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When it is Hard to be Human: Lessons from the Rescuers in the Holocaust

Schwarz, Fogelman, Hoffmann

‘When it is Hard to be Human: Lessons from the Rescuers in the Holocaust’ took place at Ithaca College’s James J. Whalen Center for Music | Presser Rehearsal Room, on Sunday February 2, 2020 at 3 PM. This event was free and open to the public and was followed by a reception and book signing.

Read about the event at the Cornell Chronicle.

Hear an interview from WRFI, on January 27th.

Authors Eva Fogelman and Roald Hoffmann explored why some bystanders and perpetrators in the midst of totalitarian genocide were compelled to risk their lives and resist. They discussed the role of conscience and moral courage play in confronting hate today.  This panel discussion was followed by audience interaction.         

Mykola and Maria Dyuk risked their lives to hide Roald Hoffmann with his mother Clara and other relatives in the attic of a schoolhouse to save them from Nazi terror from January 1943 until June 1944 in the village of Uniow, Ukraine.  The Germans killed Hoffmann’s father for his involvement in a plot to arm camp prisoners. Roald is the author of ‘Something That Belongs to You’ (2015), an autobiographical drama. He is Professor Emeritus of Cornell and shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1981.

Eva Fogelman studied at CUNY with Stanley Milgram, author of ‘Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View’ (1974) which showed how both his experiment and Nazi Germany successfully transformed large numbers of “ordinary” and arguably indifferent people into willing inflictors of harm.  She asked Milgram a question he could not answer. She wanted to know why a small minority of people in his study disobeyed authority. This question began a twenty-year study that led to her book, ‘Conscience and Courage’ (1994). Fogelman bases her findings on over 300 interviews with rescuers of Jews whose acts of courage either have been confirmed by those they helped or substantiated and honored by Yad Vashem. What distinguishes her approach is her attention to ‘rescue’ as an evolving process. As a psychotherapist, Eva has worked with groups and individual children of Holocaust survivors. She is the founding director of the Jewish Foundation for Christian Rescuers (now the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous).

Dan Schwarz, author of ‘Imagining the Holocaust’ (1999) looks at the various contexts of documentary, testimony, fiction and art that contribute to our understanding of what is real and true about our understanding of the Holocaust and its impact on history, politics and mental health today.  Dan Schwarz is the author of 18 books and the Frederic J. Whiton Professor of English at Cornell and Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow.  He moderated the discussion about the “rescuers,” or as Israel’s Yad Vashem calls them, the “Righteous Among the Nations”.

This event was sponsored by Area Congregations Together, Congregation Tikkun v'Or, Cornell Hillel, Cornell Jewish Studies, Hickey's Music Center, Hillel at Ithaca College, Ithaca College Jewish Studies, Ithaca Area United Jewish Community, Ithaca College Jewish Studies, Ithaca Descendants of Holocaust Survivors, Roitman Chabad Center at Cornell, Dr. Scott & Michelle Noren, Southern Tier Interfaith Coalition, Temple Beth-El of Ithaca, Tompkins Trust and Wegmans.


Time and Place
February 2, 2020, 3:00 pm
Presser Rehearsal Room at Ithaca College: Whalen Center for Music