Crimes against humanity

Culture & Society

Genocide, mass atrocities, crimes against humanity and their prevention stand at the core of the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University in Worcester, MA, USA. Home to a uniquely rich undergraduate program and a landmark doctoral program, the Strassler Center is the first and only institute of its kind. Since it was established in 1998, it has gained international standing as the sole program to train students for Ph.D. degrees in Holocaust History and Genocide Studies. Debórah Dwork, co founder, has been director of the Strassler Center since its start.

Merging historical analysis and psychological research, the Center and Clark’s distinguished Psychology Department launched an interdisciplinary psychology of genocide track. In 2003 a collaboration was initiated to support this endeavor and the scope of the doctoral program thus broadened to pursue a new way of understanding genocide.

In 2003, Dwork and Robert Weil collaborated on a visiting professor program, which supported Mr. Robert Melson and Mr. Yehuda Bauer in 2004, and Ms. Barbara Harff in 2005.

In 2008, their focus shifted to broaden the scope of the doctoral program. A series of scholarships were awarded to support academics seeking to analyze genocide in new ways. In spring of 2013, Proventus Fellow Cristina Andriani successfully defended her dissertation, Swords or Plowshares? Holocaust Collective Memories and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, which explores the mutual impact of Holocaust collective memory and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on Jewish-Israeli understanding and their experience of past and present.

The second doctoral student was Joanna Sliwa. Her dissertation, Oppression and Agency: A Social History of Jewish Children in German-Occupied Kraków, illuminates the daily lives of Jewish children in the context of the larger society in which they operated.

In 2015, the scholarship enabled Emily Dabney to work with 'The Letters Project,' transcribing and translating letters from survivors who were looking for family and friends in a shattered Europe during and after World War II.

In 2016, the Robert Weil Family Foundation agreed to support doctoral student Abigal Miller in finalizing her dissertation, The Transmission of Holocaust Memory in Argentina. She explores the trajectory of Jews who fled from Nazi Europe to Argentina (pre-war emigration), as well as Holocaust survivors who sought a new life in that country (post-war emigration). While Argentina can proclaim itself the country with the largest Jewish population during World War II, the social history of its refugee-survivors is less distinguished. Miller is critically examining their testimonies to lay bare their narratives of loss and recovery, probing how their memories of violence and atrocity in Europe shaped their response to antisemitic violence in Argentina, especially during the so-called Dirty War. Miller focuses her lens on those who fled to Argentina both before and after the war, and suffered through the Perón era, the influx of Nazi war criminals, political and economic instability, and the final military dictatorship. Coping with the particular challenges of being survivor-victims of state-sponsored persecution, these displaced and disadvantaged immigrants also struggled with assimilation, vis-à-vis established coreligionist communities and gentile Argentine society.