Professor explores history and nature of Holocaust memorials

by Willy Nichter, Contributing Writer

On Monday, March 27, the Dorothy Young Center for the Performing Arts was flooded by visitors attending the Center for Holocaust/Genocide Study’s “Holocaust Memorials and Monuments” event, hosted by Professor Margaret Kuntz. The event, part of a three-part-series hosted by the Center, was a discussion about how memorials and monuments affect and connect to people’s understanding and remembrance of important events, particularly the Holocaust.

        “I can’t even begin to describe why I think it’s important,” said Professor Kuntz, Assistant Professor of Art History. “How can you not study the Holocaust?” When asked about what got her interested in the topic, she said, “I’ve always been interested in memorials.”

        This sentiment was echoed by much of her audience, including Drew alumnus Ruth Bennett (’64). When asked why she felt it was important to study the Holocaust, she said, “Just to remember such an important event so we don’t have something like this happening again.”

        Devon Kenny (’20) agreed. “I think it’s important so we don’t forget, because something this is so horrible, we can never allow it to happen again.”

        The audience, which consisted primarily of older individuals, had a diverse makeup, including artists and teachers. When asked about why he was attending the event, Andrew Murad, a seventh grade history teacher at Chatham Day School, said, “At school we teach a four-week Holocaust unit for seventh grade. I’m here to find more information, to learn more that I can teach.”

        Professor Kuntz began the event by asking the audience a series of questions about memorials, saying, “This is the exercise I put myself through.” Among these questions were, “What is the purpose or function of a memorial?” and “How do we perpetuate memory and educate people about past atrocities?”

        From there, Professor Kuntz went on to showcase several memorials, using them to show why she felt Holocaust memorials were different from others. “The Holocaust is something that stands apart,” she said. “For most of us today, the Holocaust is something that remains unfathomable.”

        Moreover, she explored a variety of different memorials, and did not shy away from discussing the controversy surrounding them. “Things change,” she said, referring to the shifting opinions surrounding certain memorials. “What is a poignant and moving memorial at one time may fail miserably another time.”

        One of the primary focuses of the talk was the Holocaust memorial currently being developed for London, a memorial which is being designed by contest. All of the visitors were provided photocopies of a pamphlet showing the various designs, and were asked to choose which one was their favorite.

        The talk was a lively affair, full of interjections and comments from the audience and various asides from Professor Kuntz, who would take a subject presented by the audience and fully address it before continuing with the presentation.

        When asked what she wanted people to come away from the event with, Professor Kuntz said that she wanted people to come away with “[a] greater understanding and a greater interest.” She continued, “I want people to walk away from this and say ‘Wow, I want to learn more.’”

 

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