Dr. Wendy Lower to deliver annual Van Thyn lecture at Centenary

SHREVEPORT, LA — Historian Dr. Wendy Lower will deliver Centenary College’s 2022 Van Thyn Memorial Lecture virtually via Zoom at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, February 2. The event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required at centenary.edu/vanthyn. Centenary students can earn 50 Passport Points for attending the virtual event. The lecture will be moderated by Dr. Lisa Nicoletti, Professor of Art History and Visual Studies, and her “Representations of the Holocaust” class.

Lower is the John K. Roth Professor of History and director of the Mgrublian Center for Human Rights at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California. Her research and teaching focus on the history of Germany and Ukraine in World War II, the Holocaust, women’s history, human rights, and genocide studies. She is a National Book Award and National Jewish Book Award finalist for her work Hitler's Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields and previously served as the acting director of the Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In her Van Thyn lecture, Lower will recreate the research journey leading to her acclaimed 2021 book The Ravine: A Family, A Photograph, A Holocaust Massacre Revealed, beginning with a chance viewing of a rare photograph at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2009 depicting the murder of a Jewish woman and her children by German officials and Ukrainian collaborators. Haunted by what it depicted—documentation of a horrific, extensive October 1941 massacre in Miropol, Ukraine, Lower began to search for the identity of the victims, to honor their memory, as well as the perpetrators, to bring them to justice.

For Lower, studying these graphic, terrible images is vital.

“If the perpetrators shown in a photograph could be identified, it could serve as incontrovertible evidence of their participation in murder,” Lower has said. “Every fourth Jewish victim murdered in the Holocaust was from Ukraine.”

While about 50 percent of those victims have not been identified, Lower ultimately successfully revealed the identities of the family, the killers, and even the name and motives of the photographer.

Just a few months after Lower first encountered the photograph that would fuel a decade of investigative research, 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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