TACOMA – Hosted by the Pacific Lutheran University Department of Holocaust and Genocide Studies and featuring Holocaust researchers and historians from all over the country, the ninth annual Powell-Heller Conference for Holocaust Education will explore “Women and the Holocaust” Oct. 17-19 at PLU.
“We’re going to specifically focus on how women’s experiences, because of their gender, were different from that of men,” said conference organizer and PLU history professor Beth Griech-Polelle. “If we really want to capture the historical moment and time of the holocaust, it’s not enough to leave women out of the story.”
Griech-Polelle, who serves as the Kurt Mayer chair in Holocaust studies at PLU, says that only recently did the field of Holocaust studies warm to the importance of investigating and sharing the stories and experiences of women in the Holocaust.
“For many decades following the end of WWII most historians were men and they talked to male survivors of the Holocaust, so most of our perceptions of what the Holocaust actually was, and what living in a concentration camp was actually like, have been from a male perspective,” Griech-Polelle explained. “This isn’t about creating a hierarchy of suffering to suggest women suffered more than men, it’s just about considering what might have been different for women in these situations.”
Griech-Polelle is quick to explain that the conference will not focus solely on women as victims in the Holocaust. “That would be doing the female population an injustice,” she said. Rather, the three-day forum will begin with a presentation on “Women as Perpetrators,” and go on to include a full spectrum of topics including “Sexual Violence against Jewish Women,” “Women as Rescuers and Collaborators,” “Women as Survivors” and “Reconsidering Anne Frank.” (Full conference schedule)
The conference keynote speaker is award-winning author and renowned professor of sociology and law Lenore J. Weitzman. Formerly a professor at Stanford University and Harvard University and currently a professor emeritus at George Mason University, Weitzman’s research has led to the 14 new laws in California and was instrumental in reforming national legislation on child support and pensions. Weitzman’s keynote at the Powell-Heller Conference for Holocaust Education will address “Jewish Women as Couriers in the Resistance.”
In total, the conference will feature 23 speakers including academics, nonprofit directors, authors, college students and a Holocaust survivor. The event is free and open to the public. Online registration is encouraged.