New student group at IU McKinney plans Holocaust Remembrance Day event

Jews & Allies, a new student organization at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law, will be hosting a symposium and exhibition in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday, Jan. 25, from noon to 3 pm.  

The discussion will begin in the Wynne Courtroom in the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law, will move to the atrium for lunch, then back in the courtroom for a panel discussion. Afterwards, refreshments and an exhibition will be in the Ruth Lilly Law Library.

According to a press release from Jews & Allies, their mission is “to unite Jewish and non-Jewish allies to fight antisemitism and create an environment where Jewish students feel welcome to express their Jewish identity without fear, and to develop alliances that link antisemitism with other forms of prejudice.” Robert Katz, professor at IU McKinney, John S. Grimes Fellow, and president of the Jewish Faculty and Staff Council, is the advisor for the group.

Soviet Army soldiers chatting to the children just liberated from the Auschwitz concentration camp | Courtesy of Wikipedia

History of International Holocaust Remembrance Day

International Holocaust Remembrance Day has been officially celebrated on Jan. 27 since 2005, when the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to honor the victims of Nazi Germany, including over six million Jewish individuals and approximately 1.9 million Polish civilians whose lives were taken.

Jan. 27, 1945 was the day the last prisoners in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp were freed by soldiers of the Soviet Union, near the close of World War II.

Many Jewish communities, however, particularly those in Israel, may also choose to remember the Holocaust on another day, May 5-6. Yom HaShoah, as it is called in Hebrew, commemorates the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Speakers at the event

Dr. Hans-Christian Jasch

The primary speaker at the Jews & Allies event is Dr. Hans-Christian Jasch, a legal historian, German Federal Ministry of Interior lawyer, and former Memorial House of the Wannsee Conference director. 

Jasch will be speaking about the role Jewish lawyers played in uncovering, prosecuting, and remembering the Holocaust.  

Afterwards there will be a panel discussion on Nazi persecution of non-Jewish populations. Kathrin Janzen, a historian and doctoral candidate at the Department for Contemporary History at Vienna University, will speak about the Nazi’s genocide of disabled people, while Jasch discusses the link between American and Nazi race laws. Afterwards, Jasch will give a tour of a history exhibit centered around early Holocaust researchers. 

Kathrin Janzen | Courtesy of universität wien

Jewish students look to a more equitable future

Isaac Smith, a Jewish student studying at the University of Michigan, pointed out in a text with The Collegiate Commons that in addition to remembering those who have died, International Holocaust Remembrance Day should be a time to remember those who have lived, by addressing ongoing antisemitism and other challenges faced by the community. 

“This is one of the last few years that we will have Holocaust survivors to talk to on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which makes it even more important to listen to those survivors we still have,” he said. “Especially in the wake of October 7th, which included the murder of a holocaust survivor, we need to acknowledge that there are people actively trying to suppress the memory of the holocaust or deny that it even happened, and put forward additional effort to make sure that ‘never again’ applies even after those who directly experienced it are no longer with us”

Indiana legislators aim to define antisemitism

While Smith is not an Indiana resident, some Indiana legislators have taken steps recently to enshrine the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism into law through House Bill 1002, although the bill specified that the definition does not include “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country.” 

Some individuals who testified at the committee hearing expressed concern about vagueness in the “contemporary examples” provided by the IHRA in the definition, while others emphasized the unique nature of Israel and the perceived difficulty of criticizing Israel in a way that is “similar to that leveled against any other country.”

Supporters hope that the bill will give public universities and educational institutions a better framework for addressing antisemitism, particularly in the wake of rhetoric following the events of Oct. 7. The Collegiate Commons reported on that rhetoric here and here

The bill passed out of the Education Committee on Jan. 11. Last year the same legislation passed unanimously in the House but failed to advance in the Senate. Click here for further updates. 

To learn more about Jews & Allies, email cafcumm@iu.edu or click here.

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