The Abiding Impact of the NurembergTrials

Posted on August 19th, 2011 by

A blog post by Education Director Deborah Cardin.

On August 8, 1945, the Allied victors in World War II entered into an agreement to establish the Nuremberg Trials in an attempt to carry out justice against perpetuators of the Holocaust. 61 years later, the impact of the Nuremberg Trials can be seen in today’s headlines about trials against notorious genocide masterminds. Although genocide was not yet a classified charge (indeed it was not until later that the term was accepted as a criminal charge in international law thanks to the extraordinary efforts of Rafael Lempkin who coined the term), the Nuremberg Trails marked the first time that an international tribune was convened to try “crimes against humanity.” (For more detailed information about the Nuremberg Trials, check out the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website: http:///www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/focus/warcrimetrials/)

Participants at the Jewish Museum of Maryland and Baltimore Jewish Council’s recent Summer Teachers Institute, The Holocaust: Persecution to Nuremberg, recently spent a full day exploring the impact and significance of these trials.

According to University of Pennsylvania law professor, Harry Reicher, an expert on the topic of human rights law and our speaker for the morning, the Nuremberg Trials were significant for many reasons. He cited the efforts of chief prosecutor Robert Jackson who advocated on behalf ensuring that defendants would receive a fair trial as evidence of the high moral plane upon which the trials were based. Furthermore, the Nuremberg Trials also set a precedent by placing 22 defendants (including leading figures in the Nazi establishment who were still alive and in captivity) on trial as individuals as opposed to specific governments.

Through documentary film clips – as well as through the use of clips from the award-winning dramatization Judgement at Nuremberg (check out http:///en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judgment_at_Nuremberg to learn more about this film) – Professor Reicher kept attendees riveted as he discussed important legal concepts that served as the trial’s basis.

Among these was the importance of collecting enormous amounts of documentary evidence, and prosecutors gathered extensive documentation for evidence. This proved to be one of their most enduring legacies as prosecutors foresaw the need to combat future efforts at Holocaust denial.

In the afternoon teachers had additional opportunities to learn strategies for teaching about the Nuremberg Trials in their classroom. At Towson University, Dr. Nicole Dombrowski gave a presentation where she shared information about an archival collection housed at TowsonUniversitythat includes extensive primary sources from the Trials gathered by Paul Gantt, a member of the US armed forces who was worked with Nuremberg prosecutors. (To access the Paul Gnatt Collection and to make use of the lesson plans developed by Dr. Dombrowski and her students, check out http:///wwwnew.towson.edu/nurembergpapers/)

Teacher response to this day of our Institute was overwhelming as evidenced by the following comments on program surveys:

  • Thank you for the dedicating the last day to the Nuremberg Trials. It was great to examine one facet in depth at the end.
  • All of the information on the Nuremberg Trials was great. It was a lot of information but it definitely needs to be seen, heard, and remembered
  • Thank you, this was wonderful. This is my second year, and I think what you are doing is fabulous. I promised last year to incorporate what I learned into my classes, and I have. I will keep working…
  • Liked the theme of the day. Excellent speakers. Knowledgeable speakers.
  • A wonderful experience for me!
  • I am learning so much…so much information to explain in such a short time. Again, I wish we had more time. I have a much clearer understanding of how these trials evolved and their importance in the international courts even today.

The establishment of a permanent international tribune with an independent prosecutor is a legacy that has endured to the present day. Furthermore, the charge of “crimes against humanity” has been used as justification for trials in more contemporary instances of genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia.

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Lives Lost, Lives Found and Chapter Two

Posted on May 27th, 2011 by

Chapter Two is an educational program of the Associated, designed for women. Participants learn about themselves, are educated about the Associated and its agencies, and take part in experiential learning and hands-on social action.  Today our group visited the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  We had the opportunity to participate in an educational program (usually offered to school groups) based on the JMM’s past exhibit, Lives Lost, Lives Found.

Herta Griffel and her foster family, 1942. Courtesy of Herta Griffel Baitch, L2003.75.14

We examined reproductions of photographs that had been on display in the exhibit.  We were asked to use critical thinking skills to make educated guesses based on what was observed. We had time to observe a photo and answer questions regarding it which included the setting, the individuals and the story.  We concluded by writing a caption.

While stationed in Europe, Max Knisbacher visited relatives who had survived the Holocaust, 1945. Courtesy of Jeffrey Knisbacher, L2003.64.4

In total, five photos were presented.  We were told that there were no wrong answers, to be open minded, and look carefully at the images.  Clearly, we made some wrong guesses but the exercise was stimulating and enjoyed by all.

Relatives saying goodbye to members of the Cohen Family as they leave Holland, July 1939. Courtesy of Rudolph Cohen, L2003.63.3

We met the Weil Family of Freiberg, Germany in 1925.  We observed a photo from the US Holocaust Museum that showed Jews being forced to scrub the street in Vienna while crowds watched in 1938.  We saw relatives saying goodbye to members of the Cohen family as they departed by ship from Holland in 1939.  There was a picture of Herta Griffel, a child whose mother sent her to America by herself at the age of 7, with her foster family.  Lastly, we witnessed Max Knisbacher, a survivor of the Holocaust, who became an American soldier, and while in Paris in 1945 he was reunited with his half sister and niece.

 

The Weil Family of Freiberg, Germany, on vacation in 1925. Courtesy of Julius Mandel and Brenda Weil Mandel,L2002.103.1152

One of our group members’ mother was featured in the DVD that we viewed following the exercise and the mother of a friend of some members was also featured.  Someone else was known to others as a fellow synagogue congregant.  We learned not only of individual stories of the Holocaust but were reminded of how far reaching, personal and local the survivor’s stories really are.

 

A blog post by Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen.

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Lessons of the Shoah

Posted on May 18th, 2011 by

 

It is a Tuesday night, and a group of teens are gathered in a conference room at the JCC, laughing, talking with one another, and eating pizza. Suddenly the room grows quiet as Holocaust survivor Rachel Bodner begins talking about her experiences as a hidden child during the Holocaust. Students listen intently as she shares her story, and then ask her questions.

students listening to Holocaust survivor, Rachel Bodner

As Mrs. Bodner concludes her talk, a second speaker, George Mushayuma speaks about his experiences during a more recent instance of tragedy as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

students listening to George Mushayuma

Lessons of the Shoah students with Mrs. Bodner and Mr. Mushayuma

While learning about the Holocaust and contemporary genocide is being taught in classrooms throughout the Maryland, what is unique about this particular evening is that the audience includes teens from several different schools. These teens have elected to participate in Lessons of the Shoah, an interfaith initiative bringing together Catholic and Jewish high school students for a year-long series of programs that fosters dialogue and understanding among high school students of diverse backgrounds. Currently in its third year, and jointly sponsored by the JMM and Baltimore Jewish Council, students spend evenings learning with one another about basic tenets central to Judaism and Catholicism.

students listening as Father Robert Albright presents a talk on the Parting of the Way

While several sessions feature speakers, the emphasis is on having students share with one another their own personal reflections of the importance of faith in their lives. Field trips to the Jewish Museum of Maryland and Baltimore Basilica (http:///www.baltimorebasilica.org/)  provide additional opportunities for exploring ritual objects and sacred space. The goal of these programs is to encourage teens to learn from one another as they have opportunities to meet, socialize, and study together.

book group discussion on teen diaries

Students learn about the Holocaust, by reading diaries of teens who perished, listening to and meeting Holocaust survivors, and by visiting the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (www.ushmm.org). Discussions and lessons about the Holocaust serve as a tool for inspiring participants to take action against contemporary injustices, and students work together on a group project that seeks to raise attention about a contemporary issue. Last year’s group decided to focus their attention on contemporary genocide in Darfur and took up a collection for shoes to send to victims. This year, the group decided to band together to combat bullying – a topic that has been in the news lately due to several prominent news stories about the tragic consequences of teens harassing their peers. At each session, students get together to brainstorm ways for raising awareness of this problem and to gather resources to advocate against bullying in schools.

The program culminates with student participation in the community Yom Hashoah program. Participants shared their group project with guests and walked in the ceremony’s processional. It was touching to see how much the program meant to the teens after spending the year learning about the Holocaust and the importance of tolerance.

On Tuesday, May 17, students, parents, and teachers gathered at Emmanuel Monastery for our final program celebrating their successful completion of the program. Students shared their reflections of what they have gained by participating in the Lessons of the Shoah as well as their future plans.

Congratulations to the Lessons of the Shoah class of 2011. We enjoyed spending the year getting to know you and are proud of your accomplishments!

To learn more about Lessons of the Shoah, contact Deborah Cardin at (410) 732-6400 x236 / dcardin@jewishmuseummd.org.

 

A blog post by Education Director Deborah Cardin.

 

 

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