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2009 Seminars

Deliver Us from Evil: Genocide and the Christian World
June 22-July 10, 2009

Directed by James E. Waller

Seminar Description

“Deliver Us From Evil: Genocide and the Christian World” will explore the role of the church as a social institution, with institutional actors, and how it shapes a culture in which genocidal violence may occur and how it responds to such a culture both during and after the genocidal violence.  Over a three week period, participants will critically examine the role of the Christian churches in 20th century genocide and the subsequent consequences for Christian thought and practice in the contemporary world.  Embedded throughout these analyses are questions of the moral responsibilities of the institutional church; the churches’ standing as manipulated or independent actors; how and why churches become linked with power holders in genocidal regimes; how institutional church leaders use rhetorical and theological devices to develop religious justifications for genocidal belief systems; the variability of institutional churches’ responses; the motivations behind churches’ interventionist role in reconciliation after the genocidal violence, etc.  Such questions remain keenly relevant for church-state relations in contemporary international affairs – for instance, the ongoing genocide in Darfur; the escalating violence in Zimbabwe (about which church leaders are warning could reach genocidal levels); and the recent move in Russia to coronate the Russian Orthodox Church as the de facto official state religion, reinforcing a nationalistic ideology while promoting state-sponsored religious intolerance.

About the Director

Dr. James Waller is the inaugural Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Center for Holocaust Studies at the University of Vermont.  As a widely-recognized scholar in the field of Holocaust and genocide studies, Waller has held international visiting professorships at the Technical University in Berlin (1990) and the Catholic University in Eichstatt, Germany (1992) as well as being an invited participant in international seminars hosted by the Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust Studies at the University of Leicester in England (2006); the Institute of Sociology at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland (2007 and 2008); the Bundeszentrale fur politische Bildung in Berlin, Germany (2009); and the VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands (2009).  Waller also has been awarded summer fellowships, and been a teaching fellow, with the Holocaust Educational Foundation at Northwestern University (1996, 2007, and 2008) and at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. (1999, 2003, and 2005).  He is also regularly involved as an instructor for the Raphael Lemkin Seminar for Genocide Prevention at the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation.  These seminars, held in conjunction with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, introduce mid-level government officials from around the world to issues of genocide warning and prevention.

In addition to three books, Waller has published twenty-eight articles in peer-reviewed professional journals and contributed thirteen chapters in edited books.  Waller’s book on perpetrators of genocide, Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing (Oxford University Press, 2002), was praised by Publisher’s Weekly for “clearly and effectively synthesizing a wide range of studies to develop an original and persuasive model of the process by which people can become evil.”  In addition to being used as a textbook in college and university courses around the world, Becoming Evil also was short-listed for the biennial Raphael Lemkin Award from the International Association of Genocide Scholars and was released in a revised and updated second edition in March 2007.  Concepts from Becoming Evil have been the basis for an international best-selling novel (The Exception by Christian Jungersen) and a play currently being workshopped at UCLA.  A Hungarian translation of Becoming Evil is scheduled for release in April 2009.

About the Speakers

John Roth is the Edward J. Sexton Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and the Founding Director of the Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights at Claremont McKenna College, where he taught from 1966 through 2006.  In 2007-2008, he served as the Robert and Carolyn Frederick Distinguished Visiting Professor of Ethics at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.  In addition to service on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and on the editorial board for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, he has published hundreds of articles and reviews and authored, co-authored, or edited more than forty books, including Genocide and Human Rights: A Philosophical Guide; Gray Zones: Ambiguity and Compromise in the Holocaust and Its Aftermath; and Ethics During and After the Holocaust: In the Shadow of Birkenau.  With Peter Hayes, Roth is currently editing the Oxford Handbook of Holocaust Studies for the Oxford University Press.  Roth has been Visiting Professor of Holocaust studies at the University of Haifa, Israel, and his Holocaust-related research appointments have included a 2001 Koerner Visiting Fellowship at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies in England as well as a 2004-05 appointment as the Ina Levine Invitational Scholar at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.  In 1988, Roth was named U.S. National Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Victoria Barnett is Staff Director, Committee on Church Relations, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. She is a graduate of Indiana University and Union Theological Seminary, New York (M. Div.). She is the author of For the Soul of the People: Protestant Protest against Hitler (Oxford University Press, 1992) and Bystanders: Conscience and Complicity during the Holocaust (Greenwood Press, 1999), and editor/translator of Wolfgang Gerlach’s And the Witnesses were Silent: the Confessing Church and the Jews (University of Nebraska Press, 2000) and Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography (Fortress Press, 2000), as well as numerous articles and book chapters on the churches during the Holocaust. She is also coeditor of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works project, the English translation series of Bonhoeffer’s complete works. She is also completing a doctorate in religion and conflict at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University.