Conference Report: Fourth Annual Powell and Heller Holocaust Conference, March 17-19, 2011

ACCH Quarterly Vol. 17, No. 2, June 2011

Conference Report: Fourth Annual Powell and Heller Holocaust Conference, March 17-19, 2011, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA.

By Robert Ericksen, Pacific Lutheran University

On March 17-19, 2011, Pacific Lutheran University hosted the Fourth Annual Powell and Heller Family Conference on Holocaust Education. This event began on the evening of March 17th with the showing of a film, The Last Survivor. This documentary focuses on survivors of four genocides—one from the Holocaust and one each from Rwanda, Bosnia, and the Congo. The co-directors, Michael Pertnoy and Michael Kleiman, introduced and discussed the film. They were joined by Justin Semahoro Kimenyerwa, a child survivor of the genocide in the Congo who now resides in the United States. The next morning Carl Wilkens spoke about another recent genocide. He was the only American to stay in Rwanda throughout the killing there, despite many who urged him to leave. His description of the genocide, in words and photos, helps explain his present work, which is to travel around the United States, sometimes by bicycle, raising awareness about genocide and other extreme forms of injustice.

Another highlight on Friday involved a discussion of the Huguenot rescue of Jewish lives in and around Le Chambon, France. This story about Pastor André and Magda Trocmé, along with other rescuers, is well known. Patrick Henry, a recent author on the rescue of Jews in France, gave the main presentation. He was assisted by Nelly Trocmé Hewett, a teenage daughter of the Trocmés at the time, who gave her first-person account of the rescue activities. Saturday morning included a dramatic presentation by “Living Voices.” This involved a one-woman show, “Through the Eyes of a Friend: The World of Anne Frank.” We also had a presentation on artistic responses to the Holocaust, including the work of Anselm Kiefer. A session on “Poetry after Auschwitz” began with a presentation on Theodor Adorno, followed by readings of poetry by writers such as Irena Klepfisz, a poet in Yiddish and English, who is also a child survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto. An afternoon session on Saturday included a presentation by two professors from Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. Kevin Simpson (psychology) and Joel Davis (history) described their interdisciplinary course on the Holocaust in a presentation under the title, “Explaining Evil: Cross-disciplinary Approaches to Teaching the Holocaust.”

Readers of this journal are reminded that PLU will host a Holocaust conference each spring. Planning for the next conference, scheduled for March 15-16, 2012, has just begun. Interested persons are invited to contact Robert Ericksen at