Holocaust Education Today: Confronting Extremism, Hate, and Denial
11/07/2021 - 11/10/2021
About the Conference
We are living in a time of rising nationalism, ideological extremism, scapegoating of ethnic and religious minorities, and political violence. Media are increasingly being used to promote propaganda and to deny truth. This toxic culture is in many ways reminiscent of social environment of the inter-war period in which fascism arose. Indeed, the construct of “fascism” provides the conceptual link between the era of the Holocaust and our present time.

The characteristics of fascism include:
  • Nationalist ideology and the appeal to an idealized past
  • Erosion of democratic norms, such as freedom of the press and the courts
  • Ideologies of hate directed at minoritized populations
  • The use violence to achieve political ends
  • Systematic employment of propaganda and disinformation
  • Support by private businesses and economic elites
  • Cult of the leader
  • Mysticism and supernaturalism.
All of these elements were present in the political culture of Nazi Germany, and are assuming greater prominence in many nations today, including in the United States. In conference sessions, extremism will be examined both in the period between the world wars and today. In the process, we will consider in what ways and to what degree the fascism of the mid-20 th Century can provide a template for understanding and confronting extremism today.



In 2008, New York philanthropist Ethel LeFrak made a generous donation to Seton Hill University’s National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education (NCCHE) to endow The Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference, and create The Ethel LeFrak Student Scholars of the Holocaust Fund.

The triennial Holocaust Education Conference of the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education – now known as The Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference – seeks to enhance Catholic-Jewish understanding by “educating the educators” in the hope of reaching
the whole of humanity. The Conference equips teachers and faculty members, especially those at Catholic institutions, to enter into serious discussions on the causes of antisemitism and the Holocaust, and to write and deliver papers that shape appropriate curricular responses at Catholic institutions and other educational sites. The Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference Endowment Fund supports the appearance at the conference of national and international speakers, sponsors the art, music or film events that accompany the conference, and underwrites the publication of The Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference Proceedings.

The Ethel LeFrak Student Scholars Fund provides annual scholarships to support Seton Hill University student participation in the graduate- level Catholic Institute at Yad Vashem in Israel, The Ethel LeFrak Holocaust Education Conference and the Genocide and Holocaust Studies Program. In addition, The Ethel LeFrak Outstanding Student Scholar of the Holocaust Award in the amount of $1,000 is presented annually to the Seton Hill University student who writes a paper that best demonstrates a keen and advanced understanding of the lessons of the Holocaust.

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Agenda
07
Welcome Session
Welcome Session

We are living in a time of rising nationalism, ideological extremism, scapegoating of ethnic and religious minorities, and political violence. Media are increasingly being used to promote propaganda and to deny truth. This toxic culture is in many ways reminiscent of social environment of the inter-war period in which fascism arose.

Indeed, the construct of “fascism” provides the conceptual link between the era of the Holocaust and our present time. The characteristics of fascism include:

  • Nationalist ideology and the appeal to an idealized past

  • Erosion of democratic norms, such as freedom of the press and the courts

  • Ideologies of hate directed at minoritized populations

  • The use violence to achieve political ends

  • Systematic employment of propaganda and disinformation

  • Support by private businesses and economic elites

  • Cult of the leader

  • Mysticism and supernaturalism.

All of these elements were present in the political culture of Nazi Germany, and are assuming greater prominence in many nations today, including in the United States. In conference sessions, extremism will be examined both in the period between the world wars and today. In the process, we will consider in what ways and to what degree the fascism of the mid-20th Century can provide a template for understanding and confronting extremism today.

Opening Session Agenda:

Opening Prayer, by Sister Maureen O'Brien, Vice President for Mission & Identity, Seton Hill University

Welcome, by Dr. Mary C. Finger, President, Seton Hill University
Greetings, by Francine A. LeFrak, Founder, The Same Sky Foundation
Presentation of the 2021 Ethel LeFrak Outstanding Student of the Holocaust Award to Kim Pate, graduate student at Seton Hill University
Conference Overview, by Dr. James Paharik, Director, National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education
Start
2:00 PM
End
3:00 PM
Speakers
Dr. Mary C. Finger
Francine A. LeFrak
Sister Maureen O'Brien
Kim Pate
Keynote: Jesus’s Beatitudes in His Time and Ours
Keynote: Jesus’s Beatitudes in His Time and Ours
Start
3:00 PM
End
4:00 PM
Speakers
Amy-Jill Levine
08
Lessons from the Holocaust: Understanding the Dynamics of Hate Crime and White Supremacy in the U.S. Today
Lessons from the Holocaust: Understanding the Dynamics of Hate Crime and White Supremacy in the U.S. Today
Start
11:00 AM
End
12:15 PM
Speakers
Alexander Alvarez
Antisemitism Before and After World War II
Antisemitism Before and After World War II
Start
3:00 PM
End
4:15 PM
Speakers
Suzanne Brown-Fleming
Beth Griech-Polelle
Bradley Hart
Advancing Holocaust Studies: Words Have Power
Advancing Holocaust Studies: Words Have Power
Start
7:00 PM
End
8:15 PM
Speakers
Robert Ericksen
Carol Rittner
John K. Roth
09
Fascism and Myth
Fascism and Myth
Start
11:00 AM
End
12:15 PM
Speakers
Adam Enders
Eric Kurlander
Transnational Ethnonationalism between 1918 and 1945: The Role of Religion
Transnational Ethnonationalism between 1918 and 1945: The Role of Religion
Start
3:00 PM
End
4:15 PM
Speakers
Victoria Barnett
Rebecca Carter-Chand
Rev. Kevin Spicer
Kristallnacht Commemoration
Kristallnacht Commemoration
Start
7:00 PM
End
8:15 PM
10
Genocide and Crisis in the Muslim World
Genocide and Crisis in the Muslim World
Start
11:00 AM
End
12:15 PM
Speakers
Mehnaz Afridi
Georgette Bennett
Rethinking the Death Marches and the End of Nazi Terror
Rethinking the Death Marches and the End of Nazi Terror
Start
3:00 PM
End
4:15 PM
Speakers
Sarah Johnson
Jared Krol
John Spurlock
Closing Presentation: Fratelli Tutti: A Call to Unity in a Fractured World
Closing Presentation: Fratelli Tutti: A Call to Unity in a Fractured World
Start
7:00 PM
End
8:00 PM
Speakers
Father Walter Kedjierski
Speakers

Mehnaz Afridi

Dr. Afridi is Professor of Religious studies and Director of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College. She teaches courses on Islam, the Holocaust, Genocide, comparative religion, and Feminism. Her recent book Shoah through Muslim Eyes (Academic Studies Press, 2017) was nominated for the Yad Vashem International Book Prize for Holocaust Research and the Jacob Schnitzer Book Award. She is currently working on a book, The Wounded Muslim, (Lexington Books, forthcoming) and a co-edited book on “International Approaches to the Holocaust”, (Nebraska University Press, forthcoming). In 2019, she was awarded the Costello Award for teaching excellence in the School of Liberal Arts at Manhattan College.

Dr. Afridi obtained her Ph.D. from University of South Africa, her M.A. and B.A. from Syracuse University.

Alexander Alvarez

Dr. Alex Alvarez is a Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northern Arizona University. From 2001 until 2003 he was the founding Director of the Martin-Springer Institute for Teaching the Holocaust, Tolerance, and Humanitarian Values. In 2017-2018, he served as the Ida E. King Distinguished Visiting Scholar in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Stockton University. His main areas of study are in the areas of collective and interpersonal violence. His first book, Governments, Citizens, and Genocide, was published by Indiana University Press in 2001. His other books include Murder American Style (2002), Violence: The Enduring Problem (2007, 2013 2nd ed., 2017 3rd ed., 2020 4th ed.), Genocidal Crimes (2009), and Native America and the Question of Genocide (2014). His latest book, Unstable Ground: Climate Change, Conflict, and Genocide was published in July 2017 with Rowman & Littlefield. He has also served as an editor for the journal Violence and Victims, was a founding co-editor of the journal Genocide Studies and Prevention, is an Editor for Genocide Studies International, and has served as an editorial board member for a number of journals. He has been invited to speak and present his research across the U.S. and in various countries such as Austria, Bosnia, Canada, England, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

Ronet Bachman, PhD

Ronet Bachman, PhD, is s Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Delaware. She is coauthor of Statistical Methods for Crime and Criminal Justice, coauthor of The Practice of Research in Criminology and Criminal Justice, co-editor of Explaining Crime and Criminology: Essays in Contemporary Criminal Theory. In addition, she is author of Death and Violence on the Reservation; coauthor of Stress, Culture, and Aggression in the United States; and coauthor of Murder American Style as well as numerous articles and papers that examine the epidemiology and etiology of violence, with a particular emphasis on women, the elderly, and minority populations. Her most recent federally funded research examines the desistance trajectories of drug-involved offenders 10 years after release from prison using a mixed-method design.

Victoria Barnett

Dr. Victoria J. Barnett served as Director of the Programs on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum from 2004-2019. She was also one of the general editors of the 17-volume Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, the complete English edition of Bonhoeffer’s writings published by Fortress Press. She has lectured and taught extensively about the history of the Protestant churches in Nazi Germany and during the Holocaust. Her books include Bystanders: Conscience and Complicity during the Holocaust (2000) and For the Soul of the People: Protestant Protest against Hitler (1992). Her most recent book is “After Ten Years”: Dietrich Bonhoeffer for Our Times.

Georgette Bennett

Dr. Georgette Bennett is an award-winning sociologist, widely published author, popular lecturer, and former broadcast journalist. An innovative and entrepreneurial leader, she is an active philanthropist focusing on conflict resolution and intergroup relations. In 2013, Bennett founded the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees (MFA) which has since worked to raise awareness and mobilize more than $170 million of humanitarian aid benefitting more than 2.2 million Syrian war victims. In 1992, she founded the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, the go-to organization for combating religious prejudice. She is also a co-founder of the Global Covenant of Religions/Global Covenant Partners, which focuses on delegitimizing the use of religion to justify violence and extremism. Bennett served in the U.S. State Department Religion and Foreign Policy initiative’s working group on conflict mitigation, tasked with developing recommendations for the U.S. Secretary of State on countering religion-based violence. She served as Chair of the Jewish Funders Network and serves on the Boards of the International Rescue Committee. In addition, she is an Advisory Board member for the Milstein Center on Interreligious Dialogue at the Jewish Theological Seminary. In November 2019, Bennett was awarded the 2020 AARP Purpose Prize for her work with MFA. In July of this year, she was one of Forbes’ 50 over 50 Women of Impact.

Suzanne Brown-Fleming

Dr. Brown-Fleming is author of The Holocaust and Catholic Conscience: Cardinal Aloisius Muench and the Guilt Question in Germany (2006), among other books. She has appeared on Cable News Network (CNN), EWTN Global Catholic Television Network, and several documentaries, including Holy Silence (2019), which premiered nationwide on PBS television in 2020. She is an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Jewish Civilization in Washington, D.C.

Rebecca Carter-Chand

Rebecca Carter-Chand is Director of the Programs on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust in the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

She is the co-editor with Kevin Spicer of, Religion, Ethnonationalism, and Antisemitism in the Era of the Two World Wars, forthcoming with McGill-Queen’s University Press in January 2021. Other publications include, “A Relationship of Convenience or Conviction?: The International Salvation Army and the German Heilsarmee in the Nazi Era,” Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte 34 (2021) and “The Politics of Being Apolitical: The Salvation Army and the Nazi Revolution,” Word & Deed: A Journal of Salvation Army Theology and Ministry 18, 2 (2016).

Rebecca serves on the editorial boards of Contemporary Church History Quarterly and the journal Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte.

Robert Ericksen

Robert P Ericksen is the Kurt Mayer Chair of Holocaust Studies Emeritus at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA. He succeeded Christopher Browning, who had departed for UNC Chapel Hill in 1999, so that interest in Holocaust Studies already had a very strong start. He then helped create a program with an annual conference since 2007, a series of Holocaust courses across the curriculum, and a minor in Holocaust Studies.

Ericksen published Theologians under Hitler: Gerhard Kittel, Paul Althaus and Emanuel Hirsch (Yale, 1985), a book also made into a film by Steven D. Martin (Theologians under Hitler, 2005), showed on PBS, in university courses, and with 700,000 views on a YouTube version. He also wrote Complicity in the Holocaust: Churches and Universities in Nazi Germany (Cambridge UP, 2012), and co-edited with Susannah Heschel Betrayal: German Churches and the Holocaust (Fortress Press, 1999). He is co-editor with Bernard Levinson of The Betrayal of the Humanities: The Transformation of the University During the Third Reich, to be published by Indiana University Press in September 2022.

He has been on the Board of Editors of Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte since it was founded in 1988, and on the Board of Editors of an online journal, the Contemporary Church History Quarterly, since it developed as a sequel to a monthly newsletter created by Professor John Conway of the University of British Columbia.

Ericksen earned his PhD in history in 1980 under Professor James Joll at the London School of Economics. He is Chair of the Committee on Ethics, Religion and the Holocaust at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, having served in that position since 2012. He lives in Gig Harbor, WA, with his wife, Dr. Judith Meyers, and a goldendoodle named Luna.

Adam Enders

Adam Enders is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Louisville where he studies the political psychology of conspiracy theories and misinformation, the measurement of racial prejudice, and mass polarization.

Dr. Mary C. Finger

President, Seton Hill University

Beth Griech-Polelle

Beth A. Griech-Polelle received her Ph.D. from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey in 1999. She is currently the Kurt Mayer Chair of Holocaust Studies at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. Prior to teaching at PLU, she was Associate Professor of History at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. She is the author of Bishop von Galen: National Socialism and Roman Catholicism (Yale University Press, 2002). Her most recent book, Antisemitism and the Holocaust: Language, Rhetoric, and Traditions of Hatred (Bloomsbury Publishing) was published in 2016 and will be appearing again as a revised and expanded edition in 2021. She has also edited or co-edited two books, authored several articles and numerous book reviews. She has also served as the guest editor for “The Journal of Jesuit Studies” special anniversary edition on the Russian Revolution and the Jesuits.

Bradley Hart

Bradley W. Hart is an Associate Professor at California State University, Fresno. He is the author or co-author of three books, including the award-winning Hitler's American Friends: The Third Reich's Supporters in the United States. His previous works include a biography of a Nazi-sympathizing British anthropologist and a textbook examining the 1920s at a global level.

Sarah Johnson

Sarah Johnson is from Beaver, Pennsylvania. She is a recent Seton Hill University graduate, with bachelor’s degrees in History and Political Science and a master’s degree in Education. In 2020, she assisted in the Harry B. Knights Collection project as a historian on death marches and the Gardelegen atrocity.

Father Walter Kedjierski

Rev. Walter F. Kedjierski was ordained a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre on June 8, 2002. The highlight of his years of ministry has been as a parish priest and pastor. He also served on the faculty of the department of Theology and Religious Studies at St. John’s University in New York and as an adjunct professor of Dogmatic and Ecumenical Theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary, New York. He was a research assistant to Bishop William Murphy when he served on the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, a member of the board of the Interfaith Center of the Islamic Center of Long Island, and Director of the Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Fr. Kedjierski was Rector, Director of Diaconate Formation, and Director of the Sacred Heart Institute for the Continuing Formation of Clergy at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, New York. He currently serves as Executive Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. Fr. Kedjierski earned his Ph.D. in Dogmatic/Spiritual Theology from the Graduate Theological Foundation, Indiana, in 2016. He has published numerous articles on theological and ecumenical/pastoral topics in a wide range of journals. His latest was entitled “Dialogue as ‘Exchange of Gifts’: Catholic-Jewish Rapprochement in Light of American Societal Tensions” which appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of Ecumenical Trends.

Jared Krol

Jared Krol, of Greensburg Pennsylvania is a Seton Hill University student and he is currently a senior. Jared is pursuing a History major, alongside a minor in Art History and Genocide and Holocaust Studies. In 2020, Jared was member of the student team that developed of Harry Knights Collection, an exhibit focusing on images taken by Harry Knights including of the Nazi massacre at Gardelgen. Jared was responsible particularly for researching the military background of the 102nd division, in which the main subject of the collection was a member.

Eric Kurlander

Dr. Eric Kurlander is the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of History at Stetson University. Kurlander earned his BA at Bowdoin College and his MA and PhD at Harvard University. He offers courses on Modern German, European, and World History. His books include Hitler’s Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich (Yale, 2017; paperback 2018), Living With Hitler: Liberal Democrats in the Third Reich (Yale, 2009), The Price of Exclusion: Ethnicity, National Identity, and the Decline of German Liberalism, 1898-1933 (Berghahn, 2006) and two co-edited volumes, Revisiting the ‘Nazi Occult’: Histories, Realities, Legacies (Camden House, 2015) and Transcultural Encounters between Germany and India: Kindred Spirits in the 19th and 20th Centuries (Routledge, 2014). He has held research and writing fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation; Alexander von Humboldt Foundation; the German Historical Institute; the German Academic Exchange Service; the Krupp Foundation; and Harvard University's Program for the Study of Germany and Europe. He is currently working on a co-written textbook titled Modern Germany: A Global History (Oxford, 2022) and a monograph, Before the Final Solution: A Global History of the Nazi “Jewish Question” 1919-1941.

Francine A. LeFrak

Founder, The Same Sky Foundation

Amy-Jill Levine

Amy-Jill Levine, Ph.D., is Rabbi Stanley M. Kessler Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Hartford Seminary and University Professor of New Testament Studies, Emerita, Mary Jane Werthan Chair of Jewish Studies, Emerita, and University Professor of Jewish Studies, Emerita at Vanderbilt University.

Dr. Levine’s books include: The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus and Short Stories by Jesus; The Gospel of Luke (with Ben Witherington III — the first Bible commentary by a Jew and an Evangelical); and The Jewish Annotated New Testament (co-edited with Marc Brettler). Her most recent publications include The Bible With and Without Jesus: How Jews and Christians Read the Same Stories Differently (with Marc Brettler); Sermon on the Mount: A Beginner’s Guide to the Kingdom of Heaven; and The Difficult Words of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to His Most Perplexing Sayings. The first Jew to teach the New Testament at Rome’s Pontifical Biblical Institute, she was in 2021 elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. AJ describes herself as a Yankee Jewish feminist, an unorthodox member of an Orthodox synagogue, and an academic who understands the Bible as a rock on which to stand rather than as a rock thrown to do damage.

Sister Maureen O'Brien

Vice President for Mission & Identity, Seton Hill University

Kim Pate

Graduate Student, Seton Hill University

Carol Rittner

Dr. Carol Rittner, RSM is Distinguished Professor of Holocaust & Genocide Studies Emerita and the Dr. Marsha Raticoff Grossman Professor of Holocaust Studies Emerita at Stockton University (New Jersey, USA). She is the author, editor, or co-editor of 19 books and numerous essays in various scholarly and educational journals about the Holocaust and other genocides of the 20th and 21st centuries. Her most recent publications include The Holocaust and the Christian World (Paulist Press/Stimulus, 2019) and Advancing Holocaust Studies (Routledge, 2021).

John K. Roth

John K. Roth is the Edward J. Sexton Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and the Founding Director of the Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights (now the Mgrublian Center for Human Rights) at Claremont McKenna College. Roth has published hundreds of articles and reviews and authored, co-authored, or edited more than fifty books, including The Failures of Ethics: Confronting the Holocaust, Genocide, and Other Mass Atrocities (Oxford University Press), Sources of Holocaust Insight: Learning and Teaching about the Genocide (Cascade Books/Wipf and Stock), and Advancing Holocaust Studies (Routledge). Named the 1988 U.S. National Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Roth has also received the Holocaust Educational Foundation’s Distinguished Achievement Award for Holocaust Studies and Research.

Rev. Kevin Spicer

Kevin P. Spicer, C.S.C., Ph.D., is the James J. Kenneally Distinguished Professor of History and Dean of the May School of Arts and Sciences at Stonehill College, Easton, Massachusetts. Spicer’s research centers on the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the German state under National Socialism. In 2017, Spicer and Martina Cucchiara translated and edited The Evil that Surrounds Us: The World War II Memoir of Erna Becker-Kohen (Indiana University Press). He is also the author of Hitler’s Priests: Catholic Clergy and National Socialism (North Illinois University Press, 2008/2017) and Resisting the Third Reich: The Catholic Clergy in Hitler’s Berlin (North Illinois University Press, 2004) and editor of Antisemitism, Christian Ambivalence, and the Holocaust (Indiana University Press, 2007). Spicer is chair of the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations and co-editor of the Council’s academic journal, Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations.

John Spurlock

John C. Spurlock, PhD, is Professor of History, Emeritus, at Seton Hill University. John began his work as a Holocaust educator in the 1980s, when he taught high school. At Seton Hill, he joined other faculty studying at Yad Vashem as a member of one of the first groups to take advantage of the Seton Hill summer program in Israel. He worked with Dr. James Paharik during the development of the Seton Hill minor and certificate programs in Genocide and Holocaust Studies. Before his retirement he served for several years as coordinator of the program. Dr. Spurlock is also the author of the book titled, Youth and Sexuality in the Twentieth Century United States.