This annual seminar provides professors of philosophy, theology, ethics, and religious studies an overview of the history of the churches during the Holocaust, both inside and outside Nazi Germany, and the ways in which religious leaders of all faiths have addressed the Holocaust since 1945. Focusing on a particular theme or historical aspect in alternate years, each seminar includes special presentations by experts in the field; a review of curricular resources, new research, and publications; and an introduction to the Museum’s resources for scholars.
AFTER EVIL: THE ETHICAL DYNAMICS OF ADDRESSING THE PAST
June 18–22, 2018
Since 1945 several hundred statements addressing the moral and ethical issues related to the Holocaust have been issued by national and religious leaders, institutions, and corporations. These statements vary widely in language and intent: some express guilt and apology, others can be read as justifications and self-defense, and others are cautiously linked to official commitments to reparations and other international agreements. The history of these statements—and how the ethical discourse about the Holocaust has changed over the decades—is a provocative case study that offers insight into the complexity of addressing other instances of mass atrocity and genocide. This seminar will explore these issues by examining key statements of guilt and repentance and interrogating their impact on similar attempts to address other pasts. The 2018 seminar leaders are Professor Katharina von Kellenbach (St. Mary's College of Maryland) and Victoria Barnett (Director of the Programs on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust, USHMM).
Complete information about the seminar and application process can be found here.
2017: MARTIN LUTHER'S THEOLOGY AND THE JEWS
The subject of “Luther and the Jews” became one of the most provocative themes in the field of Luther studies after the Holocaust. This seminar gave an overview of Luther’s writings about the Jews, probing the foundations of Luther’s (and his contemporaries’) antagonism toward the Jews and exploring the legacy of these texts in the early twentieth century.
2016: good, evil, and the grey zone: religion's role in genocide from the holocaust to isis
This seminar explored the complex ways in which religion (whether in the form of religious groups, leaders, institutions, or interpretations of religious traditions and teachings) becomes a factor in genocidal situations, with a special focus on the Holocaust, the Cambodian and Rwandan genocides, and the atrocities perpetrated by the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
2015: BUILDING CHRISTIAN-JEWISH UNDERSTANDING AFTER THE HOLOCAUST
The Holocaust catalyzed a new era in interreligious encounter as Jews and Christians addressed the historical and theological obstacles to a positive relationship. This seminar examined the development of these new dialogical directions.
2014: MORAL DILEMMAS AND MORAL CHOICE IN THE HOLOCAUST: DIETRICH BONHOEFFER AND PIUS XII AS CASE STUDIES IN RELIGIOUS LEADERSHIP
This seminar examined the historical and theological complexities of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Pope Pius XII, two of the most central Christian figures during the Holocaust, and explored how the scholarship on both men has shaped Christian understandings of the Holocaust after 1945.
2013: The Overlooked Revolution: The Shift in Catholic Teaching on the Jews since Vatican II
This seminar explored the changes in Catholic teachings about Jews and Judaism after the 1965 promulgation of Nostra Aetate (“In Our Age”) at Vatican II.
2012: Understanding Complicity: The Churches’ Role in Nazi Germany
This seminar explored the historical and theological dynamics of the complicity of churches in Nazi Germany. Participants examined how widespread the complicity was and what its causes were; the role of the leadership of the churches; how this history influenced postwar discussions in Germany about guilt and responsibility; and how this issue been addressed in the general historiography of the Holocaust.
2011: Transforming Troubling Tellings: The History of the Deicide Charge and the Holocaust
This seminar examined the “shadow side” of Christian teaching and preaching about the Passion story that assigns blame to Jews and constitutes the core of a polemic against Judaism.
2010: Rescuers and Bystanders during the Holocaust: The Historical Significance of Morality and Complicity
Participants explored the history of Catholic and Protestant responses to Nazism and the Holocaust, with a particular focus on the role of rescuers and bystanders.
2009: Christianity and the Holocaust: History, Analysis, Implications
Using the history of the Catholic and Protestant responses to Nazism and the Holocaust as a starting point, this seminar traced the emergence of post-Holocaust Christian thought and analyzed the legacy of this history.
2008: Christianity and the Holocaust: Teaching the Tough Questions
This seminar focused on the “tough questions” that often arise in teaching the history of the Holocaust and Christian churches, including antisemitism, the relevance of rescue and resistance, the complexity of figures like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, contemporary interfaith challenges, and comparisons with other genocides.
2007: The Holocaust and the Christian Churches: Teaching this History Today
Participants explored the Catholic and Protestant churches’ responses to Nazism and the Holocaust—both inside and outside Germany—and the ways in which religious leaders have addressed this history since 1945.
2006: Complicity and Confession: Post-Holocaust Christian Interpretations of Guilt and Forgiveness
This seminar explored the behavior of Christian clergy and theologians in Nazi Germany, including their complicity and its broader legacy for postwar Christian theological discourse on guilt and forgiveness.
The Programs on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust are supported by the Hoffberger Family Foundation and by Joseph A. and Janeal Cannon and Family.