Holocaust Remembrance events scheduled throughout April in Hays

BY JESSALYN KIRCHHOFF

The FHSU History Department, Forsyth Library and Hays Public Library have come together to sponsor an array of Holocaust Remembrance events throughout the month of April. The events were planned by the Hays Holocaust Remembrance Planning Committee. 

Amber Nickell, an assistant professor of History at Fort Hays State University and member of the Hays Holocaust Remembrance Planning Committee, gives some insight into who and what the Hays Holocaust Remembrance Planning Committee is. 

“The Hays Holocaust Remembrance Planning Committee is composed of faculty members, library staff, and community members,” she said. “We also are hoping to have a few more community members join us to plan next year’s events.” 

Members include History Department faculty; Amber Nickell, Hollie Marquess, and Paul Nienkamp, Libraries staff; Brian Gribben and Britney Squire, FHSU students; Chelsea Kiefer and Matt Lamunyon, and Hays Public librarian, Samantha Gill.

Nickell goes on to explain the main goal of the committee as well as why they have planned the events for April. 

“Yom Hashoah, the official date of global Holocaust remembrance, generally falls within the month of April,” Nickell said. “The goal of the committee is to plan annual Holocaust and genocide remembrance and education events for the FHSU and Hays communities during the month of April each year.”

This year, the schedule includes public talks, a book club, and a public film showing. 

The committee has scheduled two speakers. Nickell goes into depth on each of these speakers, the first of which is Chad Gibbs. 

“Dr. Chad Gibbs will present his work on ‘Gendered Geographies and Memories of Resistance at Treblinka.’ This will be hybrid. People can attend in person or via ZOOM.”

Gibbs’ presentation will be at 3:30 on Tuesday in Rarick Hall 123 and on ZOOM. 

The abstract for Dr. Gibbs’ paper is as follows: 

[On August 2, 1943, Jews trapped within the Nazi extermination camp Treblinka II rebelled against their SS and Ukrainian guards. At a coordinated time, prisoners took up arms and fired on the killers of their loved ones while making for the fields and forests beyond the fence. In the process of their escape, inmates burned much of Treblinka’s infrastructure and contributed to the closure of the camp soon thereafter. 

This history—representing one of the most gripping moments of armed resistance during the Shoah—is relatively well-known today. Less explored, however, are the roots of this uprising and the ways in which prisoners achieved such a stunning outcome. In this talk, I discuss how Jewish prisoners created what I term “spaces of resistance” at Treblinka and how studying these locations can provide revelations about the roles of women prisoners in resistance.]

Nickell states that the second speaker is Lovro Kralj. 

“Lovro Kralj will present his project titled ‘In Eichmann’s Shadow: A Story of a non-German Holocaust Deportation Expert.’ Through his presentation, Kralj shares the story of one Croatian Holocaust perpetrator, which illuminates the nature of genocide in Croatia,” Nickell said. “He was one of the main deportation experts and was directly involved in the deportations of more than 70,000 people.” 

Kralj’s presentation will be at 3:00 p.m. on April 19 in Rarick Hall 123 and on ZOOM. 

In addition to the speakers, the Hays Holocaust Remembrance Planning Committee set up a book club and film showing through the Hays Public Library.   

Nickell describes how the book club will function, saying the club will collectively read Lucy Adlington’s The Dressmakers of Auschwitz. The club will meet at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday and on April 13 at the Hays Public Library.

The book’s synopsis from Amazon is below: 

[At the height of the Holocaust twenty-five young inmates of the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp—mainly Jewish women and girls—were selected to design, cut, and sew beautiful fashions for elite Nazi women in a dedicated salon. It was work that they hoped would spare them from the gas chambers. 

This fashion workshop—called the Upper Tailoring Studio—was established by Hedwig Höss, the camp commandant’s wife, and patronized by the wives of SS guards and officers. Here, the dressmakers produced high-quality garments for SS social functions in Auschwitz, and for ladies from Nazi Berlin’s upper crust. 

Drawing on diverse sources—including interviews with the last surviving seamstress—The Dressmakers of Auschwitz follows the fates of these brave women. Their bonds of family and friendship not only helped them endure persecution, but also to play their part in camp resistance. Weaving the dressmakers’ remarkable experiences within the context of Nazi policies for plunder and exploitation, historian Lucy Adlington exposes the greed, cruelty, and hypocrisy of the Third Reich and offers a fresh look at a little-known chapter of World War II and the Holocaust.]

Further, Nickell discloses that there will be a virtual Book Club option. 

“We are also hosting a virtual Book Club for FHSU online students,” she said. “They will also be reading The Dressmakers of Auschwitz. However, they will only be meeting once virtually.” 

This meeting will occur at 6:00 p.m. on April 14. Registration for this event is required.

Individuals can register for the Virtual Book Club here.

Nickell also touched on the film screening that will take place as part of the month’s events. 

“We will screen the film, Everything is Illuminated, at Hays Public Library on April 21 at 6:00 p.m. A discussion of the film will follow.”

The film blurb from IMDb is below: 

[A young Jewish American man, with the help of an eccentric local, endeavors to find the woman who saved his grandfather during World War II in a Ukrainian village that was ultimately razed by the Nazis.] 

Even if you can’t attend the scheduled programs, there are other ways to get involved. 

“Throughout the month, Forsyth Library has digital and physical exhibits featuring Holocaust-related texts and Jewish literature,” Nickell said. “The Hays Public Library will also have a selection of Holocaust-related texts available.” 

Nickell brings up the availability and accessibility of the activities, saying all events are free and open for general admission.

“Students, staff, faculty, general population, school trips, you name it. Registration is not required, but strongly encouraged. Anyone who intends to attend virtually must register in order to receive a Zoom link.”

Individuals can register for all events here.

Nickell concludes that the Hays Holocaust Remembrance Planning Committee created a variety of events in an attempt to get in touch with as many people as possible. “

“For those that do not have time for a full event, they can take a look at the library’s exhibits. The film and book club are intended to really draw in the community, and to have more casual conversations about the Holocaust and its impact,” Nickell said. “The talks are targeted to those who enjoy attending scholarly talks, academics, and community members alike.” 

She also expresses her excitement for the upcoming month. 

“I am excited to have a month-long conversation with FHSU and Hays about the Holocaust. I think all of the events work well together, addressing different aspects of Holocaust history—from gender and memory at Treblinka and Auschwitz, to Croatian Holocaust Collaboration, to Holocaust memory in Ukraine.” 

The virtual flier with a summary of events can be found here. 

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