Professor Schwartzman offers an elective to undergraduate seniors mostly majoring in communication studies as well as students majoring in other disciplines. The course is specifically structured around several different voices. It begins with Nazi-era propaganda approached from several different media: written, audio, and visual. Much of the course is the survivor testimony component, together with films about the Holocaust. The course then focuses on memory and memorialization, concluding with confronting the phenomenon of Holocaust denial and the role testimonials play in refuting it.
The class is framed with three intertwined components comprising:
In the final course project, students choose between a research project and a creative project. Students who select the creative project are matched one-on-one with a particular survivor’s testimony. They have to come up with a creative project that will be used as educational materials to understand Holocaust experiences more deeply. The products of their efforts supply some of the resources for the collaborative service project with the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust.
Professor Schwartzman uses VHA testimonies intertwined with the AfterWords Project, which involves gathering new testimonials from survivors’ resettlement experiences following the war. This aspect of the Holocaust supplies another important set of narratives by intertwining newly gathered testimonies with what is found in the VHA. It is important to move students toward understanding that this is not a set of documents that happen to be videotaped but are living organic narratives that have as much of a life as they can be given by scholars, by other survivors in terms of how their testimonies interact intertextually with each other, and by multigenerational folk and beyond. Students who are educated through the North Carolina secondary public education system are usually introduced to two texts: Elie Wiesel’s Night and The Diary of Anne Frank. These texts have become the canon, or core reference points, for understanding the Holocaust. Students tend to believe that these iconic stories define the Holocaust experience. Through the work that is done in the course, the research, and the collaborative service project, students move beyond these iconic stories of Night and The Diary of Anne Frank by expanding the base level of what constitutes the boundaries of Holocaust experiences and adding
complexity to the victim, perpetrator, and bystander categories. Through the AfterWords research project, the VHA, and newly gathered testimonies have multiple ways of experiencing encounters with survivors.