- Grove City, Pennsylvania

Local News

April 16, 2014

Finding good in the darkest time

Speaker focuses on courageous acts of others

SLIPPERY ROCK — Paul Bartrop works hard to find the good - accounts of heroism and selfless acts - in one of the most evil events known to mankind: the Holocaust.

"I like stories with a happy ending," Bartrop told a crowd Tuesday in Slippery Rock University's Robert M. Smith Student Center.

His lecture, "Goodness during the Holocaust: Acts of Helping Amidst the Horror," was the focal point of SRU's 20th annual Holocaust Remembrance Program.

Bartrop, director of the Center for Judaic, Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Florida Gulf Coast University, is a well-known scholar who is respected all over the world and has published 12 books, said Richard Martin, an SRU professor of political science who organized the program.

Bartrop told stories of men and women like Zoran Mandlbaum, who was called "the Oskar Schindler of Bosnia" for creating fake Jewish passports in the early 1990s to help people escape danger.

"You know what a high accolade that implies," Bartrop said, referring to Schindler, whose story of rescuing Jews was told in the film "Schindler's List."

Through his work studying "human evil," Bartrop has found that nearly 25,000 men and women are considered "righteous gentiles," meaning they did some good related to the Holocaust, which killed about 6 million Jews under the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler.

"But it wasn't easy being a rescuer during the Holocaust," he said.

Genocide occurs for several reasons: to eliminate a real or imagined threat or enemy; to acquire wealth; to implement a belief or ideology; or to perfect humanity.

"The perpetrators of genocide see themselves as doing nothing wrong," Bartrop said, adding they instead see it as an "act of goodness."

He continued to list rescuers, some of them non-Jews, who saved thousands of lives: Raoul Wallenberg, Carl Lutz, Giorgio Trocmé, Chinue "Sempo" Sugihara, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Georg Ferdinand Duckwitz, Dimitar Peshev, Laura Lane and Carl Wilkens.

"What can we learn from all this?" he asked as their photos flashed across the screen. "Why do people put themselves on the line to save others?"

Some answers include religious and ethical beliefs, simple human anger at atrocities of events like the Holocaust, and a sense of compassion.

"People can make a difference, even among dire circumstances. Saving humans can save humanity," Bartrop said, adding tiny acts mean big lessons for future generations.

During the question and answer session, he said there are accounts of people sneaking into ghettos and concentration camps to find out what was happening, and to smuggle children out.

Bartrop is always learning new things about the Holocaust, like the image of Nazi Germany isn't always as brutal as it seems.

But the Holocaust shows where an "inversion of our values" can lead, so we can never forget, rather than say "never again," because genocide is still a very real threat in parts of the world, he said.

Bartrop, who is from Australia, pointed out that the Holocaust is everyone's story.

"Every country in the world has an angle regarding the Holocaust," he said.

Bartrop in 2011-12 was the Ida E. King Distinguished Visiting Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Richard Stockton College, N.J. From 1997 to 2011, he taught and was head of the history department at Bialik College, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

At Bialik, he taught subjects in history including Jewish studies, international studies and comparative genocide studies. Concurrently, he was, for many years, an honorary fellow on the faculty of arts and education at Deakin University in Melbourne. In Australia, he taught at the University of South Australia, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and Monash University.

He also served as a scholar-in-residence at the Martin-Springer Institute for Teaching the Holocaust, Tolerance and Humanitarian Values at Northern Arizona University and a visiting professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Bartrop's latest works include "Experiencing Genocide: Personal Accounts from Victims, Perpetrators, and Witnesses" and a textbook, "Genocide: The Basics."

He is working on two contracted book projects: "An Historical Dictionary of Genocide in Film" and "Resisting the Holocaust: An Encyclopaedia and Documents."

His published works include "An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Genocide Biography: Portraits of Evil and Good," "Fifty Key Thinkers on the Holocaust and Genocide," "The Genocide Studies Reader," "A Dictionary of Genocide" (two volumes),  "Teaching about the Holocaust: Essays by University and College Educators," "Bolt from the Blue: Australia, Britain and the Chanak Crisis," "Surviving the Camps: Unity in Adversity During the Holocaust," "False Havens: The British Empire and the Holocaust," "Australia and the Holocaust, 1933-1945," and "The Dunera Affair: A Documentary Resource Book."

He has published scholarly articles in journals and books and has been a member of the International Association of Genocide Scholars and the Australian representative on the International Committee of the Annual Scholars' Conference on the Holocaust.

He is a past member of the editorial advisory board of the international journal "Genocide Studies and Prevention," a member of the editorial advisory board of the journal "Holocaust and Genocide Studies," and a member of the advisory board of the Genocide Education Project in California.

Bartrop is vice-president of the Midwest Jewish Studies Association, and is a past president of the Australian Association of Jewish Studies.

Published March 29, 2014, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.

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