Coming to grips with a dark past

This is a 23-year-old Czech victim of dysentery in the Nazi Concentration Camp at Flossenberg, Germany, found by 97th Division of U.S. 1st Army. (photos courtesy OSU Holocaust Memorial Program)
This is a 23-year-old Czech victim of dysentery in the Nazi Concentration Camp at Flossenberg, Germany, found by 97th Division of U.S. 1st Army. (photos courtesy OSU Holocaust Memorial Program)

The annual Holocaust Memorial Week at Oregon State University brings world-renowned scholars to campus to discuss the subject of: “Germans and the Holocaust: Then and Now,” April 20-24.

The events are centered around the questions surrounding Germans’ participation and leadership in the Holocaust, as well as talks on how the Holocaust has shaped the identity of modern Germans.

All the main events on campus are free and open to the public.

“How the Nazis Made Anti-Semitism Respectable”

Claudia Koonz

Claudia Koonz

7:30 p.m. Monday, April 20,  C&E Auditorium, LaSells Stewart Center, 26th St. & Western Blvd., Corvallis. Public talk – Claudia Koonz, professor of history at Duke University.

Koonz will deal with the question, “How did it happen that Germany, the nation celebrated as the home of philosophers and poets, became the site of an unprecedented drive to exterminate every Jew in Europe?” She will investigate the moral transformation that prepared most Germans to participate in crimes against Jews with impunity. Using images from films, humor magazines, racial science textbooks, and mass market print media, she will examine the sophisticated persuasive techniques that prepared ordinary Germans to ostracize, blackmail, rob, and expel fellow citizens.

“The Holocaust’s Role in the Identity of Today’s Germans”

Rolf Schuette

Rolf Schuette


7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 21, Memorial Union Lounge, 26th & Jefferson Way, Corvallis. Public talk – Rolf Schuette:
Rolf Schuette, the German Consul-General in San Francisco, has a long and distinguished career in the German diplomatic service, having served in Russia, in Israel, and at the United Nations, among other posts.  He is also well known as a speaker on human rights issues.  He has worked extensively to promote German-Jewish dialogue. He will address the efforts taken, especially since the 1980s, by German governments and communities to atone. Germany is now the site of thousands of memorials to victims of the Holocaust, and schoolchildren are educated about the massed assault on European Jewry.

“A Personal Account of the White Rose”

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 22, Austin Auditorium, LaSells Stewart Center.Public talk – George Wittenstein.
The White Rose consisted of a small number of friends, most of them medical students in the University of Hamburg, who dared to speak out against the Nazi regime during the war. Unlike other anti-Nazi groups in Germany – and there were few of them in any case – the White Rose denounced the persecution and killing of the Jews. During 1942, the members spread their views through a series of pamphlets. When the government discovered the identity of those who were involved in writing and distributing the pamphlets, it moved against them, and six were executed.

George Wittenstein

George Wittenstein

Wittenstein was actively involved with the White Rose and narrowly escaped Germany with his life. He subsequently traveled to the United States and went on to become an important practitioner and professor of cardiovascular surgery. Wittenstein will discuss the history of the White Rose.  No one alive today is as well qualified to lecture on the White Rose as is Wittenstein, and his appearance at OSU is historic.

“Sophie Scholl: The Final Days”

7 p.m. Thursday, April 23, Kelley Engineering Center, room 1001, 26th St. & Campus Way, Corvallis. Film showing. Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans were central figures in a group that resisted the Nazis under the name of “The White Rose.” Sophie was apprehended and tried for treason in early 1943, and was beheaded in February of that year. The courage that she showed, even during her trial and her last hours, has helped to accord her an almost legendary status, especially in Germany and Europe, as reflected in the choice of a major German magazine to designate her “the greatest woman of the Twentieth Century.”

“Sophie Scholl: The Final Days” won a number of awards after its release in 2005 and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.  It will be shown at OSU in its original Geran, with subtitles.

Additional information on OSU’s Holocaust Memorial Week program is available online at:

~ Angela Yeager

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