From Submission to Resistance: Choices and Choiceless Choices in the German Camps
January 31, 2021 @ 10:15 AM – 11:30 AM
Robert Jan Van Pelt, Ph.D., Professor at the University of Waterloo in Toronto, will speak on the topic, From Submission in Resistance: Choices and Choiceless Choices in the German Camps. Since the end of the Second World War, the question of resistance against Nazi oppression has generally been raised in relationship to the issue of collaboration, leading to a gradation ranging from armed resistance of Jewish partisans in the Warsaw Ghetto to the unconditional collaboration of non-German volunteers for the SS. In addition, it has been considered the result of a conscious choice: persons decided to either resist or collaborate. However, these models of interpretation have many flaws, if only because most people drift into situations in which the key decisions appear to have been made for them. In the history of the Holocaust many outside observers have blamed the majority of the Jewish victims for their fate, accusing them for having gone like the proverbial sheep to the slaughter. But what were the actual options that the great majority of victims had, and can a case be made that the key question for many was, in the words of Rabbi Peach Schindler, “Will we go to our death degraded and dejected, or confront death with inner peace, nobility, upright stance, without lament, and cringing to our enemy?”
Dr. Van Pelt has held appointments at many institutions of higher education in Europe, Asia and North America, including the Architectural Association in London, the Technical University in Vienna, the University of Virginia, and MIT, among others. He has published 12 books dealing with diverse topics including the history of Auschwitz, the history of the Holocaust, Jewish refugees, and Holocaust denial. An internationally recognized authority on the history of Auschwitz, van Pelt’s work was featured in the BBC-Horizon program “Blueprints of Genocide” (1994) and he acted as a senior consultant to the BBC/PBS series Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State (2005). Van Pelt chaired the University of Waterloo School of Architecture team that developed a master plan for the preservation of Auschwitz. At Leiden University, he obtained an undergraduate degree in art history and classical archaeology, a graduate degree in architectural history, and a Ph.D. in the history of ideas.
After services, from 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM, we will open Zoom for informal general discussion, as well as an opportunity to join a conversation group with Dr. Robert Jan van Pelt.
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