Conference Report: 42nd Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches, May 12-14, 2012

ACCH Quarterly Vol. 18, No. 2, June 2012

Conference Report: 42nd Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches, May 12-14, 2012.

By Matthew D. Hockenos, Skidmore College

The 42nd Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches (ASC) was held in Rochester, NY, this year on the beautiful campus of Monroe Community College (MCC) from May 12-14. The ASC is an interfaith, interdisciplinary, and international organization founded by Franklin Littell and Hubert Locke, both professors and clergymen, in 1970. Littell, who died in 2009, founded the first doctoral studies program on the Holocaust in 1976 at Temple University, where he taught for many years and where his extensive papers, correspondence, and books are now housed in Paley Library. His wife, Professor Marcia Sachs Littell, a Holocaust scholar at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and the Executive Director Emerita of ASC, was present at the conference and chaired a thought-provoking panel on “Sexual Violence Against Jewish Women in the Holocaust.” Hubert Locke, Professor and Dean Emeritus of Public Affairs at the University of Washington, opened the conference with a greeting and encouraged participants and Holocaust scholars to think more broadly about the role of racial, religious, and national intolerance and prejudice.

Professor of Psychology Charles Clarke, the 2012 ASC Conference Chair and Director of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Project at MCC, did a superlative job organizing this year’s conference, which consisted of nearly 20 panels of scholars.

In line with this year’s conference theme, “70 Years Later: The Lingering Shadow of Wannsee,” the first plenary session included a presentation by Dr. Wolf Kaiser, Deputy-Director of The House of the Wannsee Conference, as well as a breakout session on “Genocidal Decision-Making and its Implications for Contemporary Genocide.” In addition to the panels on the churches and religion, there were a number of excellent presentations on Holocaust education, arts and literature, reparations, antisemitism, torture, and genocide.

The panels that addressed the churches and religion included a fascinating and troubling set of papers by John Pawlikowski of Catholic Theological University and Marvin Wilson of Gordon College, on the challenge of intractable supersessionary thinking. Willi Graf’s resistance and Emanuel Hirsch’s complicity were the topic of two papers by Stephani Richards-Wilson of University of Wisconsin-Madison and Jeremy Koop of York University respectively. There was a panel devoted entirely to Catholics and the Shoah with two papers addressing Pius XII and one by Joseph G. Kelly, professor emeritus of Nazareth College, on the Rochester Agreement, a joint Catholic-Jewish statement issued in 1996 that encouraged dialogue, respect, and combating religious intolerance. And finally, a plenary session, chaired by Hubert Locke, on “Disputed Memories of Complicity and Righteousness,” which included papers on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemöller, and Rolf Hochhuth by Vicki Barnett, Matthew Hockenos, and Mark Ruff respectively.

The conference closed with a tribute to Richard Rubenstein, a long-time participant in the ASC and acclaimed author and theologian, and a keynote address, “Is the Shoah the Perfect Storm of Genocide?,” by Michael Berenbaum, director of the Sigi Ziering Institute at the American Jewish University.