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Dr. Robert Gellately educates campus at Holocaust lecture

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 marked the opening of Millersville University’s 29th annual Holocaust conference.

The conference was opened in Lehr Room in the Gordinier Conference center. Dr. Saulius Suziedelis, a professor of history at MU, opened, and was followed with a few words from Associate Dean Ahmed of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, a man who survived the genocide in Bangladesh in the 1970s.

Following the opening remarks, Rabbi Jack Paskoff preformed the invocation.

Wednesday’s lecture was titled to honor Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who at the loss of his family’s standing and wealth, defied the Portuguese government and signed visas for thousands of Jews fleeing Hitler’s new order.

The guest speaker for this lecture was Dr. Robert Gellately of Florida State University. He shared parts of his own lecture on Hitler, anti-communism and the Holocaust. He opened with his belief that “the discourses informed by Nazi ideology were the driving force behind the Holocaust.”

Dr. Robert Gellately spoke on Wednesday, April 1 during the 29th annual Holocaust conference held at Millersville University. Photo by Christian Shuts.
Dr. Robert Gellately spoke on Wednesday, April 1 during the 29th annual Holocaust conference held at Millersville University. Photo by Christian Shuts.

He then clarified his meaning of discourses as language, the assumptions underlying it, and its use. He discussed how Lenin tried to spread communism, which Gellately identified as “Hitler’s anti-model.”

Gellately identified the Holocaust as being begun by Hitler linking anti-semitism and anti-communism. He latched onto the image of the Jews as “the puppet masters of an international conspiracy”, and tried to have them removed in 1923.

When this attempt failed, Hitler wrote Mein Kampf.

Eventually, Hitler gained support, which lead to the founding of concentration camps.

Originally, these camps were designed to detain both proven and suspected communists. Hitler saw Germany as the West’s only defense against the alleged evils of communism and believed that WWII was necessary.

He blamed the Jews for WWI and saw himself as getting revenge for “their” first war, with the war he was planning.

In the war, Hitler conveyed an image to his own people that the Soviets were the aggressors, and that the Jews were behind it all.

But in some cases, Germany was not as bad as other countries.

Romanians, for example, were considered to be far more radical than the Germans. It also is believed that there was no direct order, written or verbal, from Hitler to kill the Jews.

However, he did order their removal, through any means, and he encouraged his subordinates to be “creative” with their orders. “So, in principal,” says Gellately, “Hitler ordered their extermination.”

Then, not long after, he ordered his troops to stop all Jewish emigration, trapping the Jews within the Third Reich and began a rumor that Germany wanted all Jews dead.

The world’s hesitation helped aid Hitler in this endeavor.

As an example to this point, Gellately used his own country, Newfoundland.

It was offered trained doctors in exchange for aid, but turned the offer down, as they were hesitant to get involved.

Following his presentation, Dr. Gellately fielded audience questions, before proceeding to the book signing event.

Events were also held on the following two days, including various films and lectures by both University professors and guests.

As the days progressed, each new session gave way to even more diversified topics and titles, ranging from “Aspects of the Genocide against Greeks of the Ottoman Empire” to “Who Will Write our History? Rediscovering a Hidden Archive from the Warsaw Ghetto” to “Paul V. McNutt and the Jewish Refugees in the Philippines, 1938 to 1939.”

The Genocide lecture shed light on the unknown attacks against Greeks from the Turks and other outside forces, which was beneficial, say some attendees, because it had not been previously studied like the other aspects of the Holocaust.

The lecture on the Warsaw Ghetto covered the expansive archival records of the Jews in the aforementioned location. Unfortunately, one third of the archival remains were never found because of the bombing of Warsaw.

The Philippines lecture was mainly about Paul V. McNutt, a former Indiana Governor, who took control of all the Jewish refugees occupying the Philippines from 1938 to 1939. However, the underlying theme of the lecture gave a different view of Franklin D. Roosevelt from a grass roots perspective.