U of C students organize event with acclaimed historian
Graduate student Mikkel Dack and colleague Matt Bucholtz are heavily involved in the study of German history at the University of Calgary and they found themselves questioning the lack of events on the subject.
So they decided to create one.
“It was our own initiative,” says Dack. “There are absolutely no events. So instead of moaning and complaining, we thought we’d just create an event of our own.”
Deciding on a speaker was easy: Christopher Browning, an acclaimed professor, author and historian, was their first choice. They simply did not expect that he would agree.
“We thought, why don’t we ask the most-prominent historian, and we expected that he would just turn us down,” recalls Dack. “But he agreed to come, and we’re thrilled.”
Perhaps best known for his 1992 book Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, Dack says Browning has rooted much of his work in the examination of Nazi behaviour.
“He kind of humanizes the whole process,” says Dack. “Saying that it was a horrible event, it’s unforgivable, but they were just regular people that did it — like you and I.”
Dack’s supervisor Annette Timm, an associate professor with the Department of History at the University of Calgary, believes this is an essential concept for people to understand.
Referencing the abuse of prisoners by the United States Army in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, Timm emphasizes the importance of recognizing conditions that can corrupt people and soldiers.
“[The Nazis] were humans like us, and they made the wrong decisions — we can make that judgment — but they made decisions under extreme duress,” says Timm. “We have to understand why because we — Canadian soldiers,
Photo by Hannah Kostothers — could be in similar situations.”
It’s a notion that Dack and Bucholtz are hoping will get Calgarians talking.
The event is free, open to the public, and will feature a question and answer period with Christopher Browning.
“We’ve really reached out to the city at large, and the Jewish community in Calgary is involved,” says Dack. “We’re hoping that a lot of their members come out.”
The University of Calgary’s Rozsa Centre will host The Frank Eyck Memorial Lecture in German History: Why Did They Kill? Revisiting the Holocaust Perpetrators on Feb. 4 from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
Dack says he hopes the lecture will generate thoughtful discussion and consideration for one of the darkest chapters in Western history.
“I hope people take away what I did, which is to rethink these crimes,” says Dack. “To understand them better.
And that’s what Dr. Christopher Browning always says — he’s not trying to justify or apologize, he’s trying to explain and create more understanding. And I think that’s so important.”
For more Holocaust coverage from the Calgary Journal, visit My grandma denied the Holocaust