WWU Launches New Holocaust and Genocide Studies Minor with Oct. 17 Talk by James Waller

Western Washington University’s Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity will officially launch the university’s new Holocaust and Genocide Studies minor with a presentation by James Waller at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17 in the Wilson Library Reading Room.

Waller’s talk, “Confronting Evil: Why Holocaust and Genocide Studies Matter Today,” is free and open to the public.

In a world in which “Never Again” is better understood as “Again and Again,” this lecture addresses how genocide prevention is possible and why it matters in today’s world.  Closer to home, we will explore why genocide prevention matters to us as we think about our country’s past, present, and future.  Finally, the lecture will conclude with an understanding of why Holocaust and genocide studies matter so much in today’s world for the promotion and protection of civil and human rights.

Waller is the inaugural Cohen Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College located in Keene, New Hampshire. Keene State College is home to the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, one of the nation’s oldest Holocaust resource centers. Within the Cohen Center, Waller teaches courses primarily focused on genocide and comparative genocide.

Waller’s book on perpetrators of genocide, “Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing” (Oxford University Press, 2002), was released by Oxford in a revised and updated second edition in 2007. In 2016, he published his latest book, “Confronting Evil: Engaging Our Responsibility to Prevent Genocide.”

Waller also works as the director of Academic Programs for the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation, an international non-governmental organization devoted to genocide and mass atrocity prevention. His fieldwork has included research in Germany, Israel, Northern Ireland, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Argentina, Chile, and Guatemala.


Noemi Ban holds a bouquet of flowers

At the Oct. 17 event, Western will also honor the life and legacy of Holocaust survivor, educator, and advocate Noémi Ban (photo at right), who passed away last spring.

Ban worked closely with the Western community for more than 30 years. At Western, she shared her story with thousands of students and encouraged faculty to integrate Holocaust Education into the undergraduate curriculum. Western honored Ban’s extraordinary commitment to teaching with an honorary doctorate in 2013.

Ban’s tireless advocacy for the importance of teaching the Holocaust and its lessons at WWU brought about the creation of the Northwest Center for Holocaust, Genocide, and Ethnocide Education in 1996; the Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity in 2016; and, finally, also inspired the design of the new minor in Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

In support of the event, Western’s AS Bookstore is selling Noémi Ban’s book, “Sharing is Healing, A Holocaust Survivor’s Story,” and Waller’s book, “Confronting Evil: Engaging Our Responsibility to Prevent Genocide.” For a limited time after the event, Waller will be available to sign copies of the book.

Waller’s presentation is co-sponsored by Western’s Anthropology Department, College of Humanities & Social Sciences, Global Humanities and Religions Department, Institute for Global Engagement, Modern & Classical Languages Department, Western Libraries, and the Woodring College of Education.

At the event, Western President Sabah Randhawa will share welcoming remarks and a reception will be held immediately following the talk. For more information, contact Sheila Pennell at Western Washington University’s Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity, at sheila.pennell@wwu.edu.