Centenary welcomes Canadian scholar for annual Van Thyn Memorial lecture on Holocaust

Dr. Valerie Hébert

SHREVEPORT, LA — Dr. Valerie Hébert, an expert in the history and interpretation of the Holocaust, will visit Centenary on Tuesday, March 3, to deliver two lectures examining Holocaust photographs as part of the College’s Dr. Rose and Mr. Louis Van Thyn Memorial Lecture Series. Both lectures, in the Whited Room of Bynum Commons, are free and open to the public:

  • 11:10 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.: “Truth Can Be Present Even Where Facts Are Not: What Holocaust Photographs Can and Cannot Teach Us,” an interactive presentation highlighting the specific advantages and challenges that Holocaust photographs pose to the researcher and student.
  • 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.: “Five Shots from the Ravine: Photographs of the Holocaust in Ukraine, 1942,” a talk examining a series of five photographs documenting the mass shooting of Jewish women and children during World War II. The talk discusses how and why we should use these unsettling images.

Photographs depicting violence and death will be shown during both lectures, and viewer discretion is advised.

Centenary is grateful to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for organizing and facilitating these lectures. The programs are made possible by the Campus Outreach Lecture Program of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, supported by the Leonard and Sophie Davis Fund.

Dr. Hébert is associate professor of history and interdisciplinary studies at Lakehead University Orillia in Ontario, Canada. She teaches courses on 20th Century European history, Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, comparative genocide, and the photography of human rights violations and international conflict. Dr. Hébert has received research grants from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the German Historical Institute, the Martin Buber Society of Hebrew University, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies.

Dr. Hébert’s research on Holocaust photography gravitates towards the ethical concerns these images raise. According to Hébert, “These pictures were often taken without the victim’s consent. The person is on the verge of being killed or has been killed. It’s an intimate, private moment – and the line between understanding an event fully and a sort of voyeuristic fascination is a fine one. How do we navigate that?”

Dr. Lisa Nicoletti, professor of art history and visual studies at Centenary, guides her students through similar questions in courses about the Holocaust and other sensitive topics.

“Dr. Hébert’s work examines important critical questions about the Holocaust, and, by extension, all filmed and photographed atrocities,” says Nicoletti. “As an educator who uses visual imagery daily in the classroom, I struggle with these very questions, especially when teaching the Holocaust. How do we assess whether photos and films are exploitative, confusing, or damaging for students to see and watch? At the same time, is it appropriate not to show this historical evidence? I am grateful for her deeply researched guidance on these issues."

Centenary’s Van Thyn Memorial Lecture Series was established in November 2009 to honor Holocaust survivors Rose and Louis Van Thyn. The Van Thyns dedicated themselves to retelling their stories so that people would not forget or repeat the horrors of the Holocaust, and Rose Van Thyn was awarded the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at Centenary’s 2002 commencement exercises in recognition of her extraordinary community service. The Van Thyn Memorial Lecture Series provides educational opportunities for Centenary students and members of the surrounding community, with a goal of teaching about the history of the Holocaust, recognizing signs of intolerance, and providing a means for preventing prejudice and hatred.


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