The 1939 Society

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Since its establishment in 1993, the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies has presented high quality academic programming in Holocaust studies through support from the 1939 Society, a community of survivors, their relatives, and friends.

Between 2007 and 2010, the Center was the home for a major award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  Beginning with a focus on understandings and representations of the Holocaust in American literature and culture the UCLA/Mellon Program on the Holocaust in American and World Culture, supported a significantly broader array of activities, including:

  • Comparative literary and cultural approaches to the Holocaust
  • The evolution of knowledge of, and disciplinary approaches to, the Holocaust
  • The near destruction and revival of Yiddish language, literature and historiography
  • The “universalization” of the Holocaust and its relation to other instances of genocide

The Center remains deeply committed to continuing a critical engagement of the manifold dimensions of genocide and Holocaust studies through first-rate research, teaching, programming, library holdings and service learning.

1939 Society

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Holocaust Events 2019-2020

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Tehran Children: A Holocaust Refugee Odyssey

Mikhal Dekel (CCNY)

November 21, 2019
Beginning in September 1941 and throughout the war, Central Asia and Iran became places of refuge to hundreds of thousands of Jewish and Catholic Polish citizens. Mikhal Dekel, whose father was a child refugee in Tehran, will recount the research and writing process of this epic yet relatively unknown Holocaust story, told in her new book Tehran Children: A Holocaust Refugee Odyssey. She will discuss the circumstances that brought her father and hundreds of thousands of others from Poland to the Soviet interior, Central Asia, Iran, India and Palestine and talk about the refugees’ experiences in each locale and the mutual impact of refugees and host countries on each other.
The 1939 Society Lecture in Holocaust Studies

Omer Bartov

Anatomy of a Genocide: A Case Study in Mass Murder

Omer Bartov (Brown University)

January 23, 2020
For more than four hundred years, the Eastern European border town of Buczacz – today part of Ukraine – was home to a highly diverse citizenry. It was here that Poles, Ukrainian, and Jews all lived side by side in relative harmony. Then came World War II, and three years later the entire Jewish population had been murdered by German and Ukrainian police, while Ukrainian nationalists eradicated Polish residents.

In his talk, Omer Bartov explains how ethnic cleansing doesn’t occur as is so often portrayed in popular history, with the quick ascent of a vitriolic political leader and the unleashing of military might. It begins in seeming peace, slowly and often unnoticed, with the culmination of pent-up slights and grudges and indignities. The perpetrators aren’t only sociopathic soldiers. They are neighbors and friends and family. They are also middle-aged men who come from elsewhere, often with their wives and children and parents, and settle into a life of bourgeois comfort peppered with bouts of mass murder.
The Annual 1939 Society Lecture in Holocaust Studies

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The Question Concerning Perpetrators

May 14, 2020
The term perpetrator is an ‘essentially contested concept;’ the field of its contestation is perpetrator studies. The recent turn to the perpetrator poses fundamental challenges to the adjacent field of memory studies, which has been largely informed by the figures of the victim and the witness. In this talk I will explore how thinking about perpetrators affects the way we talk about memory and commemoration and how the inherent contradictions of the term perpetrator can be made productive for an understanding of how we remember acts of genocide and other forms of collective violence.
The 1939 Society Lecture in Holocaust Studies

UCLA Faculty Working in Holocaust Studies

Saul P. Friedländer

Distinguished Emeritus Professor of History, a winner of the 2014 Dan David Prize, is author of Nazi Germany and the Jews, vol. 2: The Years of Extermination (2007) and Nazi Germany and the Jews, vol. 1: The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939 (1997).

David N. Myers

Professor and Chair of History, partnered with Prof. Richard Hovannisian to edit Enlightenment and Diaspora: The Armenian and Jewish Cases (1999).

Todd Presner

Director of the UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and Professor of Germanic Languages and Comparative Literature, is author of Mobile Modernity: Germans, Jews, Trains (2007) and A Message in a Bottle: Holocaust Writing on the Edge of Death (in progress).

Michael Rothberg

Professor of English and 1939 Society Samuel Goetz Chair in Holocaust Studies. His latest book is Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization (2009). He is also the author of Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation (2000), and has co-edited The Holocaust: Theoretical Readings (2003) and special issues of the journals Criticism, Interventions, Occasion, and Yale French Studies.

Susan Slyomovics

Professor of Anthropology and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, is the author of How to Accept German Reparations (2014).

Sarah Abrevaya Stein

Professor of History, is the author of Saharan Jews and the Fate of French Algeria (2014) and co-editor of Sephardi Lives: A Documentary History, 1700-1950 (2014).

Graduate Studies

Today, graduate students across the Social Sciences and Humanities Divisions are engaged in researching the Holocaust and genocide in an innovative and interdisciplinary manner, one that is not limited by any singular perspective. Departments with Ph.D. candidates doing Holocaust research include Comparative Literature, English and Italian as well as History.

Recent Dissertations in Holocaust Studies

Germanic Languages

Marc T. Voss, Preventing Auschwitz from Happening Again: A Multinational

Empirical Study on the Contribution of Literature, Poetry, and Film in Representing the Holocaust. 2010.

History

Kierra Crago-Schneider, Jewish ‘Shtetls’ in Postwar Germany: An Analysis of Interactions among Jewish Displaced Persons, Germans, and Americans between 1945 and 1957 in Bavaria. 2013.

Rachel Deblinger, “In a World Still Trembling”: American Jewish Philanthropy and the Shaping of Holocaust Survivor Narratives in Postwar America (1945-1953). 2014

Mark Lewis, International Legal Movements against War Crimes, Terrorism, and Genocide, 1919-1948. 2009.

Slavic Languages & Literatures

Naya Lekht, Narratives of Return: Babii Iar and Holocaust Literature in the Soviet Union. 2013.

Undergraduate Service Learning

Over the past five years, Professor Todd Presner has developed an innovative service learning course in which undergraduate students work closely with survivors on a project to facilitate public knowledge of the Holocaust. The class represents a partnership with the Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles’ Café Europa, the 1939 Society, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, and Hillel at UCLA.

In 2012 and 2013, students in Between History & Memory: Interviewing Holocaust Survivors in the Digital Age created audio tours and digital maps that tell powerful stories of lives uprooted in Europe and reinvented in the U.S. Their final projects allowed the students to become stewards of the survivors’ stories and are now part of the permanent exhibit at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. Students described the class as “a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Undergraduate students may also apply for the Sarah & Eugene Zinn Memorial Scholarship for Holocaust Studies which supports programs of study, internships or research projects that apply the knowledge of the Jewish experience, and especially the lessons of the Holocaust, to contemporary society and social justice issues.

Major Holocaust Programming

In addition to high-caliber seminars, colloquia and the annual 1939 Society Distinguished Lecture in Holocaust Studies, the Center regularly hosts international conferences on the Holocaust, and brings major exhibitions to UCLA. The impact of these programs is great, as all are open to students, faculty and the wider Los Angeles community.


 

ShanghaiJewish Refugees in Shanghai (1933-1941)

(October 2013)

UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, UCLA Hillel, and Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum; cosponsored by UCLA Confucius Institute, UCLA Center for Chinese Studies and Shanghai Foreign Affairs Office of Hongkou District; with the support of the UCLA Departments of History, Germanic Languages and Ethnomusicology; the UCLA Library, Facing History and Ourselves, the Goldrich Family Foundation, the German Consulate General in Los Angeles, the 1939 Society, Stephen O. Lesser and the Natalie Limonick Fund. (Click image to view program pdf)


 

ForbiddenArtFORBIDDEN ART: Camp Art from the Collections of the Auschwitz Memorial

(Jan. 2013)
UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and UCLA Hillel; cosponsored by St. Alban’s Episcopal Church; the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland; the German Consulate General in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, the UCLA Department of Germanic Languages and the UCLA Department of History; with the support of The “1939” Club, the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, the Goldrich Family Foundation and Mimi and Werner Wolfen. (Click image to view program pdf)


 

BulgariaBulgaria and the Holocaust: The Fragility of Goodness

(November 2012)
UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and Hillel at UCLA; cosponsored by UCLA Center for European and Eurasian Studies, UCLA Department of History, UCLA Mickey Katz Chair in Jewish Music and the Consulate General of Bulgaria in Los Angeles; with support of the Bulgarian Jewish Heritage Alliance of America and The “1939” Club. (Click image to view program pdf)


 

HistoryUnlimitedHistory Unlimited: Probing the Ethics of Holocaust Culture

(April 2012)
UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and UCLA Department of History  UCLA Department of History with support from the ‘1939’ Club, and UC Humanities Research Institute. (Click image to view program pdf)

 


 

RecoveredVoicesRecovered Voices: Staging Suppressed Opera of the Early 20th Century

(April 2010)
UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and the OREL Foundation. (Click image to view poster)

 

 


 

AestheticsAesthetics after the Holocaust: Exploring the Problem of Aesthetic Reactions to the Holocaust

(February 2010)
UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and UCLA/Mellon Program on the Holocaust in American and World Culture. (Click image to view program pdf)

 


 

Jews and Judaism in the Work and Biography of Franz Werfel

(October 2010)
UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, Department of Germanic Languages and UCLA Center for European and Eurasian Studies

 


 

mythThe Myth of Silence: Who Spoke about the Holocaust and When

(October 2009)
UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, the ‘1939’ Club, and the UCLA/Mellon Program on the Holocaust in American and World Culture. (Click image to view program pdf)

 


 

FrenchJewishThe Jewish Question in French Philosophy after the Holocaust

(December 2008)
UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies and the UCLA/Mellon Program on the Holocaust in American and World Culture. (Click image to view program pdf)

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