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The erasure of history

As living memory of the Holocaust fades, incidents of antisemitism and Holocaust denial have been on the rise in the United States and around the world. U Remembers combats these trends through awareness and education by connecting the past to present-day issues. This year’s theme, “Erasure of History,” highlights how some have tried to expunge shameful and horrifying events from history to allow certain groups to avoid guilt and responsibility. The U Remembers events offer solutions to fight against this whitewashing of history and resist efforts to sanitize the past.

In Europe, antisemitism has surfaced in several countries as part of the official political apparatus. Following the immigration crisis that swept the continent in 2015, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party emerged as the principal opposition group in the German parliament. Its archconservative platform includes extremist positions on immigration, the European Union—and during the pandemic—an anti-vax posture similar to that found in the U.S. Members of the party are also avowed Holocaust deniers and have advocated for the removal of teachings about Germany’s role in the Shoah from school curriculum. Though these positions are widely denounced in the country, the AfD maintains more than 10% control (79 seats) in the Bundestag.

In the U.S., antisemitism has experienced similar support—both from political figures as well as pop culture ones. Politicians and their followers have echoed and amplified a raft of antisemitic conspiracy theories, accusing Jewish figures of backing immigrant caravanssecretly financing antifa and Black Lives Matter protests, and even starting California wildfires with “space lasers.” In the entertainment industry, a number of celebrities have been guilty of stirring up antisemitic sentiment, including big-screen actors James Wood and Mel Gibson. Most recently, Grammy-winning musician and producer, Kanye West was temporarily blocked from social media platforms after his apoplectic hate speech went viral.

But rather than promoting greater understanding and countering hate speech with knowledge, some have been calling for book bans—including a proposed ban of the Pulitzer-prize winning Holocaust novel, Maus. As University of Utah History Professor, Nadja Durbach explained during last year’s U Remembers, when we don’t “protect the truth and ensure that it endures,” there can be serious repercussions.

A recent Pew Research study found less than half of adult U.S. citizens know the number of Jews killed during the Holocaust. And at events like the “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, young men have been heard chanting the very same slogans Nazis used to justify their murderous pogroms in Europe. The alarming consequences of attempts to forget the past and erase history are widespread and unmistakable.

For Fall 2022, U Remembers will consist of three events: a keynote speech by Professor Hansen-Glucklich on museums and memory; a discussion of the recent Ken Burns documentary and the controversy stirred by his film, “The U.S. and the Holocaust;” and a public dialogue entitled “Truth and Reconciliation: Coming to Terms with Our Past.” Together, these events urge us to consider the continuing impact of the Holocaust and antisemitism, to push back against Holocaust denial, and to work toward a more inclusive future.

U Remembers: Erasure of History

November 7 – 10, 2022

U Remembers reflects on the historical effects surrounding the Holocaust and invites us to make connections between the past and contemporary social issues. This year’s theme, “Erasure of History,” will highlight how history can be whitewashed for nefarious purposes and proposes solutions to fight against that whitewashing.

More on U Remembers COVID-19 Guidance for Students, Faculty and Staff