Panelists stress value of Holocaust accounts

first_imgExperts discussed the significance and incomprehensibility of the horrors of the Holocaust  in modern day studies Thursday in Doheny Memorial Library.History · Panelist Stephen Smith discusses the value of learning from the stories of Holocaust survivors Thursday in the Doheny Memorial Library. – Ralf Cheung | Daily TrojanThe panel discussion, hosted by the USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study and the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute was moderated by the Norman Lear Professor of Entertainment, Media and Society in Annenberg Martin Kaplan.The time of the panel was particularly appropriate as Sunday night begins the 24-hour period of Yom HaShoah, the day each year among Jewish people remember the Holocaust.The panel elaborated on the prevailing relevancy of the Holocaust 68 years later.“The idea now behind genocide studies isn’t just descriptive, but prescriptive,” Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni said. “The enormity of what happened during the Holocaust — the chilling efficiency, the numbers involved — allows it to be an important template and window to understand genocide broadly conceived.”The panelists agreed that the survivor testimonies are vital to the way we understand the Shoah and all its aspects. To date, the Shoah Foundation has collected nearly 52,000 survivor testimonies.Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education Executive Director Stephen D. Smith emphasized the value of each individual’s story.“What you notice when you look at them one at a time is that they’re all different,” Smith said. “So, we’re all quite eager to find, ‘What’s the trope here? What’s the single narrative that we’re going to feel comfortable living with the next few hundred years?’ And the answer is, if we do find one, it’s going to be the wrong one, because the answer is found in the granularity of the individualities.”One of the most captivating moments of the panel discussion revolved around the Shoah as not just a collection of historical narratives but one that is living.“The Holocaust is also about us. It’s not just that we can essentialize as something evil that isn’t human, that isn’t relevant, that isn’t about us,” Soni said. “Storytelling gives us a powerful window to understand the Holocaust from the perspective of the victims, but I also think that we have the opportunity to tell new stories about ourselves and about the world.”Soni compared the importance of learning history to the efforts being made by students on campus to understand modern-day issues.“What I see on our college campus is students who are telling stories of reconciliation and engagement,” Soni said. “I’ve seen students who advocate for Israel and for Palestine come together and think constructively about how they can work together on certain issues.”Soni said the lessons learned from telling the stories of individuals in the Holocaust could influence the way people choose to tell the stories about humanity today.“I think this is an incredible opportunity for students, for the university in a global diasporic context, to really tell new stories about ourselves — to tell new stories about the world,” Soni said. “It’s not just stories from a historical perspective, but the way we tell stories about ourselves today.”Luke Phillips, a freshman majoring in international relations and history, said the event highlighted the importance of viewing the Holocaust from a different moral and narrative perspective.“The main reason I came here was to get a different moral version than what I’ve heard from mass media,” Phillips said. “It brings to my mind the question of [whether this] is the greatest evil ever perpetrated, objectively, or is this really a thing of the times — that every age has its own atrocities?”last_img

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