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Simon Wiesenthal Lectures

 

The Simon Wiesenthal Lecture series has been held in collaboration with the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance (DÖW) and the Institute of Contemporary History at the University of Vienna since 2007, when the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) was still being established. As an important aspect of the task of education on recent academic insights in the fields of Holocaust research and genocide studies, the lecture series has developed into the VWI's education flagship.

 

The lectures take place every six to eight weeks, with renowned scholars presenting the most recent research insights on the Holocaust to a professional audience as well as a broader public. They showcase the impressive spectrum of this discipline, its numerous questions and issues ranging from empirical-analytical historiography to topics of cultural scholarship, and involve young scholars as well as established academics.

 

The Austrian State Archive as our co-operation partner has since June 2010 provided us with the perfect location for our lectures: the rooftop foyer of the “Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv” at Minoritenplatz in Vienna. This location at the rear façade of the Federal Chancellery of the Republic of Austria is symbolic of the reappraisal of the Holocaust in Austria: After all, this history had been marginalised for decades, just like its immediate historical antecedent, Austrian antisemitism, was cut out of history, its appraisal shoved aside for victims and their descendants to deal with. This has only changed in recent times. The Shoah has simultaneously been moving ever closer to the centre of Austrian historical awareness. It has slowly emerged from the repressed periphery and out of the realm of taboo and silence and into the focus of understanding of Austria’s most recent history. Thus, the Simon Wiesenthal Lectures are held at a place that represents the symbolic and real centre of the Republic and is at the same time also an instance of this turn in the Austrian perception of its own history.

 

 

Simon Wiesenthal Lecture
Carolyn J. Dean: Bearing Witness to Genocide. The Adventures of a Moral Concept during and since the Eichmann Trial
   

Thursday, 24. May 2018, 18:30 - 20:00

Dachfoyer des Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchivs, 1010 Wien, Minoritenplatz 1

 

This lecture addresses how “bearing witness to genocide” became a central trope of contemporary Western moral culture. The 1960/61 trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem put victims of genocide centre-stage and affirmed the pre-eminence of the Jewish Holocaust survivor in European and especially American politics and culture. The lecture revisits the Eichmann trial to understand its contribution not simply to bringing the world’s attention to the Jewish dimension of the Holocaust, but also to understanding how the trial shaped the pervasive figure of the Jewish “witness” who marked the Holocaust as a caesura in human history. The Holocaust survivor remained the iconic witness even when, after the 1990s, the witness to genocide became a more generic symbol of suffering humanity in the shadow of all state-sponsored mass violence against persons and cultures. The lecture suggests that only by placing the witness to genocide in a longer historical trajectory can we understand why the Holocaust remains iconic in spite of the occurrence of many other genocides since.

Carolyn J. Dean is Charles J. Stille Professor of History and French at Yale University. She is a cultural and intellectual historian of modern Europe and the author of five books, including The Fragility of Empathy after the Holocaust and Aversion and Erasure: The Fate of the Victim after the Holocaust. Her forthcoming book, From the Survivor to the Activist: Bearing Witness to Genocide in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, will be published with Cornell University Press in early 2019. This lecture is a part of that work, which traces the emergence and transformation of the witness to genocide from inter-war trials in France and Germany, before the crime had a name, until the 1990s, when the witness to genocide appeared in the International Criminal Court and throughout various media.

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The Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) is funded by:

 

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