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Holocaust Education Is Goal Of Summer Institute

June 24, 2008 | by Wendy Leopold
EVANSTON, Ill. --- A University of Florida historian who has done groundbreaking research on homophobia during the Third Reich this week (June 22 to 27) is helping Illinois middle and secondary school teachers incorporate Holocaust education into their teaching as part of a Northwestern University program.

The State of Illinois mandates that study of the Holocaust is included in 7th to 12th grade curricula. The Summer Institute on the Holocaust and Holocaust Education is presented by Northwestern in partnership with the Holocaust Educational Foundation.

Geoffrey Giles, author of "Students and National Socialism in Germany," will lead the Summer Institute. The tuition-free program, made possible with support from the Holocaust Education Foundation -- which will involve 18 teachers from middle and high schools throughout Illinois and Wisconsin -- will take place on Northwestern's Evanston campus.

"The objective is to promote conversation about a vast and difficult subject," said Stephanie Teterycz, director of Northwestern's Summer Session and Special Programs. "While lots of information and resources will be provided over five days, the program's real goal is to investigate frameworks for understanding a very nuanced, complex topic."

Participants will take part in presentations and discussions on the purposes of Holocaust study, types of anti-Semitism, the Holocaust in literature and film, age-appropriate material and issues about memory and memorializing a painful part of world history, among other topics.

In addition to lectures and group discussion, the 18 teachers will devote a significant amount of time to journal writing and reflection on their writing. Holocaust survivors Chris Browning (who last week received an honorary degree from Northwestern) and George Brent of Wilmette also are part of the program.

Required reading includes "Night," Elie Weisel's harrowing personal story of life and death in Germany's concentration camps; "Atlas of the Holocaust," Martin Gilbert's history of the Nazi attempt to annihilate the Jews of Europe; the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "Maus II," which, in comic book style, recounts the struggle of author Art Spiegelman's father to survive the Holocaust and that struggle's ramifications on his family.

Giles, a long-time professor of history at the University of Florida, recently published an article analyzing the landmark 1935 court case that allowed Nazi Germany's Supreme Court to change the law on homosexuality.

Giles' work reveals that what became known as a "Nazi" law was, in fact, toughened not by Nazi party stooges but by mainstream lawyers. It is part of a recent trend in scholarship exploring the contribution to the Holocaust not just by fanatical Nazis but also by the mainstream professions.

For information about the Summer Institute, made possible by a generous gift from the Holocaust Educational Foundation, contact the Northwestern University Office of Summer Session and Special Programs at 847-491-3458 and summernu@northwestern.edu.