Experts Explore Horrors of the Past, Impact for Today
The horrors of the Holocaust and its impact even today on people around the world will be clear on Saturday, Nov. 23, at Buena Vista University.
BVU's Academic and Cultural Events Series (ACES) is presenting a symposium "Connections to the Holocaust" that includes four different dramatic events, all free and open to the public.
The event is part of an innovative, year-long academic focus on the Holocaust that history professor Dixee Bartholomew-Feis is leading. She and six other professors are teaching different aspects of the Nazis' extermination of six million Jews during WW II.
Among the presenters here on Saturday will be acclaimed TV producer and author Joshua Greene, of Long Island, New York. He is an Emmy Award nominee who has become one of the nation's leading media figures in Holocaust reporting.
Greene will tell the story of William Denson, a young military attorney from Alabama who prosecuted 3,500 Nazi soldiers in the war crimes trials held between 1945 and 1948 at the Dachau "death camp" in Germany. The Denson story is the subject of a new book by Greene, "Justice at Dachau," which will be published next spring.
In his book research, Greene found that one of the defense attorneys assigned to represent the German soldiers at Dachau was another U.S. Army officer, Douglas T. Bates II, Centerville, Tenn. Greene discovered that Douglas T. Bates III is a practicing attorney today in that same Tennessee town.
The two men have talked at length in the past year, but they will meet for the first time here for the BVU symposium.
Bates will tell his father's story from the war trials.
Then in the final session of the day, Greene will dress as prosecutor Denson, Bates will dress as his father the defense attorney, and they will re-enact their closing arguments from the first Dachau trial, in which 40 Germans were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. For that re-enactment, BVU history professor Bill Feis will play the role of the presiding officer of the military tribunal that heard the case.
"This symposium itself reflects on how everybody has a personal connection to the Holocaust," said BVU academic ACES coordinator Carla Offenburger. "Doug Bates went to college with my husband, and I knew about his father's involvement in the war crimes trials. So at first I was just inviting him to come tell that story.
"But then he told me that he was in touch with Joshua Greene and suggested we invite him, too. We had no idea that we might get somebody with Greene's credentials here, but he has been really enthusiastic."
In the opening session on Saturday, Michael Luick-Thrams, a Mason City historian, will share stories of prisoners of war on both sides of the conflict.
Luick-Thrams, who has done extensive research and writing on several different aspects of the Holocaust, made world news in the past six months for bringing together former German soldiers who were held in Iowa, with Iowans who were captured and held in Germany. Thousands of German POWs were held in camps scattered all over Iowa, including one in Storm Lake.
As a preliminary to the Saturday program, Helen Epstein, who is a child of holocaust survivors, will discuss issues important to the second generation of the Holocaust on Thursday, Nov. 22, at 7 p.m. in Hansen Room 8 of the Harold Walter Siebens Forum. Epstein is a frequent lecturer on long-term psychological effects of war.
Also, a movie that has been heralded as one of the best TV portrayals of the Holocaust will be shown on Friday, Nov. 22, at 4 p.m. in Hansen Room 8 of the Harold Walter Siebens Forum.
The 90-minute movie is Greene's "Witness: Voices from the Holocaust" that was aired nationally on public television.
It was based on the book of the same title that Greene co-authored in the year 2000 with Shiva Kumar. The two of them spent months at Yale University going through a Holocaust archives there that has 10,000 hours of interviews with 4,000 Holocaust survivors and even a few former Nazi soldiers.
At BVU, Greene will introduce the film and take questions afterward.
His writing and film making extends well beyond the Holocaust. His Emmy nomination came for his TV documentary "People" that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. And he has just signed a contract with Random House for his next book - a biography of the late George Harrison, one of the Beatles.
BVU professor Bartholomew-Feis is teaching on the Holocaust for the third time in her seven-year career at the university.
"I had no family connection to the Holocaust, but then part of my work in graduate school included a study of Israel as a country," she said. "That led me to the Holocaust. Over the years, I met several survivors. I went to the camps. I knew I wanted to teach it."
She said college students today, when they begin studying the Holocaust, react just like she did.
"They're horrified by it," Bartholomew-Feis said, "but that leads to a feeling that you must know more, dig deeper, into why and how this could have happened."
Other related courses being taught include one on the world perspective on World War II by her husband Bill Feis, one on the "Visual Arts and the Third Reich" by Susan Stone, and a religion course "God and Human Suffering" by Peter Steinfeld.
In the upcoming spring semester, BVU will offer a Holocaust-related philosophy course taught by Steinfeld, "Science and World War II" by professor Shawn Stone, "Theater and the Holocaust" by Michael Whitlatch, and "The Holocaust and the Psychology of Prejudice" by Bob Blodgett.
Another part of the year-long curriculum that 19 BVU students and four of their professors will never forget is a weekend trip earlier this month to visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
Bartholomew-Feis said she plans to teach Holocaust units again in the future, "but you couldn't offer it every year. It's too emotionally exhausting."
The schedule of the ACES symposium:
* Friday, Nov. 22 - 4 p.m., Joshua Greene's movie "Witness: Voices from the Holocaust" at Hansen Room 8, Siebens Forum.
* Saturday, Nov. 23 - 10 a.m., "Iowa's Connection to the Third Reich," Michael Luick-Thrams, Hansen Room 8.
* 11 a.m. - "My Father's Role at Dachau," Douglas T. Bates III, Hansen Room 8.
* 1 p.m. - "Justice at Dachau," Joshua Greene, Hansen Room 8.
* 2 p.m. - "Dachau Closing Arguments Revisited," Joshua Greene, Douglas T. Bates III and Bill Feis, Edson Hall.
The public is welcome to join the symposium participants at lunch after going through the BVU servery, where lunches are $4.65 per person. For more informationc, call 749-2138.