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Creating Valley Animal Portraits

Narratives of the Jewish Holocaust are abundant. They have emerged from a need to make meaning of the horror of World War II and have found expression in words and images that have somehow been cathartic to their authors. 

Countless testimonies have thus been produced by and collected from survivors, in all sorts of media, bearing witness to atrocity and wishing to document as historical instances of hatred, persecution, mass murder, resilience, and survival. 

In this six-week course, we will read excerpts from a few Holocaust narratives in book format. Tentative titles include: Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman (1986); Ghetto Diary: Janusz Korczak, with an introduction by Betty Jean Lifton (2003); Flory: A Miraculous Story of Survival by Flory A. Van Beek (2008); The Boy: A Holocaust Story by Dan Porat (2010); Troubled Memory: Anne Levy, the Holocaust, David Duke’s Louisiana by Lawrence N. Powell (2019); and I Want You to Know We’re Here: A Post-Holocaust Memoir by Esther Safran Foer (2020). 

We will supplement this material with narratives in other media, namely in letters, videos, oral testimonies, documentaries, memoirs, (auto)biographies, diaries (by adults and children), letters, photographs, and drawings. The multilayered experiences in these narratives vary according to the authors’ gender and age to the stages of their ordeal—ghettoization, transportation, camp imprisonment, murder, liberation. Some accounts are hybrid—at once fictional and non-fictional, or discursive and representational. They are all, however, grounded in intentional memory, a revelation of humanity at its best and worst. While literary, and interpretive, they are all historical. Hence, in studying these first-person accounts of trauma and atrocity, we end up studying the larger historical account of the Jewish Holocaust.
* An optional field trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum may be organized based on student interest. Participation is voluntary and would include an additional bus transportation fee.

Simon Schocken is an Adjunct Professor of Economics at Blue Ridge Community College, where he teaches Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Finance. He holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from Universidad of Chile (Santiago de Chile) and a Master of Science in Policy Economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As a student of the Holocaust, he has taken courses for educators sponsored by the University College London, Yad Vashem, the Anti-Defamation League, the University of Southern California, and the Shoah Foundation. He is also an avid reader of books on the Jewish Holocaust and both his parents have written memoirs about their experiences. At 10 years old, Simon’s father fled Nazi Germany (Berlin) in 1939 alongside his older teenage brother and parents; they were the only ones in their extended family to survive the Holocaust. Simon’s mother, born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1939, remained hidden in several locations, including a neighbor’s apartment, a Catholic convent, and a Swedish “shelter” in Budapest organized by Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. Once on the line to Auschwitz during the Hungarian Holocaust late in 1944, her mother’s jewels bought her freedom and her life from a Nazi guard.


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