EHRI Summer Schools 2014: Jerusalem and Amsterdam
'The EHRI Summer School at the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocidestudies in Amsterdam was the best summer school I ever attended.' Milda Jakulytė-Vasil, trainee EHRI Summer School Amsterdam
In 2014, like the year before, EHRI organised two Summer Schools in Holocaust Studies: this time, one took place in Jerusalem, the other in Amsterdam.
The Jerusalem Summer School was hosted by EHRI partner Yad Vashem, and ran from 24 April to 15 May, which allowed the twelve trainees to enjoy Spring and witness the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day. The Amsterdam Summer School took place from 5 to 25 July and was organised by NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, located in the heart of the city.
A network for young scholars
The EHRI Summer School in Holocaust Studies is a graduate-level seminar aimed at deepening the knowledge and comprehension of the extermination process of European Jews during World War II. It also provides a comprehensive overview on the most relevant methodologies and sources as well as an update on the current state of research in the field of Holocaust history.
This being the official goal of the Summer School, for most trainees another aspect is just as important:
‘I really got the feeling that the summer school helped to develop a long lasting network of young talented colleagues, which might be part of a framework for a new generation of holocaust scholars.’ Jan Issinger, trainee at the Jerusalem Summer School. Read more about the EHRI Summer School Jerusalem from the excellent report by Jan Issinger.
‘The Summer School will have a lasting impact on my research and teaching, both through what I have learned and through the friendships and contacts that I have made.’ Adam Knowles, EHRI Summer School Amsterdam
Many trainees indicated that the networking, learning from your fellow participants and the exchange of ideas and experiences is as valuable to them as the offered programme.
'The group of participants was very diverse. The wide range of topics that everyone is researching, the difference in age and the diversity in job positions made that I could also learn from them, instead of just from the lectures.' Anne Lise Bobeldijk, Summer School Amsterdam
The openness and willingness of the senior researchers and other speakers to discuss their work was greatly appreciated as well.
The workshops enabled me to gain deeper insight into interdisciplinary fields of Holocaust-research and I also profited from the different backgrounds of the other participants. The lectures triggered many interesting discussions that were also extensively continued outside the workshops. I am hoping to work with some other participants on smaller bilateral projects in the future; I thus found the contacts with both other participants, lecturers and Yad Vashem employees very important and helpful for my future research.’ Johanna Oettl, trainee EHRI Summer School Jerusalem
'I think that the main goal of this summer school is establishing new contacts with the researches in the same field.' Irina Rebrova, EHRI Summer School Amsterdam
All these new contacts, new ideas and approaches proved to be very inspirational.
'One of the most important achievements during the summer school was creating contacts with other junior and senior researchers working on similar topics, and building a network. (…) I am sure that, following this wonderful experience, I will develop new projects related to the Holocaust in Romania, hopefully in collaboration with the people I met in the summer school.' Irina Matei, Summer School Amsterdam
And all this in an often relaxed atmosphere:
'Moreover I have never had the chance before to discuss my work on such a friendly and informal level, which has helped me a lot. I would never have supposed that an informal discussion with a glass of Dutch beer can be so valuable for my career.' Denisa Neśt’áková, Amsterdam Summer School
Diversity and balance
Apart from the highly esteemed networking, both the EHRI Summer School Jerusalem as the Summer School in Amsterdam offered extensive, high quality programmes. Most trainees praised the diversity and the balance.
'The strongest and most impressive part of the School was it diversity. I especially enjoyed the interdisciplinary approach to the Holocaust Studies represented during the School.' Alla Zakharchenko, EHRI Summer School Amsterdam
Speakers came from many different countries and from various disciplines. Approaches to Holocaust research stretched from analysing photographs to oral history, from maps to witness accounts. Among the presenters were professors and artists, professionals and passionate amateurs.
'Also the different approaches to the research of Holocaust made me look at my own research in a different way – I did not consider the photo sources as a material for analysing, rather as a picture to the work based on documents.' Bartlomiej Rusin, Summer School Amsterdam
'The diverse range of speakers presented the Holocaust as a phenomenon that occurred across Europe, but that was nonetheless carried out in manifold ways in individual regions, villages and even houses.' Adam Knowles, EHRI Summer School Amsterdam
Within the programme, traditional lectures alternated with more intensive document-based work sessions and visits to important archives, museums and memorial sites. The trainees also had the chance to present their own work and do some research.
'A balance was struck between intensive lectures and free time as well as presentations by lecturers and gaining contacts for future work with fellow participants.' Milda Jakulytė-Vasil
Although the balance between free time, lectures and visits to archives, museums and memorial sites was generally appreciated, the thoughts about the visited places differed. Some trainees regarded it as positive experiences, other had their doubts. This sometimes depended on the background of the trainee.
'The visits to different museums helped me as a museum worker to view our museum work from a distance, both our weaknesses and strengths.' Milda Jakulytė-Vasil, trainee Summer School Amsterdam
'The Summer School also included a number of unique tours which largely reinforced my understanding of the topic.' Alla Zakharchenko, trainee Summer School Amsterdam
'I was particularly struck knowing the history and visiting Hollandsche Schouwburg, the haunting emptiness of the place behind the theatre will stay with me for a long time.' Rohee Dasgupta, Amsterdam Summer School
But not everyone saw the visits as a worthwhile experience. Some considered them lacking in scholarly depth.
'I also felt that the museum visits and films were treated as filler, instead of being taken seriously so a source for academic discussion. We often did not take the approach or space to look at them critically.' Lauren Bartshe, Summer School Amsterdam
Several trainees questioned the places that, as they saw it, came close to ‘Holocaust tourism’.
'Visiting Camp Vught was moving but it was the first time I saw a café or ate within the same area of a memorial site – perhaps it was a practical arrangement but it felt really strange I would kindly request the organizers to reconsider the place.' Rohee Dasgupta, Summer School Amsterdam
In general, a lot of trainees would have loved more time for discussion: after lectures with the researchers, after films, visits, about the lectures, after presentations of their own work.
'I thought during the past three weeks that it had been nice to have more time for discussions after the lectures. Sometimes it was a little bit difficult to manage that while the scholar was still in the room.' Anna-Raphaela Schmitz, Amsterdam Summer School
'Overall, I suggest that the lectures should have been shorter to allow more time for questions. This is the only time that many of us have access to so many esteemed scholars and to really be able to "pick their brain".' Lauren Bartshe
'Furthermore, I would have liked to discuss the documentaries we watched a bit more. Although some of them were quite interesting, it sometimes felt as filling up the program because we did not really speak about it later-on. In addition to this, it could have been nice to make our presentations a bit more formal than the way we presented it now. Perhaps it would have triggered the other participants a bit more to comment on the topic or to give some suggestions that could have been beneficial for everyone’s research.' Anne Lise Bobeldijk, Amsterdam EHRI Summer School
More than one trainee would like to have seen more input about the Holocaust as a current, cultural phenomenon.
'Personally I would recommend to invite also scholars who can give a lecture on dealing with the Holocaust issue in the present. For example to include presentations about anti-Semitism in the 21.century, holocaust denial etc. This is part of our everyday work and we all have to deal with these kind of problems.' Anna-Raphaela Schmitz, Summer School Amsterdam
'I believe that the Summer School would have been enriched by including a few more contributors who analyzed the Holocaust not only as a historical phenomenon, but also as a current cultural phenomenon. Likewise, although it has been pleasant to be immersed with historians for three weeks, it would have been nice to hear from a literary scholar, perhaps someone working on trauma, literary theory, and memory.' Adam Knowles, trainee EHRI Summer School Amsterdam
Collective support and shared framework
All in all, the EHRI Summer Schools in Holocaust Studies 2014 can be considered highly successful. Taking the very valuable criticism in their stride, the organisers can only be pleased to receive such comments and hope to inspire more like these:
'Coming away from the summer school, I feel much more confident in my knowledge of numerous areas of the Holocaust, particularly in Romania and Ukraine, and richer for having met my fellow participants. I have also gained a number of new ideas from discussions with lecturers, participants, and from some readings that I hope to incorporate into my own research in the future.' Jonathan Neufeld, EHRI Summer School Amsteram
'Another benefit of the summer school was being able to meet other people from different backgrounds all interested in the same topic. This imparted to me and I think others as well a sense of collective support and a shared framework, and encouraging the knowledge I am not alone, which I found empowering and which inspired me to continue.' Milda Jakulytė-Vasil, EHRI Summer School Amsterdam
First photo: trainees EHRI Summer School Amsterdam