Conference Note: Lessons and Legacies 2014, Boca Raton, Florida

Contemporary Church History Quarterly

Volume 20, Number 4 (December 2014)

Conference Note: Lessons and Legacies 2014, Boca Raton, Florida

By Lauren Faulkner Rossi, University of Notre Dame

The thirteenth biennial Holocaust conference, sponsored by the Holocaust Educational Foundation, took place from October 30 to November 2 in Boca Raton, Florida. The conference prides itself on being the premier gathering of scholars across North America and Europe who share teaching and research interests in the subject of the Holocaust. This year’s theme, “The Holocaust After 70 Years: New Perspectives on Persecution, Resistance, and Survival”, echoes themes from previous years, emphasizing expanding perspectives (2010) and new directions (2012) in connection with the Holocaust’s continued relevance today. The Holocaust as a subject of historical inquiry continues to sustain immense scholarly interest, which makes it challenging to craft truly original or groundbreaking arguments. However, the scholars who meet at Lessons and Legacies are as devoted to revisiting and improving older arguments as they are to producing brand-new ones. Consequently, the quality of the papers is generally extremely high.

Gershon Greenberg delivered a keynote address on the first night, speaking about Jewish religious thought through the Holocaust. Marion Kaplan, discussing her research on Jewish refugees in Portugal, gave a second keynote address on the conference’s third night. There were two plenary sessions, the first considering new generational approaches to Holocaust studies, the second, featuring pre-circulated papers, about the impact of feminism and gender studies on Holocaust studies. Over the course of two and a half days, the conference held twenty-three panels, several special sessions, and four workshops geared towards teaching and discussion of sources.

As is often the case at this conference, panel topics were both specific – a discussion of the digital collections of the International Tracing Service, the Holocaust documentation center in Bad Arolsen, Germany; a consideration of the place of the Kindertransport in commemoration and literature; the role of Spain in the Holocaust – as well as broad, with panels on culture and memory, new cultural approaches to the Holocaust, gender, violence, resistance in camps and ghettoes, and the Holocaust in photographs as well as representations of the Holocaust in film and literature. While there were no panels devoted specifically to the churches or religion under Nazism, a paper by Joanna Sliwa of Clark University recounted the role of Krakow nuns in the rescue of Jewish children. Staying true to the general theme, several panels featured topics under revision or reconsideration, including scholars rethinking Nazi Germany beyond the racial state, a panel investigating the writing of Holocaust history beyond the “linguistic turn”, and a discussion of new conceptions of collaboration and perpetration.

The conference was well attended by many of the field’s established scholars, junior scholars, and graduate students. Four scholars – Steven T. Katz, Dagmar Herzog, Roger Brooks, and Francis Nicosia – received distinguished achievement awards from the Foundation for their contributions to Holocaust Studies. The conference’s book series also launched its most recent volume, Lessons and Legacies XI: Expanding Perspectives on the Holocaust in a Changing World, edited by Hilary Earl and Karl A. Schleunes, with essays drawn from papers presented at the 2010 conference.

The next Lessons and Legacies conference will take place in November 2016 at Claremont-McKenna College, in southern California.


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