Memorial prof chosen to participate in major summer seminar
By Jeff Green
Dr. Robert Lawson (Photo by David Sorensen)
A Memorial University professor has gained fresh new ideas about the Holocaust which he’ll use in his teaching thanks in part to a prestigious summer seminar held in June. Dr. Robert Lawson, assistant professor in the Department of German and Russian, was one of 20 scholars selected to take part in this year’s Silberman Seminar which was sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Centre for Advanced Holocaust Studies. The two-week event took place in Washington, D.C., and included some of the top American and British scholars in Holocaust studies including Christopher Browning and Dr. Jane Caplan.
The seminar was designed to give faculty teaching Holocaust-related courses a better understanding of the tragic events and focus on strengthening Holocaust teaching.
“What I found most interesting was the opportunity to interact with other academics teaching the same topic and how they approached the subject of Holocaust studies,” said Dr. Lawson. “I will bring that insight back. I have the names of the material they use in the courses such as books and films, which will be useful for me.”
Dr. Lawson, who has been teaching at Memorial since September 2004, said he’ll likely use that material during the second portion of his German culture course during the winter semester.
The summer seminar was not only an opportunity to listen and learn about the Holocaust but it also gave Dr. Lawson a chance do some in-depth research of his own. “The seminar was set up so that we would attend classes during the day and we also had time to do our own research to present on a topic of interest to us,” he said. “The topic I presented on was Jewish self-help which dealt with strategies used by Jews in Germany during the 1930s in particular, in order to try and come to terms with being faced with persecution. These were strategies to find food and work.
“The topic was actually suggested to me at the museum. I wanted to find out what was life like for the Jews who lived there at the time and how they dealt with these increasingly harsh measures. It was fascinating.”
Aside from interacting and learning from other academics, Dr. Lawson says the seminar helped re-affirm the fact that modern-day genocides are still occurring. “The focus at the museum is certainly on the Holocaust but what really impressed me is that they really try to promote programs that raise people’s awareness about current genocides in Darfur in Sudan which is a modern-day Holocaust,” he said.
Dr. Lawson said he’s grateful he was chosen to participate in the seminar and is looking forward to sharing his experience with students. “This was a great opportunity for me to examine Holocaust history. Now I’ll incorporate these ideas into my programs here at Memorial.”