Middle Tennessee State University’s Biannual Holocaust Studies Conference returns September 22nd and 23rd. This year’s conference is the first since Covid interrupted plans in 2020. The event draws scholars from around the world from diverse disciplines to share their research with other academics, the university’s students, and the general public. The theme is Teaching the Holocaust Today, but papers will be presented on a wide range of topics related to the Holocaust. Dr. Elyce Helford is a Professor of English, Director of Jewish and Holocaust Studies Minor, and Co-chair of the conference. She says, “Learning about the Holocaust provides a vital touchstone for understanding why it is important to remember the genocide of millions of people. Interest combined with lack of knowledge can lead to denialism, misinformation, and more hatred.”
The two-day conference includes featured and keynote speakers. According to Helford the highlight of each conference is hearing from a Holocaust survivor. This year child survivor Sonja Dubois will discuss her 2020 memoir Hidden Child: The Netherlands. The book details her harrowing life story beginning from the age of two when her parents boarded a train in Holland without her, bound for Auschwitz and certain death. Helford says stories like Dubois’ provide valuable lessons that resonate today. “By delving into stories like this, it helps us understand hate crimes and antisemitism today, as well as suffering that goes beyond the Holocaust.” She says modern day research continues to uncover new information about the extent of concentration camp network created by the Nazis. “We’re finding there were hundreds, maybe thousands of camps, many very small. Some were little more than farms where Jews were forced to live in barns with minimal food and basic comforts, in order to provide slave labor.”
Included in the programs are presentations of research by scholars and students. Topics range from the effects of the Holocaust on survivor children, to how to handle memorials to the Holocaust, to the use of time travel in Holocaust study. In addition, there are lectures and panels about the experiences of the millions of non-Jews who were also victims, such as gay victims and other persecuted groups. Helford says, “There is a fantastic combination of academic panels to share new ways of understanding the Holocaust and antisemitism.”
The Holocaust Studies Conference includes many programs that are open to the public, with many offered for free to teachers and students. For more information, visit: https://mtsu.edu/holocaust_studies/conference.php or email firstname.lastname@example.org.