At the outset we limited the number of participants to thirty-six in order to encourage intensive dialogue; we also sought participation that would be international, interfaith, interdisciplinary, and intergenerational in nature. We asked participants to commit both to returning to Wroxton every two years and to continuing the work of the symposium during the two- year interim period between symposia. Participants come from the United States, Canada, England, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, and Italy.
In organizing the symposium we hoped to provide a setting within which scholars can come together to share the processes and fruits of their engagement with the Shoah. There are few formal presentations of papers; rather we meet in small groups (supplemented by plenaries) devoted to the discussion of selected themes. Participants serve as both teachers and learners.
In 1996, we asked participants to reflect on how they could use their base in Shoah studies to inform research/praxis leading to tikkun olam, the repair of the world. After an initial plenary, during which each person told of how he/she came to Holocaust studies, participants were divided, on the basis of their central concerns, into six small working groups: Post-Shoah Ethics, Post-Shoah Theology, Post-Shoah Politics, Post-Shoah Models of Healing, Post-Shoah Education, and Art in the Post-Shoah world. Plenary sessions were devoted to “reporting out” of the small groups to the “committee of the whole.” From these groups, ideas for projects-both formal and informal-emerged. Our first publication, entitled Ethics After the Holocaust: Perspectives, Critiques, and Responses, ed., John Roth, (Paragon Press, 1999) came about as a result of discussions in the Ethics group.
For the 1998 symposium, we made some changes in format. Responding to many participants’ wishes to meet more often in small groups with others outside their areas of disciplinary concern, we asked all 36 to pose a “focusing question,” an issue which illumined their primary engagement with the Shoah. We worked intensively in small group meetings to open discussion surrounding these questions. Sessions were organized around central themes which emerged in the posing of these focusing questions. These themes included: “The Endeavor to Face Radical Evil”; “The Shoah, Other Genocides, and the Call to Action”; “The Call of the Other: Post-Shoah Reckonings”; “The Burdens of Faith in the Age of the Shoah”; “Educating Toward Goodness/Away From Evil”; and “The Anguish of the Aftermath.” An in-house publication, entitled Fragments From Wroxton, emerged from the writing of the original questions, further illuminated by discussion during the small group sessions; each of the 36 participants was given two copies of the text, one for personal use, the other for the library of an institution with which he/she was affiliated. Finally, Emil Fackenheim was invited to join us for the duration of the symposium; as part of his participation, Dr. Fackenheim addressed the symposium as a whole.
For our June 2000 meeting, we committed ourselves to reading texts in common. It was the consensus of the group at the 1998 closing evaluation that we needed to deepen our knowledge base. This was attempted, in part, by distributing textual materials several months before the opening of the symposium. Break-out groups were linked to plenaries in which these texts were discussed in some depth. Plenary sessions included: “The Roma and Sinti Genocide,” “An Examination of the Wannsee Protocols,” “Responding to Other Genocides in Our Time,” and “Post-Holocaust Ethics,” a panel composed of the six contributors to a volume published the preceding year by these panelists. A dramatic work portraying survivors’ accounts and entitled “Remnants,” was performed by its author, Dr. Henry Greenspan. An anthology entitled After-Words: Post-Holocaust Struggles with Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Justice was launched during this year’s symposium. The volume, co-edited by Dr. John Roth and Dr. David Patterson, is currently in press (University of Washington Press, 2003). A third volume edited by Wroxton participants-this one on Post-Holocaust education-was proposed.
For the June 2002 symposium, participants shared Holocaust course syllabi in a session entitled “Rethinking How We Educate in the Post-Shoah World”; engaged in a discussion the relationship of memory of the Holocaust to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; and examined Hitler’s speech of 30 January 1939 and Himmler’s Posen speech of 4 October 1943, as well as texts from the Bosnia and Rawanda genocides. We also discussed the various “minefields” that we face in our work as Holocaust scholars. A fourth volume, tentatively entitled God and Evil: Dialogical Collisions After the Holocaust, to be co-edited by Drs. Roth and Patterson, was proposed. The University of Washington Press agreed to The Pastora Goldner Series in Post-Holocaust Studies; it is anticipated that one or two books will emerge every two years from amongst scholars at the symposium and will be considered for publication by an internal editorial board and by the University of Washington Press.
In June 2004, the conference opened with a dramatic reading by symposium participants consisting of excerpts from memoirs of survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides. Other sessions included a plenary on “Terrorism and Genocide,” a second session on the film “The Passion of the Christ,” and a third on “Case Studies in Memory and History.” Later sessions included “model classrooms” (exploring pedagogies in teaching the Holocaust), and a plenary devoted to genocide in the Sudan. The Symposium concluded with a performance of selections from an opera-in-progress, based on a survivor’s memoir entitled “Lost Childhood.” Symposium participant Gottfried Wagner, great-grandson of Richard Wagner, distinguished musicologist, and co-founder of an important post-Holocaust dialogue project, helped organize this event.
In June 2006, the symposium commemorated the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide with three events: 1) the reading of one act of a play written by Lorne Shirinian, son of a survivor of the Genocide; Ms. Susan Barba’s presentation of an interview with her father, Andranik Vartanian, a 106 year old survivor of the Genocide; and a lecture on the Genocide by Dr. Margaret Brearley. Other sessions included “The New Antisemitism,” “The Hidden City of Warsaw,” “The Aftermath of Genocide,” “Contemporary European Responses to the Holocaust,” “Holocaust Scholars Confront the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict,” and “Writings of Women of Wroxton.” Two new edited volumes were proposed, one on “The Holocaust and Nature” and one on “The New Antisemitism.”
In June 2008 the symposium conducted its first, full session under our new name, The Stephen S. Weinstein Symposium at Wroxton College. We welcomed Paul A. Shapiro, Director of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, as a distinguished guest. Dr. Shapiro led a session entitled “Exploring the Newly Opened International Tracing Service Archives in Germany.” Symposium members received an update on the history and current status of these archives. A second plenary session was devoted to presentations by contributors to a Wroxton volume-in-the-making entitled “The Holocaust and Nature.” Other sessions included: 1)a showing of the film “Am Ende kommen Touristen” (“And Along Came Tourists”); 2) “Is There a Place for ‘Forgetting’ in the Study of the Holocaust?”; 3) “Holocaust Denial in the Era of the New Antisemitism,” 4) “The Jewish-Christian Dialogue: A Current Impasse”; 5) a discussion of “Charolotte Delbo’s Auschwitz and After; and 6) a session devoted to the music of the ghettos and camps. It was announced that the Symposium had signed a new agreement with the University of Washington for the submission of five books over the next five-year period. The new series will be entitled “The Stephen S. Weinstein Series in Post-Holocaust Studies.”