During March at the Center we hosted multiple lectures, introduced researchers to the Visual History Archive, and traveled to introduce scholars to the Visual History Archive (VHA). 

We started the month with a lecture on rescue during the Rwandan genocide by Jennie Burnet from Georgia State University. In the middle of the month, our 2016-2017 Rutman Fellow for Research and Teaching, Mélanie Péron, delivered a lecture at the University of Pennsylvania on her work with the VHA. Back at USC, our 2017-2018 Katz Research Fellow Kathyrn Brackney gave a lecture about her month of research with the testimonies, and we concluded the month with our annual Shapiro Scholar lecture, delivered by esteemed Holocaust historian Christopher R. Browning to an audience of more than 100 people.  We’ll have more about Professor Browning’s event in next month’s newsletter, but you can read about our other March events below.

I spent much of the month traveling to conduct workshops on the Visual History Archive and to give lectures about my current research that also relies on testimonies. I began my trip with a stop in Mexico, where I visited Universidad Iberoamericana, Universidad Anáhuac and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) for workshops and lectures. I then traveled to North Carolina, where I offered workshops and gave lectures at Wake Forest University, Duke University and Appalachian State University. Center staff Martha Stroud and Badema Pitic went to Texas at the end of the month to conduct a VHA workshop at the University of Texas at Dallas. 

Read more about this month’s activities below, and don’t miss what we have coming up in April. We hope you will be able to join us, and we thank you for your continued support of all we do.

Wolf Gruner

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


“Good Amidst Evil: Rescue During the Rwandan Genocide” 
Jennie Burnet (Georgia State University)​

To start her lecture, Professor Burnet argued that while a great deal of research on the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda focuses on why perpetrators participated in the genocide, not much research delves into why people did not participate in the genocide. Her study on rescue explores how and why people chose to put themselves at great risk of harm in order to rescue others. Her research, which entailed several years of ethnographic research and over 200 interviews with Rwandans in ten communities conducted between 2011 and 2014, has resulted in a dynamic and nuanced analysis of rescue in Rwanda that not only challenges the classic genocide studies paradigm of dividing actors into categories of victims, perpetrators, bystanders, and rescuers but also deepens how we define and understand “rescue.”

Watch the lecture and read a summary here.


"Étoilement: The Starring Effect"
Mélanie Péron (University of Pennsylvania)
2016-2017 Rutman Fellow for Research and Teaching                               

On March 15, Mélanie Péron from the French department at the University of Pennsylvania delivered a lecture about her experience integrating testimonies from the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive into her research and teaching thanks to the fellowship. Approximately 50 people, including many students and faculty, attended the lecture. Honored guests included Lori Rutman Fife, who supported the Rutman Fellowship for Research and Teaching, her husband, Mark Fife, and the Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication Michael Delli Carpini. 

Read more about Mélanie Péron and the Rutman Fellowship for Research and Teaching here.

Read a summary of her lecture here.


"Phantom Geographies in Representations of the Holocaust"
Kathryn Brackney (PhD candidate, Yale University)

2017-2018 Katz Research Fellow in Genocide Studies

Kathryn Brackney delivered a public lecture on the research she conducted during her month in residence at the Center. During her residency, Brackney explored the Visual History Archive looking for “otherworldliness” in the testimonies — moments in which Holocaust survivors describe their experiences as belonging to another world or another dimension. Not knowing what she would discover, she wanted to find out whether the figurative language of otherworldliness she has found in other sources (literature, philosophy, art) emerge in the survivor testimonies as well. She argued that survivors in the VHA do employ symbolic language, and that one type of narrative seems to be unique to the testimonies. 

Read more about Kathryn Brackney here.

Read a summary of the lecture here.   


2017-2018 Katz Research Fellow Kathryn Brackney Concludes her Residency

Kathryn Brackney (Yale University) concluded her residency at the Center in March. Read more about her research in our summary of her lecture above.


2018 Shapiro Scholar Christopher Browning Begins His Residency

Our 2018 Sara and Asa Shapiro Scholar in Residence arrived for his residency and delivered a public lecture entitled “Holocaust History and Survivor Testimony: The Case of the Starachowice Factory Slave Labor Camps”. Attracting over a hundred audience members, including honored guest Mickey Shapiro who endowed the Sara and Asa Shapiro Annual Holocaust Testimony Scholar and Lecture Fund, Professor Browning delivered the Annual Shapiro Scholar Lecture, which has drawn over 3,000 views (and counting) on the USC Shoah Foundation Facebook page. Stay tuned to next month’s newsletter for a summary and the video of the lecture. 



During March, the Center conducted multiple introductions to the Visual History Archive, welcoming visitors and researchers, including a panel of participants from the annual American Comparative Literature Association conference and team of scholars from the USC School of Social Work who are launching a project exploring the Nanjing testimonies from the Visual History Archive. 

The Center’s outreach activities were not limited only to the USC campus. At one point or another in March, nearly all the Center’s staff traveled to conduct VHA workshops far and wide. Center founding director Wolf Gruner conducted VHA workshops at Universidad Iberoamericana, Universidad Anáhuac, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Wake Forest University, Duke University and Appalachian State University while Center staff Martha Stroud and Badema Pitic offered a VHA workshop at the University of Texas at Dallas. Professor Gruner also delivered lectures on his current research on individual Jewish defiance and protest at stops during his travels.

Upcoming Events

April 3, 2018 at 7 pm, USC Main Campus

Pamela Yates' film screening: 500 Years

April 4, 2018 at 7:30 pm, Temple Beth Am, Los Angeles 

Christopher Browning lecture: "Jewish Slave Labor and the Struggle for Survival:  The Wierzbnik Ghetto and the Starachowice Factory Slave Labor Camps."

April 12, 2018 at 4pm, UCLA

Samuel Kassow’s lecture: "History and Resistance: Emanuel Ringelblum in the Warsaw Ghetto"

April 19, 2018 at 4pm, USC Main Campus

Julien Zarifian's lecture: The United States and the Question of the Armenian Genocide"


Community Calendar

Louchheim School for Judaic Studies Essay Competition

The Louchheim School for Judaic Studies is accepting submissions for its Judaic studies essay contest, due April 16, 2018. Click here for more information and to submit an entry. 


Books in the Visual History Archive

In this new feature, we will highlight published research based on the testimonies in the Visual History Archive. 

Shira Klein (Chapman University)
Italy’s Jews from Emancipation to Fascism

In her book Italy’s Jews from Emancipation to Fascism, Shira Klein argues that Italian Jews, although victims of Italian wartime fascism, played an important role in promoting a favorable image of wartime Italy. She explores an intriguing and little-discussed question: why most Italian Jews in the interwar period supported Fascism. Much of the historical scholarship until the 1990s perpetuated the widespread popular belief that during World War II, Italy and Italians were good to the Jews. Klein examines the reasons why Italian Jews themselves promoted this myth even after experiencing the horrors of the Holocaust. Klein details the influence of Italian Jews’ experiences from their emancipation in 1848 to the time of Italy’s first anti-Semitic laws in 1938 and the role this history played in reinforcing the myth of Italian benevolence. By doing so, Klein challenges the narrative of Italian Jewish “assimilation,” and offers new insights on Italian Jewish life over this period. She shows how Jewish culture and religion flourished not only after their emancipation in 1848, but also after World War II. Klein’s conclusions are based on extensive data gathered from previously unstudied primary sources, including government laws, records of Jewish communities, Jewish immigrant associations, advertisements, diaries, songs and ditties, and others. When it comes to her exploration of Italian Jewish life in particular, Klein relies on memoirs and survivor interviews from the  USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive and Yad Vashem. 

If you would like your book to be considered for this feature, please let us know.


Call for Applications

Beth and Arthur Lev Student Research Fellowship 2018

The USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research invites research proposals from USC undergraduate and graduate students for the inaugural Beth and Arthur Lev Student Research Fellowship. The fellowship provides support for a USC undergraduate student or USC graduate student doing research focused on the testimonies of the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive and/or other related USC resources and collections during the summer of 2018. The fellowship is open to USC students of all disciplines. Deadline to apply is April 10, 2018. For more details, click here.

Call for Research Support

Lucid Collaborative Research

USC Shoah Foundation and Lucid Collaborative, a multi-disciplinary group specializing in monitoring and evaluation of programs to measure their effectiveness, have initiated a baseline study to gain insight into current levels of awareness and use of the Visual History Archive (VHA) among the Institute’s key audiences – scholars, educators, organizations and community members – to inform ongoing efforts to increase global access.

As part of the study, Lucid Collaborative will soon launch an online survey to solicit feedback from our key audiences. Scholars and educators who use oral histories and VHA in their teaching or research will be invited to participate. 
The survey will be online and take approximately 20 minutes to complete. Responses will be anonymized, and each person receiving the survey invitation will have the option to decline participation. The invitations will be sent via email in early April.
Please help us further our mission by participating in this important effort.