During the 2004-2005 academic year, the Department of German Studies participated in a collaborative initiative to explore the legacies of the Holocaust. Organized by Silke von der Emde (German Studies), Maria Höhn (History), Ron Patkus (Special Collections in the Library), and Deborah Dash Moore (Religion and Jewish Studies), the program included a faculty seminar sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) that brought together 15 faculty members from Vassar along with social science teachers from area high schools to work with some of the leading scholars in the field of Holocaust studies. The faculty seminar also hosted public lectures by world-renowned scholars: Yehuda Bauer, Professor of Holocaust Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalam; Frank Littell, Professor Emeritus of Religion at Temple University and the founder of the first Ph.D. program in Holocaust Studies in the U.S.; Christopher Browning, the Frank Porter Graham Professor of History at the University of North Carolina; Julius Schoeps, Director of the Moses Mendelssohn Institute for European Jewry at the Univeristy of Potsdam, Germany; and Auschwitz survivor Ruth Klüger, professor emeritus of German at the University of California at Irvine and the author of Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered (2001).
As a result of this initiative, a team of faculty members from the departments of German Studies, History, and Psychology/Jewish Studies offered a multidisciplinary college course in fall 2005 on "History, Memory, and the Legacies of the Holocaust," which was taught in collaboration with students and faculty at the Moses Mendelssohn Institute. The course examined how the Holocaust is taught, remembered, and memorialized in Germany and the United States through an examination of events and debates, including the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, the TV miniseries Holocaust, which was shown in the U.S. in 1978 and in Germany in 1979, the reception of Spielberg's film Schindler's List (1993), and the opening of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. Thanks to grants obtained from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Checkpoint Charlie Foundation, students from Vassar spent October break visiting Holocaust sites in Germany with their German counterparts, who visited similar sites in the U.S. in November. Students also worked with their counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic using videoconferencing facilities and Vassar's bilingual MOO.