Day of remembrance of the victims of National Socialism

Day of remembrance for the victims of National Socialism

Since 1996, January 27 has been a day of remembrance for the victims of National Socialism. On January 27, 1945, the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by soldiers of the Red Army.

The University of Bremen commemorates this day with lectures delivered by guest speakers. Members of the public are cordially invited to attend.

Day of Remembrance 2017: "Hunger: Propaganda, Suffering and Resistance" – starting at 4 p.m. in the lecture hall of building complex GW1.

In 2017, the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Bremen invited three guest speakers to shed light from different perspectives on the significance of “hunger” during National Socialism.

Hunger in the Warsaw Ghetto – Dr. Ing. Tomasz Łysak

In his lecture “Hunger in the Warsaw Ghetto”, Dr.​​​​​​​ Tomasz Łysak dealt with the topic of survival in the Warsaw ghetto by smuggling in food. The lecture includes a report on food smuggling compiled by a Nazi film crew that was presented as evidence of “Jewish immorality”. Tomasz Łysak is a research associate at the Institute for Specialized and Intercultural Communication, Faculty of Applied Linguistics at the University of Warsaw.

Annihilation by Hunger: Literary Voices – Prof.Dr.​​​​​​​ Wolfgang Kissel

The speaker, Prof.  Dr.​​​​​​​ Wolfgang Kissel, Professor of Cultural History of Eastern and Eastern Central Europe in the History Department of the University of Bremen. In his lecture, the expert for Slavonic cultural and literary criticism examined the meaning of “hunger” in the systematic dehumanization of Jews and other minorities by the Nazis: For the allocation or denial of food, the so-called hunger policy of the Nazi state played a key role during the Third Reich that still tends to be underestimated. The ordeal caused by hunger and thirst and death by starvation and thirst became common practice in extermination camps. “The camp is hungry. We ourselves are hunger, living hunger,” wrote Primo Levi in his memoirs “Ist das ein Mensch?” [Is that a human being?]. The voices of Levi and other survivors will be played back during the lecture.

Chorale from the depths of hell – Dr. Juliane Brauer

Dr. Juliane Brauer illuminates the topic of “hunger" from a musical perspective in her contribution “Chorale aus der Tiefe der Hölle” [Choral from the depths of hell]. She analyzes the references to hunger and resistance in the songs that were written in the National Socialist concentration camps. In these songs, the prisoners describe their fears and despair, but also their courage and their hopes. Juliane Brauer is a Research Associate in the research field “History of Emotions” at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.

Day of Remembrance 2016: Forced labor for the war industry and the role of biology in National Socialism – starting at 4 p.m. in the lecture hall of the building complex GW1

In 2016, the Faculty of Biology / Chemistry of the University of Bremen invited two guest speakers to illuminate the systematic use of forced laborers for the German war industry and the role of biology under National Socialism.

Title of lecture: “The concentration camp Auschwitz-Monowitz: Slave labor for I.G. Farben”

The concentration camp Auschwitz-Buna / Monowitz was opened by the SS in October 1942. It was the first German concentration camp to be located directly on the premises of a private corporation. Its most important function was to supply concentration camp prisoners as slave laborers to the works of the I.G. Farben corporation in Auschwitz – the so-called “I.G. Auschwitz”. The deployment of forced labor there was the role model for forced labor on the part of concentration camp prisoners in the German war industry.

In his lecture, Dr. Florian Schmaltz elucidates the run-up and consequences of I.G. Farben’s decision in spring 1941 to build a works in Auschwitz – the then largest chemical plant in Europe for the production of fuels, synthetic rubber (Buna), and plastics. The corporation’s top management and the SS cooperated in many ways in the forced relocation of the local Polish and Jewish population, the deployment of prisoners, establishing an external command of inmates, and from October 1942 in the operation of the Auschwitz-Monowitz concentration camp. The lecture focused on the development of the camp’s labor capacity, the origin of the predominantly Jewish prisoners, their working conditions at the factory construction site of I.G. Auschwitz, prisoners’ resistance, and the death toll in the camp.

During the liberation on January 27, 1945, out of formerly more than 11,000 inmates only 800 to 850 sick prisoners could be rescued. Nine days earlier they had been deemed by the SS to be too exhausted to undertake the death march to the West in icy cold and snow. Once inside the Reichsgebiet, those who undertook the march were imprisoned in other concentration camps to be further exploited for their labor.

The speaker

Dr. Florian Schmaltz is director of the research program “History of the Max Planck Society” at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. After studying History, Literature, Philosophy at the University of Hamburg and the FU Berlin, he was a Ph.D. student in the research program of the Presidential Commission “History of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society under National Socialism” (2000-2004). He received his doctorate at the University of Bremen in 2004 for his doctoral thesis “Weapon Research in National Socialism – Cooperation between the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes, the Military, and Industry”. He then worked as a research assistant at the History Department of the Goethe University Frankfurt (2004-2009), Scholar in Residence at the Research Institute of the Deutsches Museum (2010), and as a research Assistant at the University of Regensburg (2011).

Title of lecture: “Science and / as Racism – Biology under National Socialism”

Biology was one of the important sources of legitimacy for racist and social Darwinist ideology of the National Socialist worldview. It also contributed to the concrete selection practices of human groups based on biology research and advisory work (including racial “science”). The lecture focuses mainly on racial anthropology and the role of research academics during the Nazi era. It reveals the clear continuities of racial biology research both before and after the Nazi period as well as specific patterns of Nazi biology. Modern science has to address both.

The speaker

Thomas Potthast, biologist and philosopher, is spokesman for the International Center for Ethics in the Sciences (IZEW) at the University of Tübingen. After studying in Freiburg and obtaining a doctorate in Tübingen, he was a post-doctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and a Humboldt Fellow at the University of Madison-Wisconsin (Dept. of History of Science and Institute for Environmental Studies), before returning to Tübingen. He is Associate Professor of Ethics, Theory and History of Sciences at the University of Tübingen since 2012.

His research and teaching activities focus on interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary issues of ethics, sustainable development, the history and theory of biology, and environmental sciences.

Day of Remembrance 2015: Auschwitz as a central theme in education

In 2015, the Faculty of Pedagogy and Educational Sciences of the University of Bremen put the pedagogical debate on the topic in schools into the focus of the Day of Remembrance.

Title of lecture: “Education after Auschwitz - Was uns radikal in Frage stellt

How can you today explain to students what happened during the regime? How is this topic dealt with, if at all, in school lessons? Are students overwhelmed by their own history? These are the questions addressed by Matthias Heyl, pedagogical director of the International Youth Meeting Center Ravensbrück, in his lecture “Education after Auschwitz - Was uns radikal in Frage stellt”.

Nowadays, it is particularly difficult to convey to students the atrocities committed under National Socialism and its background. There are only a few eyewitnesses left, and according to Heyl, students are often emotionally overwhelmed when it comes to German history. There is a need to create a contemporary educational approach with Nazism and Auschwitz as its central focus, but that at the same time encompasses culture, education and pedagogy.

The speaker

Since 2002, Dr. Matthias Heyl has been the educational director of the International Youth Meeting Center and the Educational Services of the Ravensbrück Memorial and Memorial Center. He received his doctorate in 1996 after studying History, Psychology and Education in Hamburg with a thesis titled “Education after Auschwitz. A Survey of Germany, the Netherlands, Israel, and the USA”. Heyl is a member of the scientific advisory board for the Bunker Valentin memorial.

Day of Remembrance 2014: What role did mathematics play in the Nazi state?

From the beginning, mathematics was strongly affected by the National Socialist science policy. Mass dismissals of so-called "non-Aryans" and political dissidents led to the exodus of a third of the habilitated mathematicians. The beginning of the war then proved to be a turning point for mathematics in the Nazi science system, as it ushered in the instrumentalization of mathematical research and the involvement of mathematicians in warfare research.

Title of lecture: "The self-mobilization and instrumentalization of applied mathematics in the Nazi state"

In his lecture, Dr. Ulf Hashagen used case studies to illustrate how the mathematical science system in Germany fundamentally changed under the pressure of adaptation under National Socialism and the willingness of scientists to adapt to the “Third Reich”. Paradoxically, those mathematicians, who, in accordance with their self-conception thought themselves to be “non-political”, proved extremely useful for wartime research and for the stability of the Nazi regime through their research contributions in the field of applied mathematics. One consequence was that even mathematicians who were primarily intellectually committed to their subject made their expertise available to military research during the “Third Reich” and in return received resources from the Nazi state for their own research. Through their work in war research, some of the leading mathematicians and physicists became involved in SS projects. Some of them even used non-German fellow scientists as “forced laborers for mathematical warfare research.”

The speaker

Dr. Ulf Hashagen is head of the Research Institute for the History of Science and Technology at the Deutsches Museum. In addition, as a Privatdozent he lectures in science and technology history at the LMU Munich. His research focuses on the history of mathematics and computer science in the 19th and 20th centuries, but also on the development of the German science system.

Other events to commemorate the victims of National Socialism:

  • Also on January 27, at 1 p.m., an exhibition was opened in the foyer of building MZH at the University of Bremen on “The Jewish Vocational School Masada in Darmstadt, 1947-48”. The school trained 45 survivors from deportation camps as carpenters, locksmiths or carpenters for construction work in Israel. The exhibition was open until February 7, 2014. The opening lecture was given by Professor Heidi Schelhowe, Vice-President for Teaching and Studies at the University of Bremen.
  • Another exhibition organized by the State and University Library in cooperation with KulturAmbulanz Bremen was held from January 17 to March 3, 2014: “devalued, marginalized, murdered – medical crimes against children under National Socialism”. The exhibition dealt with the crimes committed against children in Bremen and featured the topic “euthanasia”. An accompanying eyewitness report took place with victim families.
  • Another interview with an eyewitness: Auschwitz survivor Aleksandra Borisowa from Belarus reported her memories in Bremen. Aleksandra Borisova was taken as a seven-year-old together with her parents first to the camp Majdanek and later to Auschwitz. As part of international Holocaust Remembrance Day, she related her story in schools and at the University of Bremen.
  • The Research Center for Eastern Europe at the University of Bremen also participated in two events: First: A book presentation with live Klezmer music: The work “Klezmer's Afterlife” examines the fascinating Klezmer music scene in Central Europe. The event combined a moderated conversation with the author Magdalena Waligórska and a live concert by the Bremen group Klezgoyim. The event took place with the support of the Hollweg Foundation. 
  • Second: The Research Center for Eastern Europe together with Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste e. V. showed the film “Der zerbrochene Klang” [The Broken Sound] in the cinema City 46 (Birkenstraße 1). The film’s content: Until the beginning of the 20th century, Jewish and Roma musician families lived and played together in Bessarabia. This created a unique musical culture that was destroyed by the Second World War. Seventy years later, 14 internationally renowned musicians from all over the world embark on a journey into the past.