When it is Hard to be Human: Lessons from the Rescuers in the Holocaust

By: Marjorie Hoffman, Ithaca Area United Jewish Community, 
January 22, 2020

‘When it is Hard to be Human: Lessons from the Rescuers in the Holocaust’ will take place at Ithaca College’s James J. Whalen Center for Music | Presser Rehearsal Room, on Sunday February 2, 2020 at 3 PM. This event is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception and book signing.

Authors Eva Fogelman and Roald Hoffmann will guide this panel discussion, moderated by author Dan Schwarz. In a quiet and intimate setting, they will explore why some bystanders and perpetrators in the midst of totalitarian genocide were compelled to risk their lives and resist. What role does conscience and moral courage play in confronting hate today?  It will be followed by audience interaction.        
Mykola and Maria Dyuk risked their lives to hide Roald Hoffmann with his mother Clara and other relatives in the attic of a schoolhouse to save them from Nazi terror from January 1943 until June 1944 in the village of Uniow, Ukraine.  The Germans killed Hoffmann’s father for his involvement in a plot to arm camp prisoners. Roald is the author of ‘Something That Belongs to You’ (2015), an autobiographical drama. He is Professor Emeritus of Cornell and shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1981.

Eva Fogelman studied at CUNY with Stanley Milgram, author of ‘Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View’ (1974) which showed how both his experiment and Nazi Germany successfully transformed large numbers of “ordinary” and arguably indifferent people into willing inflictors of harm.  Fogelman asked Milgram a question. She wanted to know why a small minority of people in his study disobeyed authority. This question, that he could not answer, began a twenty-year study that led to her book, ‘Conscience and Courage’ (1994). Fogelman bases her findings on over 300 interviews with rescuers of Jews whose acts of courage either have been confirmed by those they helped or substantiated and honored by Yad Vashem. What distinguishes her approach is her attention to ‘rescue’ as an evolving process. As a psychotherapist, Eva has worked with groups and individual children of Holocaust survivors. She is the founding director of the Jewish Foundation for Christian Rescuers (now the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous).

Dan Schwarz, author of ‘Imagining the Holocaust’ (1999) looks at the various contexts of documentary, testimony, fiction and art that contribute to our understanding of what is real and true about the Holocaust and its impact on history, politics and mental health today.  Dan Schwarz is Professor Emeritus of English at Cornell and will moderate the discussion about the “rescuers,” or as Israel’s Yad Vashem calls them, the “Righteous Among the Nations”.

This event is sponsored by Area Congregations Together, Cornell Jewish Studies, Hillel at Ithaca College, Ithaca Area United Jewish Community, Ithaca College Jewish Studies, Ithaca Descendants of Holocaust Survivors, Roitman Chabad Center at Cornell, Southern Tier Interfaith Coalition, and Temple Beth-El of Ithaca. The event is free and open to the public.

Free parking is available near the Whalen Center for Music. See map.ithaca.edu for more information. There is easy drop-off at the circle in front of Whalen. Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations should contact ekibelsbeck@ithaca.edu. We ask that requests be made as soon as possible to ensure they can be met.

Dan Schwarz, Eva Fogelman, Roald Hoffman