never Die,” the 1943 pageant that helped alert America about the Nazi genocide.  Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff,  spoke at Xavier University on April 10 and the University of Cincinnati on April 11, on “America’s Response to the Holocaust:  What We Know Now and Why It Matters.”  Marking the twentieth anniversary of the publication of David S. Wyman’s The Abandonment of the Jews, Dr. Medoff discussed the book’s impact on the scholarly community and the general public.

    Next in the series was Prof. Laurel Leff, a member of the Wyman Institute’s Academic Council, who spoke about her new book, Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper, at Miami University of Ohio on April 13 and Turpin High School in Anderson, Ohio, on April 14.   Then, on April 18, former presidential candidate and U.S. Senator George McGovern spoke at the University of Cincinnati and Adath Israel Congregation about his experiences as a World War II pilot who led bombing missions aimed at German oil factories adjacent to Auschwitz.  (The Wyman Institute showed part of its own film interview with McGovern about his World War II experiences, at our  briefing for the House International Relations Committee’s Task Force on Anti-Semitism, in January.)  Finally, Dr. Alex Grobman, another member of the Wyman Institute’s Academic Council, will serve as the Boymel Annual Scholar-in-Residence and speak about American Jewry’s response to the Holocaust, at events sponsored by the HUC Holocaust Center at the Golf Manor Synagogue on May 3 and Cincinnati State College on May 4.

    E.     Dr. Rafael Medoff’s interview with Esther Grover, daughter of the late Utah Senator Elbert D. Thomas (see above) was published in the Washington Jewish Week on April 8  … Medoff’s essay, “American Jewry’s Response to Hitler: Reflections from the Last Eyewitnesses,” appeared in the March-April 2005 issue of Midstream magazine  …  His essay on the passing of Holocaust rescue activity Lisa Fittko (who worked closely with Varian Fry) was featured in the April 1-7 edition of the Chicago Jewish News … The winning cartoon in the Wyman Institute’s Cartoonists Against the Holocaust contest was printed in the April 15 issue of the Washington Jewish Week … A feature story on Prof. Wyman and the Wyman Institute appeared in the Western Massachusetts Jewish Ledger on April 1.

  3. News About Wyman Institute Committee and Council Members:Maurice Sendak, a member of the Wyman Institute’s Arts and Letters Council, is featured in a major exhibit of his artwork at the Jewish Museum in New York City, titled “Wild Things: The Art of Maurice Sendak.”  It runs through August 14, 2005.  The exhibit was the subject of a recent feature story in the New York Times.The book In the Footsteps of Orpheus: The Times and Work of Miklos Radnoti (a famous Hungarian poet murdered by the Nazis), by Academic Council member Prof. Zsuzsanna Ozsvath (University of Texas) has been translated into Hungarian.  The new edition was launched in March at the Academy of Sciences in Budapest.   Prof. Ozsvath’s lecture last year at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, “Trauma and Distortion:  Holocaust Fiction and the Ban on Jewish Memory in Hungary,”  will appear in the anthology The Holocaust in Hungary: Sixty Years Later, edited by Randolph L. Braham, to be published next year by Columbia University Press.Arts and Letters Council member Joe Kubert spoke about his book Yossel (a gripping story about the Warsaw Ghetto revolt, told through comic book-style illustration) at a forum on “All About Comic Books and Graphic Novels,” at the Bucks County (PA) Free Library on April 19.   In addition, a hardcover collection of Joe’s Jewish-themed comic strips, The Adventures of Yaakov and Isaac, has just been published by Mahrwood Press. (info@mahrwoodpress.com)Academic Council member Prof. Harry Reicher (U. of Pennsylvania Law School) spoke recently for the Holocaust Council of Metrowest (New Jersey) on “The Legal Legacy of the Holocaust: The Nuremberg Trials, Genocide, and Human Rights.” He also spoke at New York University’s Bronfman Center (hosted by NYU Hillel, ICHECI Service Corps and the NYU Pre-Law Society) on “How the Holocaust Influenced the Development of Human Rights,” and at Brookdale (NJ) Community College’s Center for Holocaust Studies on “Dimensions of Justice in the Nazi Era: Law and the Holocaust.”

    Hugh Nissenson, a member of our Arts and Letters Council, has authored a new novel, The Days of Awe, which has the Holocaust as one of its themes.  It will be published later this year by Sourcebooks.

    Academic Council Member Prof. Zev Garber (Los Angeles Valley College and Case Western Reserve University) coordinated and presented in a colloquium, A Dialogue on Post-Shoah Hermeneutics: Jews and Christians Reading Scriptures After the Holocaust, held at Case Western Reserve University on April 10. Input from an afternoon session led by him on “Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’ — One Year Later” is available online.
    See http://www.cwru.edu/artsci/rosenthal/events.htm

  4. Upcoming Events:May 4:  Wyman Institute associate director Dov Fischer will speak on “Did We Fail Europe’s Jews During the Holocaust?” at the Community Yom HaShoah Commemoration, held at the Young Israel of Brookline at 8:00 pm.  Cosponsored by Congregation Beth El-Atereth Israel of Newton, Congregation Shaarei Tefillah of Newton.May  5: Arts and Letters Council member Stuart Erdheim will present the first of a three part lecture series at Temple Emanuel in Great Neck, NY, on the Allies’ refusal to bomb Auschwitz.  The film he wrote and produced about this issue, They Looked Away, will be screened as well.  (The next two parts of the series will take place on May 12 and May 19.)May 31:  The winners of the Wyman Institute’s first “Cartoonists Against the Holocaust” contest will receive their awards at a special ceremony at the Hebrew Academy Jewish Arts Festival, in Rockville, Maryland.October 21:     Dr. Irvin Ungar, president of the Arthur Szyk Society and member of the Wyman Institute’s Arts & Letters Council, will lead a Szyk Renaissance Tour to Poland from October 21 to October 28, 2005.  Celebrating the life and work of Arthur Szyk, the famed artist and Bergson Group activist, the tour will visit Lodz, Szyk’s hometown; Krakow, where he studied art; and Warsaw, home to numerous Jewish landmarks. The participants will take part in the opening reception at the premiere in Poland of “Justice Illuminated: The Art of Arthur Szyk,” and will  meet with high level Polish government officials, U.S. diplomats, and Jewish leaders.  More information:  http://szyk.org/szykrentour/index.html

    Academic Council member Prof. Laurel Leff (Northeastern U.) will speak about her new book, Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper, on the following dates:

    April 26: Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government, 12:00 noon

    May 3:  Congregation Beth El, Bethesda, Maryland, 7:30 pm

    May 4-6:  Washington & Lee University, Lexington, VA

    May 11: Simon Wiesenthal Center, Los Angeles

    May 18: Harvard University Co-op

    May 23: Center for Jewish History, New York City, 7:00 pm (co-sponsored by the Wyman Institute and the American Jewish Historical Society)

    August 14: National Yiddish Book Center, Amherst, MA, 2:00 pm