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Simon Wiesenthal Lectures

 

The Simon Wiesenthal lecture series takes place regularly every six to eight weeks and aims to present the latest research findings on the Holocaust to both a professional and a broader audience. They take into account the impressive spectrum of this discipline, the numerous questions and issues from empirical-analytical historiography to topics of cultural studies and involve young scholars as well as established academics.

 

Since 2007, when the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) was still being established, the lecture series – at that time in cooperation with the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance (DÖW) and the Institute of Contemporary History at the University of Vienna– has developed into the flagship of the VWI's outreach activities as a supporting element in the communication of recent academic findings in the field of Holocaust research and Holocaust and genocide studies.

 

For over a decade, the Austrian State Archives generously offered shelter to the Simon Wiesenthal Lectures in the roof foyer of the Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv. During the challenging years of the pandemic, the lectures were held online. From autumn 2022, in order to reach out to further audiences, a new cooperation partner was found in the Wien Museum. Until the reopening of the main location at Karlsplatz, the SWL will take place at MUSA, Felderstraße 6-8, next to the Vienna City Hall.

 

 

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Simon Wiesenthal Lecture
Carolyn J. Dean: Bearing Witness to Genocide. The Adventures of a Moral Concept during and since the Eichmann Trial
   

Thursday, 24. May 2018, 18:30 - 20:00

Dachfoyer des Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchivs, 1010 Wien, Minoritenplatz 1

 

This lecture addresses how “bearing witness to genocide” became a central trope of contemporary Western moral culture. The 1960/61 trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem put victims of genocide centre-stage and affirmed the pre-eminence of the Jewish Holocaust survivor in European and especially American politics and culture. The lecture revisits the Eichmann trial to understand its contribution not simply to bringing the world’s attention to the Jewish dimension of the Holocaust, but also to understanding how the trial shaped the pervasive figure of the Jewish “witness” who marked the Holocaust as a caesura in human history. The Holocaust survivor remained the iconic witness even when, after the 1990s, the witness to genocide became a more generic symbol of suffering humanity in the shadow of all state-sponsored mass violence against persons and cultures. The lecture suggests that only by placing the witness to genocide in a longer historical trajectory can we understand why the Holocaust remains iconic in spite of the occurrence of many other genocides since.

Carolyn J. Dean is Charles J. Stille Professor of History and French at Yale University. She is a cultural and intellectual historian of modern Europe and the author of five books, including The Fragility of Empathy after the Holocaust and Aversion and Erasure: The Fate of the Victim after the Holocaust. Her forthcoming book, From the Survivor to the Activist: Bearing Witness to Genocide in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries, will be published with Cornell University Press in early 2019. This lecture is a part of that work, which traces the emergence and transformation of the witness to genocide from inter-war trials in France and Germany, before the crime had a name, until the 1990s, when the witness to genocide appeared in the International Criminal Court and throughout various media.

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The Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) is funded by:

 

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