In Memoriam: Prof. Eric Weitz

It is with great sadness that I report the death on July 1, 2021 of founding Center Advisory Board member, Eric Weitz. An outstanding scholar and committed educator, Eric brought wisdom and insight to matters large and small.  He was our colleague, and he was our friend. We miss him.

We thank Eric’s wife Brigitta van Rheinberg for the following obituary. We wish her and all of Eric’s family comfort and peace.  May his memory be as a blessing. 

Debórah Dwork
Director


Eric D. Weitz

Eric David Weitz, PhD, passed away Thursday July 1 at his home in Princeton, NJ, surrounded by his family at the age of 68.

A distinguished professor of Modern European History at City College of New York, he was a frequent lecturer in public and academic settings on the history of human rights, the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, and the genocide of the Herero and Nama of Namibia. His book Weimar Germany was named an “Editor’s Choice” by The New York Times Book Review.

He was born in New York City on June 15, 1953 to Charles and Shirley Weitz, the children of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. The youngest of three brothers who remained close throughout his life, he grew up in a small home in Bayside, Queens. His father, a CPA, worked long hours while his mother took care of the family. The Bayside Jewish Center was central in their lives both socially and religiously.

The brothers attended Campy Hurley, near Woodstock, NY and it became an important part of Eric’s formative years. There he and his brothers learned about civil rights and peace, informed also by left-wing songwriters who performed there. Eric’s future academic work would continue to be rooted in the values he learned at camp and at the United Community Center in East New York, Brooklyn.

Eric married Carol Hunt Weitz in 1974 and the couple had two sons, Lev and Ben. He and Carol were married for 34 years with many happy years together.

His many written works, all published by Princeton University Press, include A World Divided: The Global Struggle for Human Rights in the Age of Nation-States (2019), Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy (2007); A Century of Genocide: Utopias of Race and Nation (2003), and Creating German Communism, 1890-1990: From Popular Protests to Socialist State (1997). In 2006 he initiated a book series, also published by the Press, Human Rights and Crimes against Humanity.

In 2011, Eric married Brigitta van Rheinberg, his longtime publishing editor. He enjoyed getting to know her son Sebastian and her former husband Bob, who became good friends. Eric and Brigitta traveled more in the past 10 years than many people do in a lifetime. Highlights include Cuba, Machu Pichu, Kenya, South-Africa, China, Japan, and a wonderful trip to Switzerland with the entire extended family. There were also many trips to Germany and the couple spent much time in Aachen, where Eric came to know and cherish Brigitta’s family and friends, and in Berlin with their dear friend Hanna Schissler.

Eric is survived by his wife Brigitta van Rheinberg; his sons Benjamin and Lev Weitz (Doha Mekki); his granddaughter Dhalia; his step-son Sebastian Zahler; his brothers Mark Weitz (Carol Weitz) and Alan Weitz (Linda Cohen); and his niece Grace.

A private funeral service will be held at Princeton Cemetery.

New Work by Debórah Dwork

A new publication by Center founding Director, Debórah Dwork, is out in a special issue of Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History.  Titled “Buried Words: Sexuality, Violence and Holocaust Testimonies,” this special issue tackles a long-taboo subject.  Dwork’s article examines the “silence [that] has shrouded the experience of sexual abuse of and sexual barter by Jewish adolescent boys during the Holocaust.”  Her piece analyzes Nate Leipciger’s memoir, The Weight of Freedom, which “offers a rare window onto a phenomenon singularly absent from young Jewish males’ narratives and scholarship about their lives.” And, widening her lens, Dwork “reflects upon the silence — survivors’ silence and scholars’ silence — around these interactions, examining the prompts for it and shifting interpretations over time.” 

Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History is published by Taylor & Francis

On the Tenth Day of the Gaza War

As scholars of Jewish Studies, the Holocaust, genocide, and human rights, we study and teach about a wide range of processes and cases of mass atrocities and state violence, and we unequivocally support the right of Israelis and of Palestinians to exist in peace. 

We also have a responsibility to center the voices and perspectives of victims and survivors of state violence.  We see that Israel commits state violence, and we must not remain silent about it. Indeed, we teach students about the dangers of remaining silent and about the importance of speaking up and taking action. This is particularly significant in this case, as Palestinians, their history, and the ongoing Israeli state violence against them since the Nakba in 1948 have been marginalized in our fields. 

We write as 3350 Hamas rockets into Israel have (to date) killed 12 people, including 2 children and the overwhelming Israeli retaliation on Gaza has (to date) killed 217 people, including 63 children, injured 1500, displaced 52,000 people, destroyed international media headquarters in Gaza as well as another 132 buildings, and smashed infrastructure crucial to daily life. Israel has launched at least 1450 airstrikes on Gaza; in just one night 62 Israeli fighter jets dropped 110 bombs on the Strip.  

We deplore the violence on both sides. The violence perpetrated by Hamas is a predictable reaction to decades of oppression and subordination of Palestinians, but this does not justify attacks on civilian populations.

The violence must cease, and better conditions must ensue to secure Palestinians’ rights equal to those of all Israelis.

We therefore call on governments, the United Nations, the European Union, and the International Criminal Court to:

(1) Work to protect Palestinians in Israel, under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, and in Gaza now and in the future. 

(2) End support for Israeli military aggression. 

(3) Hold accountable all those responsible for documented war crimes and human rights violations. 

(4) Protect the freedom of the press by mounting an independent investigation into the Israeli airstrike that targeted and destroyed a Gaza City building housing the AP, broadcaster Al-Jazeera, and other media.

Debórah Dwork, Center Director

Center Advisory Board:

Elissa Bemporad, Ungar Chair in East European Jewish History and the Holocaust, Professor, Department of History, Queens College, and Graduate Center-CUNY

Francesca Bregoli, Joseph and Oro Halegua Chair in Greek and Sephardic Jewish Studies, Associate Professor, Department of History, Queens College, and Graduate Center-CUNY

Dagmar Herzog, Distinguished Professor of History, Graduate Center-CUNY

Benjamin Carter Hett, Professor, Department of History, Hunter College and Graduate Center-CUNY

Eli Karetny, Deputy Director, Ralph Bunche Institute 

Steven Remy, Professor, Department of History, Brooklyn College and History Program, Graduate Center-CUNY

Victoria Sanford, Professor of Anthropology, Lehman College; Founding Director, Center for Human Rights & Peace Studies; Doctoral Faculty, Department of Anthropology, Graduate Center-CUNY

John Torpey, Presidential Professor of Sociology and History, Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, Graduate Center-CUNY

Eric Weitz, Distinguished Professor of History, City College and Graduate Center-CUNY

May 10, 2021

As I See It: by Center Advisory Board Members

Victoria Sanford, Barriozona
“Central America Needs a Regional Commission to Prosecute Corruption”

https://barriozona.com/central-america-migration-guatemala-corruption/


“Following a virtual bilateral meeting with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, Vice President Kamala Harris announced a $310 million humanitarian aid package to Central America and Guatemalan Foreign Minister Pedro Brolo announced an agreement with the U.S. to establish a new joint border protection task force that would include 16 Department of Homeland Security officials. ”



Elissa Bemporad, Alon Confino, and Derek Penslar, Forward
“A New Declaration Aims to Fight Antisemitism Without Curtailing Free Speech”


https://forward.com/opinion/466509/a-new-declaration-aims-to-fight-antisemitism-without-curtailing-free/

Antisemitism is on the rise, with powerful instigators behind it, but the struggle against it is at risk of being derailed by acrimonious divisions among Jews and others over its very meaning. The drive for adoption of a single, fixed definition of antisemitism has devolved into a polemical political debate on Israel and Palestine with crucial free-speech implications.

Today we introduce the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, which was crafted by a group of scholars from the United States, Israel, Europe and the U.K, after more than a year of intense discussion and study. The declaration has been endorsed by 200 eminent scholars with a wide spectrum of political views. All of us agree on the need for a guide to effectively combat antisemitism that protects space for an open debate around all possibilities around the future for Israelis and Palestinians.


Ben Carter Hett, Los Angeles Times
Op-Ed: The Trump insurrection was America’s Beer Hall Putsch

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2021-01-16/donald-trump-insurrection-capitol-beer-hall-putsch

Very soon after the nation watched in horror as a mob ransacked the U.S. Capitol, journalists and politicians began speaking of a coup.

The fallout from these events has been dramatic and will continue. But we need to understand a crucial point. The guy in the Viking hat and his friends could break windows. A member of the mob could kill a police officer. Rioters could plot to assault members of Congress. All of this is terrifying. But these people and their criminal actions are not the most dangerous threat to our democracy. The real threat comes from people in business suits or police uniforms who are inside the system — and that threat remains.

A historical example illustrates the point.


Ben Carter Hett, Los Angeles Times
“Op-Ed: What the bunker mentality really means” 

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-11-15/donald-trump-election-delusions-autocrats

In the last week, a mash-up of a scene from “Downfall,” the movie about Hitler’s last days, has been circulating on social media. The scene is the one where Hitler bursts into an operatic rage when his officers tell him of a failed attempt to drive the Russians from Berlin. In the mash-up, Hitler is getting a different kind of bad news: All the votes are going to be counted and he will lose the election.

Donald Trump isn’t a dictator. He won office in a free and fair election and will leave it through the same democratic process. But there is a serious point underneath the mash-up comedy. Refusal to accept unpleasant reality is the hallmark of dictators, especially if disaster or defeat is looming. From his bunker, Hitler ordered imaginary armies to fight fantastical battles. Somehow, he thought, victory could be snatched from certain defeat.


Ben Carter Hett, Mother Jones
“What Do We Do With Trump’s Lackeys and Enablers Now?”

https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/01/what-do-we-do-with-trumps-lackeys-and-enablers-now/

In 1954, Eugen Kogon worried that the “the silent gradual, creeping, unstoppable return” of the ex-Nazis seemed to be the “fate” of Germany’s new democracy. Kogon, a Christian socialist intellectual who had been imprisoned in concentration camps, was not alone in his concern. For years after the 1949 founding of West Germany, liberal-minded Germans worried the transition to democracy would end with a rebound to authoritarianism. No one would ever think it’s easy, making the transition from dictatorship to democracy. Especially when the dictatorship has been a particularly brutal and murderous one. But for Kogon, and others yearning for democracy, a basic problem presented itself. What do you do with the people who ran the old regime? And what do you do with the masses of the old regime’s followers? Aren’t they all waiting for restoration—and maybe not just waiting, but actively working toward it?

At the end of the Trump era, we face a similar question. Trump’s post-election attempt to subvert democracy was no surprise. And the raiding of the Capitol was the sort of uncomfortable shock we knew might occur. It was, as I’ve written, our Beer Hall Putsch. This makes aggressive punishments for those involved an obvious need. If we do not do this, our democracy could spiral into dictatorship. Especially insidious has been the Republican Party’s reluctance to stop Trump, even after this attempted coup. Hundreds of Congress members still voted to overturn the election and against impeaching the insurrectionist-in-chief. The lesson is clear: One political party is committed to authoritarianism. We need a harsh reckoning now with those who directly supported the coup attempt.


Statement in Protest Against Violence in Colombia

As a doctoral student at the GC-CUNY who offers administrative support to the Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, I vehemently condemn Colombia’s governmental actions against civilians who protest measures that harm the most vulnerable in the midst of the COVID19 pandemic. NGOs and activists have reported physical violence, arbitrary detentions, sexual violence, and 37 murders at the hands of Colombia’s National Police. 

I call on President Duque to stop incentivizing police violence against protesters, renounce his announced intention to declare a state of internal disturbance, and lift the current ban on social media and internet access. I call on President Duque to convene different sectors of society to discuss ways to stop the violence. 

And I call on all persons of good will to pay close attention to the situation in Colombia and to increase international pressure on its government. Through your solidarity, the eyes of the world will be on Colombia, deterring President Duque’s government from committing atrocities and violating human rights.

Juan Acevedo, Doctoral Student

Debórah Dwork, Center Director

Center Advisory Board:

Elissa Bemporad, Ungar Chair in East European Jewish History and the Holocaust, Professor, Department of History, Queens College, and Graduate Center-CUNY

Francesca Bregoli, Joseph and Oro Halegua Chair in Greek and Sephardic Jewish Studies, Associate Professor, Department of History, Queens College, and Graduate Center-CUNY

Dagmar Herzog,Distinguished Professor of History, Graduate Center-CUNY

Benjamin Carter Hett, Professor, Department of History, Hunter College and Graduate Center-CUNY

Eli Karetny, Deputy Director, Ralph Bunche Institute 

Steven Remy, Professor, Department of History, Brooklyn College and History Program, Graduate Center-CUNY

Victoria Sanford, Professor of Anthropology, Lehman College; Founding Director, Center for Human Rights & Peace Studies; Doctoral Faculty, Department of Anthropology, Graduate Center-CUNY

John Torpey, Presidential Professor of Sociology and History, Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, Graduate Center-CUNY

Eric Weitz, Distinguished Professor of History, City College and Graduate Center-CUNY

Statement in Support of Scholars of the Holocaust in Poland

The Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity (The Graduate Center—City University of New York) protests the pressure exerted by Polish state institutions on scholars of the Holocaust, and the concerted campaign against Professors Barbara Engelking and Jan Grabowski in particular. As scholars, we stand in solidarity with these historians of the Holocaust and their meticulous efforts to determine and report objective historical truth. We expect that Poland’s institutions of justice will show their independence from political influence, and that the government of Poland will, like other democratic countries, demonstrate its courage and continued self-confident commitment to creating an environment in which internationally respected scholars can pursue their research without fear of retribution.

Debórah Dwork, Center Director

Center Advisory Board:

Elissa Bemporad, Ungar Chair in East European Jewish History and the Holocaust, Professor, Department of History, Queens College, and Graduate Center-CUNY

Francesca Bregoli, Joseph and Oro Halegua Chair in Greek and Sephardic Jewish Studies, Associate Professor, Department of History, Queens College, and Graduate Center-CUNY

Dagmar Herzog, Distinguished Professor of History, Graduate Center-CUNY

Benjamin Carter Hett, Professor, Department of History, Hunter College and Graduate Center-CUNY.

Eli Karetny, Deputy Director, Ralph Bunche Institute 

Zachariah Mampilly, Marxe Endowed Chair of International Affairs at the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, CUNY.

Steven Remy, Professor, Department of History, Brooklyn College and History Program, Graduate Center-CUNY

Victoria Sanford, Professor of Anthropology, Lehman College; Founding Director, Center for Human Rights & Peace Studies; Doctoral Faculty, Department of Anthropology, Graduate Center-CUNY

John Torpey, Presidential Professor of Sociology and History, Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, Graduate Center-CUNY

Eric Weitz, Distinguished Professor of History, City College and Graduate Center-CUNY