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15 maart 2017

Mini-symposium: Forgiveness after Auschwitz?

Mini-symposium with Jonathan Druker, visiting scholar at the PThU from 13-17 March

When: Wednesday March 15, 2017, 10.00-12.30

Where: PThU film room (1E24), VU main building, 1st floor E-wing (De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV, Amsterdam)

Language: English

Registration before March 13 through the form below

About the symposium

On the Holocaust Remembrance Day in Auschwitz in 1995 survivor Elie Wiesel prayed publicly: “I am asking God not to forgive the murderers. I pray God not to forgive them.”

In the face of the Holocaust ‘forgiveness’ appears to be a forbidden and even dangerous word, because it might suggest that the ongoing trauma of the victims gets repressed. It seems that the ‘never forget’ is inseparable from the ‘never forgive’.

What is forgiveness? Who can(not) forgive? When is forgiveness (in)appropriate? How to speak about forgiveness theologically in the aftermath of a collective trauma like the Holocaust?

During this mini-symposium Jonathan Druker will address the question of the possibility of speaking about forgiveness after Auschwitz. He will discuss the work of Holocaust survivor Jean Améry who stated that the victim’s refusal to forgive perpetrators in their collectivity has a greater potential for stopping cycles of violence, and for creating community, than does his or her forgiveness. Refusing to forgive has an important moral and political function: their enduring resentment works against the larger society’s strong urge to forgive the perpetrators and forget the victims’ suffering as a means of repressing painful memories of the nation’s traumatic history.

Your input during this morning will be much appreciated. Please feel welcome to participate in this symposium in which scholars from the field of theology, philosophy, literary studies, history and psychology will discuss the highly complex theme of forgiveness after Auschwitz.


10:00 Welcome by prof. dr. Marcel Barnard

10:05 Introduction by Joyce Rondaij MA: Forgiveness in Post-War Literature

10:20 Lecture by dr. Jonathan Druker: On Trauma and Community in Jean Améry’s ´Jenseits von Schuld und Sühne’

11:00 Coffee break

11:15 Response by prof. dr. Renée D.N. van Riessen: Améry and Derrida

11:30 Response by dr. Gert J. van Klinken: Forgiveness in Post-War Europe

11:45 Response by Psychiatrist Fedia Jacobs: With their backs against the wire – facing the future

12:00-12:30 Discussion

About the speakers

Jonathan Druker is Professor of Italian and Coordinator of the Italian section at Illinois State University where he also teaches Holocaust Literature and Film. His book, Primo Levi and Humanism after Auschwitz: Posthumanist Reflections, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2009. His current book project, The Irreversible and the Irrevocable: On Trauma, Time and History in Holocaust Writing, employs trauma theory to reread the works of multiple Holocaust survivors.

Fedia Jacobs is a Jewish Psychiatrist specialized in trauma after man-made disaster, working at the Sinai Center in Amsterdam.

Gert van Klinken is church historian (PThU) with an expertise on the relationship of church and Israel in the twentieth century.

Renée van Riessen is a philosopher of religion (PThU) with a specific research interest in theories of transcendence in relation to moral, aesthetic and religious experience.

Joyce Rondaij writes her dissertation (PThU) on Primo Levi, focusing on the question how to speak about humanity and God after Auschwitz.

Image: ©Alberto Burri, Guggenheim Museum New York