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Shedding light on genocide and the Holocaust

From eNews, May 27, 2004

Sabina Zimering, a Polish Jew who escaped the Holocaust by posing as a Catholic, couldn't talk about her experiences for a long time after the war ended. Today, however, the soft-spoken retiree regularly shares her tale of deception and survival in classrooms. The following is edited from "Hearts of Darkness," a story in Minnesota magazine about the U's Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (CHGS). "To high school students, the history of 50 or 60 years ago is not much different from 600 years ago," says Zimering, who spent much of her career as an opthamologist with the University's student health services. "But when a survivor comes and tells their story, it's completely different. It makes an impact for a person to come that they can see and talk to." CHGS arranges Zimering's visits to schools, community centers, and colleges. The center, which was founded in 1997 with money from an anonymous donor, offers classes on the Holocaust and the genocides in Turkey, East Asia, Central Africa, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere; sponsors major art exhibits; holds conferences; and provides educational materials to high schools and middle schools. Scholars and students in the center examine the mass killings of the recent past, seeking patterns that militate in favor of genocide and answers to questions such as: What can we do to prevent such large-scale extermination from ever happening again? "We must study these events as a facet of humanity on the presumption that, by doing so, we can learn something from it," says center director Stephen Feinstein. For the complete story by Richard Broderick, as published in the May-June issue of Minnesota, the University of Minnesota Alumni Association magazine, see Hearts of Darkness.

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