The Forgotten Pioneer of Holocaust Memory

Born in what was now Latvia, David Boder (1886-1975) emigrated to the U.S. following the Russian revolution and pursued a successful career as a professor of psychology. In 1946, he began visiting European displaced-persons (DP) camps, recording equipment in hand, to interview survivors about their wartime experiences. He may have been the very first to undertake such a project, which produced over 90 hours of recordings. Jack Doyle writes:

It took more than a year of determined fundraising before Boder headed to Europe as an archivist and scholar to record firsthand accounts. It hadn’t been easy, because in 1946 not many wanted to hear from survivors. “It was too recent a memory, too recent a hurt,” explains Ralph Pugh, an archivist with the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Voices of the Holocaust project, which houses digitized versions of Boder’s interviews. . . .

But Boder was undeterred. Over the course of two months, he interviewed 130 people: young and old, male and female, of many nationalities, but all DPs . . . who had been held in internment and extermination camps. The interviews describe, in agonizing detail, the experiences we [now known as the] Holocaust, including death marches, mass executions, gas chambers, [and] families separated and extinguished. . . .

Boder’s work remained obscure for years. He spent the rest of his career dedicated to disseminating his interviews, writing the book I Did Not Interview the Dead and taking eight years to revisit, translate, and type 70 stories. He sent copies to academic libraries, including Yale, Princeton and Harvard. But [his work garnered little attention].

Read more at OZY

More about: DP Camps, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Holocaust remembrance, Holocaust survivors


How to Save the Universities

To Peter Berkowitz, the rot in American institutions of higher learning exposed by Tuesday’s hearings resembles a disease that in its early stages was easy to cure but difficult to diagnose, and now is so advanced that it is easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. Recent analyses of these problems have now at last made it to the pages of the New York Times but are, he writes, “tardy by several decades,” and their suggested remedies woefully inadequate:

They fail to identify the chief problem. They ignore the principal obstacles to reform. They propose reforms that provide the equivalent of band-aids for gaping wounds and shattered limbs. And they overlook the mainstream media’s complicity in largely ignoring, downplaying, or dismissing repeated warnings extending back a quarter century and more—largely, but not exclusively, from conservatives—that our universities undermine the public interest by attacking free speech, eviscerating due process, and hollowing out and politicizing the curriculum.

The remedy, Berkowitz argues, would be turning universities into places that cultivate, encourage, and teach freedom of thought and speech. But doing so seems unlikely:

Having undermined respect for others and the art of listening by presiding over—or silently acquiescing in—the curtailment of dissenting speech for more than a generation, the current crop of administrators and professors seems ill-suited to fashion and implement free-speech training. Moreover, free speech is best learned not by didactic lectures and seminars but by practicing it in the reasoned consideration of competing ideas with those capable of challenging one’s assumptions and arguments. But where are the professors who can lead such conversations? Which faculty members remain capable of understanding their side of the argument because they understand the other side?

Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Academia, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Israel on campus