Holocaust survivor first of Abel lecture series

Everybody has some knowledge of the Holocaust and Adolf Hitler through family history or educational up-bringing.

Gerhard Weinberg, an award-winning World War II historian who personally experienced the Holocaust, will speak about dictatorship, democracy and genocide at 7 p.m. today in the Bovee University Center Auditorium. The event is open to the public.

Weinberg is the first speaker to inaugurate the Harold Abel Endowed Lecture Series, which aims to bring distinguished scholars to discuss the impact of worldwide genocide and historical events, such as World War II and mass murders in Rwanda, Cambodia and Darfur.

Abel served a 10-year term as CMU president from 1975 to 1985. He died in 2002.

“This speaker series continues president Abel’s service as an educator,” said Iris Abel, Harold Abel’s widow. “He believed in education as a lifelong endeavor to understand and improve the lives of others. Genocide is not a historical anomaly, but an ongoing horror, which can be ended only by the glare of public attention.”

The lecture series was established in July through a $100,000 gift to the university’s history department from the Abel family.

A great deal of history

Eric Johnson, chairman of the lecture series and history professor, said Weinberg’s appearance and speech will cost $5,000 of the endowment, a fifth of the rate he normally charges.

Weinberg is a surviving person of Jewish background of the Holocaust, Johnson said. Weinberg was born in Germany and, at about 12 years old, narrowly escaped the country before World War II began.

“He was able to survive,” Johnson said. “That’s what helps make him one of the superstars of the world on Holocaust discussion. The guy has a stamina, a strength and conviction to do what he does, and I admire that.”

Johnson said today’s speech holds a great deal of history just by the date it is held.

It is the anniversary of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass. That was the night, Johnson said, the people of Jewish descent were carted off to concentration camps and synagogues were burned to the ground.

“There could be no person in the world more qualified to speak on this subject — a subject so many of us are interested in with Hitler, the Holocaust and the second World War,” he said. “It’s a big piece of history and it’s not so far gone. We can still hear from those who lived it.”


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