Art used to help understand Holocaust

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Professor Dr. Andrea Pappas from Santa Clara University presents to Fresno State students and faculty artwork capturing the Jewish experiences of the Holocaust on Wednesday. Photo Julian Paredes

The Jewish Studies Association kicked off its Jewish lecture series Nov. 13 with “Artists Respond to the Holocaust.”

Dr. Andrea Pappas, associate professor of art history at Santa Clara University, gave the lecture about artists’ responses to the Holocaust as well as World War II. Pictures of famous paintings and memorials representing the pain and memory of the Holocaust were shown during the lecture.

Some of the art Pappas discussed in the lecture included The Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial, also known as The Nameless Library by British artist Rachel Whiteread. This memorial is placed in Judenplatz, Vienna in Austria.

The large room with two doors that you cannot enter is made primarily of concrete. The outside walls of the memorial are made to look like shelves of books, but the books are turned the opposite direction so you see the pages and not the spine.

They represent all of the stories and memories that will not be told by the 65,000 Austrian-Jews that died in the Holocaust.

“When the art is good, I believe it gives us a way to relate to and understand what people went through and to think about what we can and should do differently,” Pappas said. “I think it’s a way that we can share the memories and the pain and the hope of the people who have experienced the Holocaust.”

Stephanie Leon, a Fresno State junior, believes that Pappas’ lecture was a great way to get a different perspective on the Holocaust.

“After seeing all of the paintings and the reasoning behind them all, they become more than just pieces of art; they become part of history,” Leon said. “Typically, you see pictures of what happened in World War II, but this way you can actually understand how people felt during it all. I really enjoyed it.”

Richard Nelson, president of the Jewish Studies Association, says that the association is nonreligious and dedicated to the studying of Jewish history.

“It’s more of just a study so we can broaden ourselves as historians. Most of us are a part of the History Honor Society, also. Most of us are going to be teachers, and we want to prepare ourselves in all fields of history,” Nelson said. “Our last lecture was a co-op with Phi Alpha Theta. Dr. Bradley Hart gave a lecture last month about Nazi sympathizers in Great Britain.”

The lecture was the first of two free, public events. It was put on by the honor society and Jewish Studies Association and sponsored by the Jewish Studies Certificate Program and the Jewish Federation of Central California.

The next lecture is “Jewish-American Popular Culture” held by the Jewish Studies Association and Phi Alpha Theta.

The lecture will be given by Dr. Daniel Cady and will discuss how Jewish culture has integrated itself into American pop culture through movies and television. The lecture will also highlight Jewish-American actors and singers over the years.

The lecture will be held on Dec. 3 at 5 p.m. in the Social Science building room 110.