Seminar Announcement: Moral Dilemmas and Moral Choice in the Holocaust

Contemporary Church History Quarterly

Volume 19, Number 4 (December 2013)

Seminar Announcement: Moral Dilemmas and Moral Choice in the Holocaust

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies

Program on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust

2013 Annual Seminar for Seminary and Religious Studies Faculty

Moral Dilemmas and Moral Choice in the Holocaust: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Pius XII as Case Studies in Religious Leadership

 June 23-27, 2014

The Program on Ethics, Religions, and the Holocaust of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is pleased to announce its annual seminar for faculty from all disciplines but particularly for professors of theology, ethics, and religion at theological schools and other institutions of advanced education.  The seminar is scheduled for June 23-27, 2014.

Holocaust history provides complex, often troubling examples of the responses of religious groups, theologians, and leaders from across Europe.  As two of the most studied religious figures of this era, German Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Catholic pontiff Pope Pius XII offer significant insights into the larger theological, ecclesial, and political issues that shaped Christian reactions to National Socialism and the Holocaust. Bonhoeffer, a young Confessing Church pastor and theologian, eventually became involved in the conspiracy to overthrow the Nazi regime and was executed by the Nazis in 1945. Eugenio Pacelli was the Vatican’s secretary of state until he became Pope Pius XII in 1939. Both men have their defenders and critics, particularly with respect to their responses to the persecution of the Jews.  This seminar will explore the historical and theological complexities of their respective roles, as well as their legacies in shaping Christian understandings of the Holocaust after 1945.

The seminar will be co-taught by Victoria Barnett and Robert Ventresca.  Robert Ventresca is associate professor of history at King’s University College at Western University in London, Ontario (Canada), and the author of Soldier of Christ: The Life of Pope Pius XII (2013).  He is also the author of From Fascism to Democracy: Culture and Politics in the Italian Election of 1948 (2004) which received an honorable mention for the Canadian Historical Association’s Wallace K. Ferguson Prize.  Professor Ventresca was a founding member and inaugural Co-Chair of the former Center for Catholic-Jewish Learning at King’s University College at Western University. Victoria Barnett directs the Museum’s Programs on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust. She is also one of the general editors of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works English Edition, the translation of the complete 16-volume writings of Bonhoeffer being published by Fortress Press.  She is also the author of Bystanders: Conscience and Complicity during the Holocaust (1999) and For the Soul of the People: Protestant Protest against Hitler (1992).

Participants will also have the opportunity to learn more about Museum resources for their teaching and to consult and interact with Museum staff and visiting scholars. More information about the Museum’s programs on the history of the churches during the Holocaust can be found at

Candidates must be faculty members at accredited, degree-awarding institutions in North America.  Applications must include: (1) a curriculum vitae; (2) a statement of the candidate’s specific interest and purpose for attending the seminar; and (3) a supporting letter from a departmental chair or dean addressing the candidate’s qualifications and the institution’s potential interest in having Holocaust-related courses taught.

Admission will be decided without regard to age, gender, race, creed, or national origin. A maximum of twenty applicants will be accepted. For non-local participants, the Center will (1) reimburse the cost of direct travel to and from the participant’s home institution and Washington, DC, up to but not exceeding the amount of $500; and (2) defray the cost of lodging for the duration of the course.  Incidental, meal, and book expenses must be defrayed by the candidates or their respective institutions. All participants must attend the entire seminar.

Applications must be postmarked, emailed, or faxed no later than Monday, February 24, 2014, and sent to: Victoria Barnett, University Programs, Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW, Washington, DC 20024-2150 (Email:; Fax: 202-479-9726).  For questions, contact Victoria Barnett at 202-488-0469 or  All applicants will be notified of the results of the selection process by Monday, March 24, 2014.

This seminar is made possible by the Hoffberger Family Fund and by Joseph A. and Janeal Cannon and Family.