Conference Report: 49th Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches

Contemporary Church History Quarterly

Volume 25, Number 1 (March 2019)

Conference Report: 49th Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches

Rebecca Carter-Chand, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The 49th Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches took place March 2-4, 2019. Hosted by the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, this year’s conference theme was “Conflicting Realities of the Holocaust.” Although the conference has evolved over the years to include topics and themes far beyond “the Churches,” it has retained its commitment to interfaith dialogue and reconciliation. This year several papers dealt with issues of religion and related topics, such as rescue, humanitarian aid, and antisemitism.

Mark Roseman’s keynote address examined the Bund (Gemeinschaft für ein sozialistisches Leben), a small German life-reform group that was committed to self-improvement through communal life and education. The fascinating talk was based on his forthcoming book, Lives Reclaimed: A Story of Rescue and Resistance in Nazi Germany, and offered a new theoretical model for conceptualizing small acts of assistance, solidarity, and resistance in the context of networks and small groups. During the Nazi years the Bund offered solidarity and assistance to persecuted Jews. Yet Roseman questioned any easy labels, probing the members’ intent, and emphasizing that their lived experience was characterized more by fear of total war rather than of Nazi authorities.

Five scholars whose names will be familiar to readers of the CCHQ offered a nuanced and erudite panel on Christians, Jews, and Judaism. Chaired by Beth Griech-Polelle, the panel addressed different cases of Protestants and Catholics in the 1930s and 40s understood their relationship with Jews and Judaism. Christopher Probst offered a much-needed critical examination of Protestant theologian Adolf Schlatter. Suzanne Brown-Fleming analyzed a collection of correspondence from ‘non-Aryan’ Catholics to the Vatican in the second half of 1938, highlighting these Catholics’ feelings of abandonment and desperation. Kyle Jantzen showcased new research he has done in collaboration with one of his students on the Christian and Missionary Alliance, a dispensationalist evangelical denomination in Canada and the United States. Matthew Hockenos’ paper explored Martin Niemöller and the ‘Jewish Question’ after 1945, emphasizing the change in Niemöller’s thinking over time.

Other papers of interest to this journal included Eileen Groth Lyon’s contextualization of memoirs of priests who had been in Dachau, Kelly Palmer’s investigation of the American Friends Service Committee’s work in France, and Rebecca Carter-Chand’s comparison of the Salvation Army’s assistance to Jews in several western European countries.

This conference, more than some others, offers a platform for scholars at all career stages – this openness has the potential to be its strength going forward. Graduate students presented and senior scholars, such as Martin Rumscheidt, Henry Knight, and David Patterson, offered personal reflections based on their long and distinguished careers in the field. But generational shifts are underway and the future trajectory of the conference is not entirely clear. As the conference organizers look toward next year’s 50th anniversary, they are faced with challenges and opportunities in encouraging the future of Holocaust research.