Center Newsletters

April 2019 Newsletter

Sat, 04/06/2019 - 2:24pm -- Isabella

April was a busy month, during which we hosted the annual Shapiro Scholar lecture as well as three lectures by our visiting research fellows. It was also an important month in our history, as we celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Center for Advanced Genocide Research, which was founded on April 25, 2014 at USC.

We started the month with a lecture by our 2018-2019 Postdoctoral Research Fellow Gabór M. Tóth, who has been in residence at the Center since last October working on the digital transcript reader tool “Let Them Speak” that he developed in collaboration with the Yale University Digital Humanities Lab. Read more about his lecture below.
The biggest event of the month was Professor Marion Kaplan’s Shapiro Scholar lecture on gender during the Holocaust, which was the academic event marking the Center’s fifth anniversary and the first public event ever held in the USC Shoah Foundation’s new offices on the fourth floor of USC’s Leavey Library. The afternoon event attracted 100 attendees and 450 viewers on the lecture livestream. Read a summary and watch a recording of this year’s Shapiro Scholar lecture below.

Later in the month, two of the Center's PhD candidate research fellows -- Danielle Willard-Kyle (Rutgers University) and Bieke Van Camp (University Paul-Valery, Montpellier) -- gave lectures on their research in the Visual History Archive. Danielle presented on her research into the ways survivors recalled their experiences in Italian Displaced Persons (DP) camps, while Bieke explored what survivor testimonies can tell us about survival strategies and social interactions between Italian deportees in concentration camps. Read more about Danielle’s lecture below. A summary and video of Bieke’s lecture will follow in next month’s newsletter. 

We concluded the month with a celebration of the Center’s fifth anniversary, during which we took the opportunity to take a look back and to acknowledge the contributions of the USC Shoah Foundation staff with a small reception. We also honored our institutional partners at USC and beyond for their collaboration with and support of the Center’s work. Read below about just some of the Center’s accomplishments in our first five years.

We are looking forward to May, when we will welcome back the Latin American researchers who comprise the 2017-2019 Interdisciplinary Research Week team. They will return to the Center to continue their collaborative research on the forced emigration of Jews to different Latin American countries before, during and after the Holocaust. Together with the group, I will travel to the University of California at Berkeley for the international conference “In Global Transit: Jewish Refugees in an Era of Forced Migration, 1940s-1960s,” which the Center is co-organizing with the German Historical Institute, The Magnes at UC Berkeley, and the University of Dresden.

Taking the occasion of the Center’s fifth anniversary, I want to express my gratitude to each of you newsletter readers for your interest in the Center’s programs and activities. Your participation in and support of what we do are vital to our success. Thank you for being a valuable part of our first five years.

With gratitude, 

Wolf Gruner

Founding Director of the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research
Professor of History and Shapell-Guerin Chair in Jewish Studies


“Did Gender Matter During the Holocaust?” 
Marion Kaplan (New York University)

2018-2019 Sara and Asa Shapiro Scholar in Residence

Marion Kaplan (Skirball Professor of Modern Jewish History, New York University) delivered the 2018-2019 Sara and Asa Shapiro Scholar’s lecture entitled “Did Gender Matter During the Holocaust?” on April 11, 2019. In this keynote lecture, Professor Kaplan discussed how research on Jewish gender and family history in Nazi Germany has evolved since the field’s beginnings in the 1980s. She explored what personal memoirs, archival materials, Visual History Archive testimonies, and other sources indicate about gendered experiences of the Holocaust. Professor Kaplan pointed to areas that require further research, arguing that integrating gender into the history will both nuance and enhance our understanding of the Holocaust. The lecture, which was livestreamed on our website and via Facebook Live, was attended by around 100 USC students, faculty and staff and watched by over 450 people on the livestream. The lecture was followed by a celebratory lunch at the University Club, where USC Shoah Foundation Finci-Viterbi Executive Director Stephen Smith presented Professor Kaplan a commemorative gift -- a glass videotape, representing the beta videotapes on which the USC Shoah Foundation’s early video testimonies were recorded.  

Read more about Professor Kaplan and the Sara and Asa Shapiro Fellowship here.

Watch the lecture and read a summary here.

“In Search of the Drowned in the Words of the Saved: Testimonial Fragments of the Holocaust” 
Gabor Toth (PhD, University of Oxford)

2018-2019 Postdoctoral Research Fellow

In his lecture, Gabór M. Tóth discussed the ways text and data mining technology has helped to recover fragments of the lost experiences of murdered Holocaust victims by identifying themes and patterns of victims' experiences in survivor testimonies. He demonstrated the digital transcript reader tool he developed in collaboration with the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies and Yale Library’s Digital Humanities Lab. This tool aggregates data from transcripts of over 2,700 survivor testimonies from the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive, the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and is supplemented by a series of essays analyzing the commonalities and differences in experiences of Nazi persecution.  

Read more about Gabór M. Tóth here.

Watch the lecture and read a summary here.

“Afterlives: Memories of the Displaced Persons Camps in Italy” 
Danielle Willard-Kyle (PhD candidate, Rutgers University)

2018-2019 Center Graduate Research Fellow

In this lecture, Danielle Willard-Kyle discussed her research on the Visual History Archive testimonies of Jewish survivors who went through Italian Displaced Persons camps after World War II. The lecture stemmed from Willard-Kyle’s last dissertation chapter, and examined the changes in survivors’ memories of the camps over time. The lecture, which was well-attended by students, faculty, and community members alike, was followed by a Q&A session, which included questions about the extent to which the DP camps are covered in the historiography of Italy and the differences and similarities between German and Italian DP camps.

Read more about Danielle Willard-Kyle here.

Watch the lecture and read a summary here.

Center Celebrates Five Years of Unique Academic Programming and Research

On April 23rd, staff from the USC Shoah Foundation celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Center for Advanced Genocide Research with cake and champagne. The Center was founded on April 25, 2014 as the USC Shoah Foundation was commemorating its 20th anniversary, with the goal of promoting innovative and interdisciplinary research on the Holocaust and other genocides. Read more about the Center’s launch here.

Today the Center is internationally recognized as one of the leading Holocaust and genocide research institutions in the world: for its unique interdisciplinary approach, its promotion of unique resources as the Visual History Archive and its unique location at a leading research university in the heart of Los Angeles, a metropolis which is home to several large genocide survivor communities.
5 years of the Center’s work at a glance
205 scholars came to the Center
(fellows, guest speakers, visiting scholars and researchers, conference and workshop participants)

49 academic disciplines represented by Center scholars

23 countries on 6 continents represented by Center scholars

65 Center events organized 
(including 4 annual international conferences)

25 cosponsored/co-organized events

39 institutional partners 
(23 at USC, 10 national, 6 international)

41 introductory VHA workshops at universities worldwide

34 university class visits with 701 students total at the Center

To mark the anniversary, this video about the Center’s work premiered.  

The Center also released a new brochure


2018-2019 Center Graduate Research Fellow Danielle Willard-Kyle concludes her residency  

Danielle Willard-Kyle, a PhD candidate in History at Rutgers University, concluded her one-month residency at the Center, during which she conducted research with Visual History Archive testimonies of European and North African Jewish refugees who lived in Italian Displaced Persons (DP) camps during and after World War II, a neglected topic so far. She delivered a public campus lecture on the results of her research on April 18, 2019. 

Read more about Danielle Willard-Kyle here

To watch the lecture and read a summary, click here.

2018-2019 Katz Research Fellow in Genocide Studies Bieke Van Camp spends three weeks exploring the Visual History Archive

Bieke Van Camp, a PhD candidate in Contemporary History at University Paul-Valéry, Montpellier (France), spent three weeks in residence at the Center this month. 

She conducted research with the video testimonies for a chapter of her dissertation, which uses social factor/network analysis to explore the reasons why some deportees survived the concentration camps, while others did not. She consulted 96 survivor testimonies from Italy and the Netherlands to learn about the differing survival strategies camp prisoners employed. She delivered a public lecture on the results of her research on April 23, 2019. 

A summary and recording of her lecture will be available in next month’s newsletter. Read more about Bieke Van Camp here.

Center Undergraduate Fellows Earn Honors

This month, the Center's 2017 USC Undergraduate Summer Research Fellow Griffin Williams earned three awards for his senior thesis "Marching to What End? The Death Marches and the Final Solution". He received highest honors from the History department, the Lois Banner Award for best undergraduate honors thesis at the History department and the USC Libraries undergraduate research award (first rank prize). Based on many VHA testimonies, the original thesis challenges traditional views of these camp evacuations as extensions of genocide. 

The Center's 2018 Beth and Arthur Lev Student Research Fellow Virginia Bullington delivered a paper on narratives of sexual violence in VHA testimonies of survivors of the Nanjing Massacre at an event for the 2018-19 USC UNESCO Journal for Global Humanities, Science & Ethical Inquiry. The paper, which will be published in the journal, is entitled “The Presence of the Past: Memory and Narratives of Sexual Violence of the Nanjing Massacre” and utilizes survivor testimony to investigate how the Nanjing Massacre is remembered in China today, on individual and collective levels.

Aprils in Sarajevo

April is an important month in the history of Sarajevo. Visual History Archive Program Coordinator and ethnomusicologist Badema Pitic, PhD wrote a blog to reflect on historical Aprils in Sarajevo and how a few survivors in the VHA link their stories of Partisan resistance during the Holocaust with their experience of the 1992 siege. 

Read the blog here.

Holocaust & Genocide Studies Library

Center Director Wolf Gruner’s arrival at USC and his plan to establish a Holocaust studies program led to the creation of one of the largest Holocaust and genocide studies collections at any U.S. university. To read about this unparalleled collection, click here


In April, Associate Director and Senior Research Officer Martha Stroud gave a workshop on the history, uses and applications of the Visual History Archive to faculty and staff at Brandeis University. 

Visual History Archive Program Coordinator Badema Pitic gave Visual History Archive introductions to USC Professor Anna Krakus’s class Slavic Languages & Literatures 397: Literature and Film in Eastern European Historical Experience and Professor Sven Reichardt (University of Konstanz), while Director Wolf Gruner welcomed visitors from the Yad Vashem International Institute for Holocaust Research and the Yad Vashem communications department.


May 20-22, 2019 at The Magnes Collection, University of California, Berkeley

International conference "In Global Transit: Forced Migration of Jews and Other Refugees (1940s - 1960s)"

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Please consider donating private papers, documents, photographs or films regarding the Holocaust and other genocides. The Center works with USC Libraries Special Collections to preserve private collections and make them accessible for academic research worldwide and student investigation at USC.

To find out more about donating materials, email us as or call 213-740-6001.

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