At Oregon State University, we have observed Holocaust Memorial Week every year since 1987. The breadth and the duration of our effort are unmatched in the Pacific Northwest. This program grows from the belief that educational institutions can do much to combat prejudice of all kinds, and to foster respect for the diversity that is America, by promoting an awareness of the Holocaust, perhaps the most horrific historical indicator of the high cost of prejudice. It is particularly important to teach young people about the Holocaust, so that coming generations will not forget the lessons that a preceding one learned at such cost. This emphasis recalls the motto of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: "For the dead and the living, we must bear witness."

WHAT OUR PROGRAM OFFERS THE COMMUNITY:

Each year the Memorial Week Program at Oregon State provides analysis of the Holocaust in its history: the background, the course, and the implications.  A recurrent question that our program seeks to answer is, “How could the Holocaust have happened?”  How, in the twentieth century, in a Europe seemingly quite advanced, could millions of men and women have cooperated in an effort to destroy a people, while so few sought to protect those who were in danger?

From the inception of our program in 1987, we have promoted education on a broad front, not only on campus, but throughout the Corvallis-Albany area and beyond.  When Professor John K. Roth, the noted educator and Holocaust scholar, spoke at OSU in 1994, he commented that this Holocaust Memorial Program had become "nationally known."  Professor Marion Kaplan, who spoke in 1995, volunteered that she knew of no program where she lived -- New York City -- that was as comprehensive or as well integrated as the one at OSU.

The calendar for Holocaust Memorial Week annually provides for 12-15 events, activities, and exhibits – 5-6 on campus, the rest in local schools or elsewhere in the Corvallis area -- and in a typical year 3000-4000 attend one or more events.  Most of the events on campus are filmed, and many of the videos are available at our website (with more to come), so that those who cannot attend have the benefit of them.

Major annual offerings include lectures at OSU by internationally recognized authorities in Holocaust studies or comparative genocide.  Our program also arranges talks on campus and in high schools in Corvallis and vicinity by concentration-camp survivors, liberators, and others who were in some way exposed to the Holocaust. We likewise arrange for age-appropriate events in the middle schools.  The program provides for the screening of films on issues related to the Holocaust and genocide.  Similarly, we sponsor the production of relevant creative works, such as plays and concerts.

In April 2006, for example, we sponsored a series of performances of a Holocaust play, Just One More Dance, at Corvallis High School, and School District 509-J arranged for every middle- and high-school student in our district – 3400 in all – to attend.

While our program focuses on the Holocaust, we also feel an obligation to promote awareness of the general issue of genocide and mass murder, which during the past century has been a recurrent problem, played out in killing campaigns unprecedented in scope.  Since the breadth of the problem is not widely recognized, one day of each Holocaust Memorial Week is set aside for examining, in a variety of events, an episode of genocide or mass murder other than the Holocaust.

2024 EVENTS:

Anti-Mexican Mass Violence and Ethnic Cleansing on the American Great Plains

Presentation by Dr. Joel Zapata

Monday, May 6 | 7 p.m. PT | Learning Innovation Center (LINC) 314 (In-person only)
 
This talk will cover two ethnic cleansings that occurred in the American heartland. The first was an anti-Mexican ethnic cleansing Anglo American settlers launched on the Great Plains during the late nineteenth century. Aiming to expel Mexicans from the grassy center of the country, settlers committed acts of violence that ranged from beatings, robberies, mass rapes, mass killings, to the destruction of entire Mexican communities. However, this ethnic cleansing is missing from the annals of American history. That is because openly white supremist activist historians built an enduring false narrative in which white cattleman and cowboys—iconic figures in American culture—peacefully settled the Great Plains. While ignoring Native Americans and writing against the historical evidence they held, these twentieth-century historians asserted the Great Plains had few Mexican people and that white cattleman were their friends. In building such a false narrative, historians committed a textual ethnic cleansing in which Mexicans’ everyday lives, their continual and profound influence on the American plains, as well as their suffering under Anglo American conquest remained unwritten. 
 
Dr. Zapata is an assistant professor at Oregon State University. His research focuses on US-Mexico borderlands, the Southwest, the South, and the lands where these regions meet. He is completing a manuscript titled The Erased Homeland: Mexicans’ Long Past, the Southern Great Plains, and America’s Future.


The Ravine: A Family, a Photograph, a Holocaust Massacre Revealed

Book discussion by Dr. Wendy Lower

Tuesday, May 7 | 7 p.m. PT | Hybrid

Linus Pauling Science Center (LPSC) 125 and Livestream

Webinar

In her May 7th talk, Dr. Wendy Lower will speak about her most recent publication, The Ravine: A Family, a Photograph, a Holocaust Massacre Revealed (2021). In the book, Lower documents her multi-year effort to investigate a massacre that took place in Miropol, Ukraine in October 1941. Lower utilized photographic evidence, witness testimony, archival records in numerous countries, genealogical records, and forensic science to carefully document the massacre, identify the perpetrators and their accomplices, and seek to restore the personhood of the victims, and document how genocides happen. 
 
Dr. Lower is the John K. Roth Professor of History and George R. Roberts Fellow at Claremont McKenna College and the author of numerous award-winning articles, books chapters, and books. Dr. Lower is one the most preeminent scholars of the Holocaust in the United States today, and her meticulous research has deepened and broadened historical knowledge about this enormously important and complex event. Several organizations have supported Dr. Lower’s work, including the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the German Historical Institute, and the German National Research Foundation.

 

From Nazi Oppression to Holocaust Education: One Family’s Journey.

Public Talk by Eva Aigner, with her daughter Sue Johnson

Wednesday, May 8 | 7 p.m. PT | Hybrid

Learning Innovation Center (LINC) 100 and Livestream

In-Person Registration  Online Viewing Registration

Czech-born Eva Aigner’s close-knit Orthodox family was shattered by Nazi forces when she was merely a child. After the deportation of her father to a slave labor camp, 7-year-old Eva Aigner was confined to the Budapest ghetto with her mother and sister, where they endured starvation and narrowly avoided execution. Following the war, Eva met and married Leslie “Les” Aigner (1929-2021), a fellow Holocaust survivor who had endured Nazi-run ghettos and camps as a teenager. In 1956, Eva and Leslie immigrated to Oregon, where they raised a family and led efforts to further Holocaust education.
 
During her evening talk at OSU, Eva Aigner will share her family’s experiences of deprivation and determination within the Budapest ghetto. Sue Johnson (daughter of Eva and Leslie) will join her mother on stage and recount Leslie Aigner’s story of survival through four Nazi camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau.


Gender Equality as Human Rights,” Social Justice Student Conference

Friday, May 10 | 8 a.m. - 2 p.m. PT | Remote only; live via Zoom

This is the 8th Social Justice Student Conference associated with OSU’s Holocaust Memorial Week. As in past years, this trans-disciplinary international conference offers perspectives based on current student research regarding comparative genocide, war and peace studies, and history, as well as political, cultural, social, and educational theory and praxis with regards to civil and human rights. This year, we will particularly look at gender equality using the framework of human rights.
 
The conference at Oregon State University, in cooperation with Fielding Graduate University, the Climate Dialog Group and Equatorial Voices, will provide a forum for students, practitioners and scholars to share their research and experience with each other at a virtual forum during Holocaust Memorial Week.

 

Thank you to all of our 2024 donors who helped make these events possible:


Beit Am
Oregon Hillel
City of Corvallis
School of Language, Culture, and Society
The Honors College
OSU Provost’s Fund for Excellence
The School of History, Philosophy and Religion
The College of Liberal Arts at OSU
The Center for the Humanities
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
School of Public Policy
Carson Lecture Series
Individual donations to OSU Foundation’s Holocaust Memorial fund