Holocaust Scholar discusses liberation narratives

Dr. Adam Seipp, a Texas A&M professor of history whose research focuses on war and social change in modern Germany, visited Bexley High School earlier this month to speak to students and residents about his research as the 2017 Bexley High School Holocaust Scholar-in-Residence.

Dr. Seipp visited social studies classes and gave an evening presentation in the school library entitled “This is Buchenwald: Concentration Camp Liberation and the American Encounter with the Holocaust.”

In his talk, Seipp described how accounts of American soldiers who participated in the liberation of German concentration camps changed in response to movies and changes in American interpretations of the war. “Memory changes over time,” said Dr. Seipp. “But when memories shift in patterns, as a historian I find that interesting and I want to know more.”

Memory is pliable and easily influenced, said Seipp. “I’m not calling these people liars,” he said. “What I’m saying is that their stories shifted over time as the broader narrative about the Holocaust shifted.”

One troubling consequence of such shifts, said Seipp, is that the mistaken accounts embolden Holocaust deniers. “I don’t like it when these people get easy wins.”

It is the work of historians, said Seipp, to do the research that ensures an accurate record. “We need to honor history and those who fought by getting it right.”

The Holocaust Scholar-in-Residence program was initiated by now-retired social studies teacher Dr. Ben Trotter, who taught Bexley High School’s first Holocaust Seminar in 2006 and conceived the idea of bringing in a guest scholar each year. The course and the residency are overseen today by Nancy Mallory.

Past Holocaust Scholars include Dr. Robin Judd, Associate Professor of History at Ohio State, Dr. Alan Beyerchen, Emeritus Associate Professor from Ohio State, Dr. Richard Steigmann-Gall, Associate Professor at Kent State University, Dr. Myrna Goldenberg, Professor Emerita from Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland, and Dr. Michael Meng, Assistant Professor of History at Clemson University.

Funding for the Holocaust Scholar-in-Residence Program is provided by designated gifts to the BEF, including those made by the Charles and Debbi Sugarman Family.