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New Holocaust, Genocide Curriculum at Boston U’s Elie Wiesel Center ‘Perfect Fit’ for Renowned Survivor’s Legacy, Says Jewish Studies Prof

avatar by Lea Speyer

Chairman of The Algemeiner Journal's Advisory Board, the late Professor Elie Wiesel, speaking at the newspaper's 40th anniversary gala, on April 22, 2013. Photo: Sarah Rogers / Algemeiner.

Chairman of The Algemeiner Journal’s Advisory Board, the late Professor Elie Wiesel, speaking at the newspaper’s 40th anniversary gala, on April 22, 2013. Photo: Sarah Rogers / Algemeiner.

A new secondary academic discipline offered at Boston University (BU) — aimed at educating about mass murder in the 20th century — has generated much excitement among students, a teacher of one of its courses told The Algemeiner on Friday.

The Holocaust and Genocide Studies minor, which is being offered through BU’s Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies “fits perfectly with the social justice legacy” of the man after whom the center is named, said Nancy Harrowitz, associate professor of Italian and Jewish studies.

“Racism, prejudice and xenophobia, unfortunately, are not things of the past. Educating ourselves about history so as to learn from it is vital in today’s world,” Harrowitz said. “We hope to create empathy and sensitivity in our students about persecuted groups, past and present, that will go beyond specific topics studied,” among them “History of the Holocaust” and “History of Genocide.”

Equally important for students to study, she said, is the role of bystander complicity — crucial for “understanding warning signs and our ethical duty as citizens.”

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“Do we go out of our way to help others who are suffering oppression? What does it mean if we don’t? It makes me think of the provocative slogan sometimes seen at Black Lives Matter rallies: ‘White Silence is Violence.’ Some may see that as excessive, but the point it makes is thought-provoking,” she said.

According to Harrowitz, the idea to create the minor began two years ago. University officials and fellow faculty were “enthusiastic and helpful,” and approval for the curriculum was given last spring.

Wiesel, who passed away in July at the age of 87, was 15 when he was sent to Nazi death camp Auschwitz. His famed book, Night, recounts his harrowing story of survival. Wiesel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 and served as chairman of The Algemeiner’s Tribute Committee. In 2013, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama for his human-rights advocacy work.

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