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Jewish Journal

Conference to probe ethics of Holocaust studies, honor historian

by Tom Tugend

April 11, 2012 | 11:23 am

Saul Friedlander

Saul Friedlander

What are the moral and artistic limits faced by a novelist, filmmaker, historian or artist in depicting the Holocaust?

Some of the leading thinkers on this often agonizing question will present their views at a UCLA conference, April 21-23, on “History Unlimited: Probing the Ethics of Holocaust Culture.”

The occasion will also serve as a tribute to UCLA historian Saul Friedlander, who has retired as the first holder of the “1939” Club Chair in Holocaust Studies. He was awarded the MacArthur “genius” award in 1999, and his book “The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945,” the second of two volumes on the Nazi persecution and extermination of European Jewry, was recognized with a Pulitzer Prize in 2008.

One of his earlier books, “Probing the Limits of Representation,” published in 1992, set the terms for the debate continued in the upcoming UCLA conference.

Speakers at the conference will include some of the most respected names in Holocaust studies, including Yehuda Bauer of Israel’s Hebrew University, Christopher Browning of the University of North Carolina, Hayden White of UC Santa Cruz, author Daniel Mendelsohn and Friedlander himself.

Also taking part will be architect Peter Eisenman (Yale), Stephen D. Smith, executive director of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, and filmmakers Peter Forgacs and Yael Hersonski.

In the 20 years since Friedlander published his book on Holocaust representation, the depth and breadth of the field has expanded enormously, said Todd Presner, director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies and conference organizer.

“There has been a vast addition of new material with the opening of the German archives at Bad Arolsen and of other archives in the former Soviet Union,” Presner said.

Much of this and other material are being disseminated online, as are the more than 50,000 interviews, mostly with survivors, conducted by the Shoah Foundation.

Admission to the conference is free, but pre-registration is required by calling (310) 267-5327, or by sending an e-mail to cjsrsvp@humnet.ucla.edu.

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