Holocaust Symposium presents

Abigail Schubach

The Holocaust Symposium successfully engaged Lawrence and Appleton communities in a remembrance of the Holocaust.  

God Does Not Believe in Us Anymore, a film by Axel Corti portraying a young Vietamese Jew fighting his way through the Holocaust, kicked off the first ever, weekend long, holocaust symposium at Lawrence University in the cinema last Friday night.

Organized by Professor of Music and Chair of Keyboard Professor Catherine Kautsky, the symposium provided students the opportunities to listen to music and poetry, watch films in the campus cinema, participate in discussion, analyze dance choreography, and listen to the stories of survivors, all with the aim of bringing awareness to the atrocities committed to the Jews in the Holocaust.

“For me [the symposium] is about being politically engaged and aware,” said Kautsky. She continued, “I think we are all astonishingly disengaged from atrocities happening around the world.”

The four survivors all provided the audience with different perspectives of the holocaust.

Curtis Brown, a native of Vienna, Austria who now resides in Neenah, Wisconsin spent most of the war in labor camps, while Gerda Lederer was able to escape Vienna with her entire family physically unharmed.

Anne Kelemen was sent to England on the Kinder Transport, after seeing her parents for the last time before they were killed in the concentration camps.

Finally, Reneé Wiener relayed her experiences participating in the French Resistance, saving thousands of children’s lives by taking them into hiding.

Concerts performed throughout the weekend included the music that was a large part of life at Trechenstad, one of the labor camps near Prague. According to Kautsky, the prisoners at this camp “were encouraged to pursue the artistic professions that they had before and quite a lot of music emerged.”

A large chamber work based on songs sung by people in conservation camps were composed by Victor Ullmann, Erwin Schulhoff, and Arnold Schoenberg, named Camp Songs, was performed on Saturday night, with a pre-concert lecture by Associate Professor of Music Julie McQuinn.

Junior Camilla Grove, Lawrence University Hillel Chapter Leader, admitted that she went back to her dormafter Camp Songs “feeling down because it was hard for [her] to take in that these wonderful poems could be made during such a dark time.”

The Lawrence members of Hillel created a video featuring interviews with students and faculty members discussing their family connections to the Holocaust, and their thoughts about remembering the mass genocide.

The inspiration for the symposium grew out of an exchanging of letters between Kautsky’s father and a group of his schoolmates as they were forced to “disperse to all corners of the world when the Nazis came,” said Kautsky.

The letters, now being published, are generating considerable interest in the United States, Austria, and Germany. The letters were presented by Jacqueline Vansant, professor of German at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, including footage of Kautsky’s father discussing the letters. Following the reading, clips were shown of a present-day boy at the same high school reading the letters during a ceremony in 2011.

Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and current Lawrence artist-in-residence Catherine Tatge is collaborating with students to produce a documentary about the symposium.