First International Conference on Teaching Lessons of Holocaust to Be Held in Philadelphia Oct.18-20
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First International Conference on Teaching Lessons of Holocaust to Be Held in Philadelphia Oct.18-20

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The First International Conference on Teaching the Lessons of the Holocaust, with attendance scheduled at this time from the United States, West Germany and Israel, will be held in Philadelphia Oct. 18-20. The National Institute on the Holocaust, a non-profit educational and service agency, temporarily housed at Temple University, is the overall sponsor for the event.

Dr. Franklin H. Littell, director of the religion department at Temple University, will serve as chairman for the conference. He is considered the leading Christian theologian seeking to convince Christians that Christendom bears a major responsibility for the Nazi slaughter of European Jews. Littell is being assisted in planning the conference by Dr. Josephine Knopp, National Institute research director, and Prof. Miriam Bell of Temple University’s religion department.


Knopp told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a telephone interview that the principal theme of the three-day conference is to study in depth right and wrong ways to teach about the Holocaust at every age level. After decades of silence about the mass murders of European Jews, the proliferation of courses, in public schools and universities and in informal adult classes in this country and abroad has become so great as to make such an evaluation necessary, conference sources indicated.

Knopp said attendance for the event had been limited to 300 persons. Invitations have been sent to teachers, theologians, and others who have expressed interest in teaching about the Holocaust, she said.

Speakers for the conference include, to date, Prof. Yehuda Bauer and Prof. Chaim Schatzker, both of Hebrew University, and Prof. Aryeh Karmon of Ben Gurion University; Dr. Habs Herman Walz, director of the Evangelical Church-State Groups in West Germany, Friedrich Weibgen of West Germany, and Prof. A. Schallenberger of Duisburg University in West Germany; Elie Wiesel, the historian of the Holocaust; Joseph Borkin, an American lawyer-historian; and Dr. Sybil Milton of the Leo Baeck Institute. Schatzker and Karmon have written textbooks on the Holocause for use in Israeli schools and Schallenberger had helped to develop texts on the Holocaust which have recently been mandated for use in West German high schools.

The four principal sponsors of the event, to be held at the Holiday Inn, are the National Institute, the National Conference of Christians and Jews; the United States Catholic Bishops Conference; and the National Conference of Churches.


Knopp listed as additional sponsors a wide range of national and regional church, civic and academic groups, including the Augustinian Villanova Peace and Justice Institution; the Cardinals Commission on Human Relations; the Commission an Ecumenical and Interreligious Concerns of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church; Temple University’s religion department; the Jewish Community Relations Council of Philadelphia; the Memorial Committee for the Six Million Jewish Martyrs; the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania; and the American Baptist Churches of Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Knopp said that neither the list of speakers nor the agenda had yet been put into final form. But a memorandum issued by Littell on June 23 stressed that the conference was planned as a working meeting, with major attention to workshops.

The memorandum indicated two categories of workshops. Workshops I will have sections for teachers at various levels, including elementary school, junior high, high school, college, graduate instruction, Sunday schools and Sabbath schools in congregations. Workshops II will cover professional and vocational ethics in Holocaust teaching and university-level education of specialists in the fields of law, medicine, police, clergy, education, journalists and businessmen.

According to the memorandum, lectures and reports tentatively scheduled include the right and wrong teaching of the Holocaust, the Holocaust as a watershed event in religion and education, textbooks and teaching in Israel, West Germany and North America, the lessons of the Holocaust for professions, a series of eyewitness reports from persons who opened the Nazi death camps, and the commitment of the West German Republic to the teaching of the Holocaust.


The conference will he preceded on Oct. 16 and 17 by an International Theological Symposium on the Holocaust, also at the Holiday Inn, on the theme of “What Shall the Church Teach Now?” Topics on the first day will include lessons of the Holocaust for Christians and what Christians should think of a continuing Jewish people. Topics on the second day will examine whether God is active in history, and the Holocaust and exegesis of the apostolic writings and the New Testament.

Littell also reported that throughout the international conference there would be exhibits and some special programs “illustrating other resources for teaching besides textbooks and other means of teaching besides the classrooms.” He said of special importance will be a major art exhibit in three parts–artists’ portrayal of the Holocaust; the art of the camp inmates, and Nazi misuse of art forms for propaganda.

Commenting that “a generation had to pass before anyone could begin to handle the traumatic event of the Holocaust–and the spiritually dangerous materials thereof,” Littell declared that the Holocause, “at first perceived as a misadventure of the Jews” is now widely seen as “a crisis of Christendom.” He stressed that the genocide of the Jews “was perpetrated by Christians who were not even excommunicated for it.” He also rejected the initial idea that the Holocaust was “the result of an anti intellectual return to tribalism and paganism.” The death camps, he said, “were built by Ph.D.s.”

Littell reported plans are being made for an International Conference on the Lessons of the Holocaust, under auspices of the International Conference of Christians and Jews. Also planned is an International Scholars Symposium on the 40th anniversary of Kristallnacht, scheduled at the University of Washington in Seattle Nov.7-11, with floor participation limited to 250 scholars from all parts of the world.

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