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Wpg Free Press: U.S. Holocaust museum, local universities join forces to explore connections between Nazi atrocities, residential school trauma

October 23, 2019 — 

As the Winnipeg Free Press reports: 


…[This] week, the museum, along with the U of W and the University of Manitoba, will present a two-day educational forum, Traversing Landscapes of Violence: Nazi Germany and the Canadian Prairies.

The forum, which kicks off Wednesday, marks the first time that the museum has taken this format outside the United States. It will feature two days of workshops for high school and university students, as well as panel discussions for educators and the public, led by Holocaust and Indigenous-issues scholars from across North America.

The forum’s goals are twofold. One, it looks to tackle the issue of education: how do you teach horror in ways that connect, without inflicting more trauma? The second piece is part of a long and ongoing discussion: what can we learn from putting scholarship on these two events in conversation with each other?

This is a delicate question. For decades, scholars wrestled with how to contextualize the Holocaust. Was it a unique horror, inextricably defined by its place and time, exceptional on all of its facets? Or, in its foundations, did it contain the same poison seeds that fed genocides elsewhere in the world and elsewhere in history?

If it’s the latter, explains University of Manitoba peace and conflict studies professor Adam Muller, who will moderate one of the forum events, then there are things we can learn from exploring them together. In recent years, there has been more movement along those lines in scholarship.

“There’s at least a case to be made that there’s something to be learned by putting these two things side by side,” Muller says. “We know Hitler referenced the western expansion of Europeans in the Americas… he talked about the success the North Americans had in disempowering Indigenous people.

“The connection is there. But the worry is, if we think that one caused the other, or that they’re identical in some deep way, we lose some of the historical nuance or specificity that we need to keep in view. I think we can learn from the comparison, but we have to do so in a way that’s respectful of the distinctness of these experiences.”

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