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University of Iowa News Release


April 17, 2007

Society's Response To Genocide Survivors Subject Of April 19 Lecture

Holocaust scholar Jennifer Geddes will present "Towards an Ethics of Responding to Genocide Survivor Testimonies," a Marvin and Rose Lee Pomerantz Lecture hosted by the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR), at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 19, in Room C425 of the Pomerantz Center on the UI campus.

The lecture and a reception afterward are free and open to the public.

Geddes is a research assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia's Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and a former fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies. She will discuss testimonies of those who have suffered and survived mass atrocity, in recent times and throughout history, and she will emphasize particular challenges scholars and students face when addressing testimonies.

"Often, survivor testimonies point to gaps, misconceptions and presumptions in our thinking about suffering that need to be addressed in order to begin to respond responsibly," Geddes said.

Survivors want society to acknowledge the ways in which their suffering is misrepresented, Geddes said, adding that people often avoid a response or actually contribute to suffering of victims, whether knowingly or not.

"It may not be apparent to individuals who have not experienced or studied mass atrocity, but many ethical issues develop when reading and discussing survivor testimonies," said Amy Weismann, UICHR deputy director. "This lecture will allow people to begin exploring issues in understanding survivors and their stories."

According to Weismann, Iowa has many survivor communities and international students who have endured such crimes, including Sudanese living in Iowa City and Des Moines, Burundians and Congolese in Cedar Rapids and Bosnians throughout the state.

Geddes' presentation is made possible through a generous gift from Marvin and Rose Lee Pomerantz to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to promote understanding of the Holocaust among college and university students throughout the nation. In addition to UICHR, the event is co-sponsored by International Programs and the UI Departments of History, Religious Studies and Philosophy and the School of Art and Art History in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies is an integral part of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which serves as America's national institution for Holocaust education and remembrance. The center supports scholarship and publication in the field of Holocaust studies at American universities, fosters strong relationships between American and international scholars, and organizes programs to ensure the ongoing training of future generations of scholars specializing in the Holocaust.

Marvin Pomerantz sits on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, the museum's governing board. A longtime advocate for education in Iowa and a UI graduate, Marvin and his wife, Rose Lee, are avid supporters of the museum's educational mission. They are key contributors to the center's Campus Outreach Lecture Program, which includes the annual Marvin and Rose Lee Pomerantz Lecture that alternates between Drake University and the UI.

Founded in 1999, UICHR is a direct outgrowth of Global Focus: Human Rights '98, the yearlong UI commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of Dec. 10, 1948. Initiated by a multidisciplinary group of faculty, the center's mission is to support the promotion and protection of human rights at home and abroad by providing leadership in human rights research, education and public service to the UI, its surrounding community, the state of Iowa and beyond.

The UICHR is part of International Programs, which enables University of Iowa students, faculty, staff and the public to learn from and about the world. Its offices, degree programs and events provide life-changing opportunities on campus and abroad, heighten intellectual and cultural diversity and give all university constituents access to vital international knowledge. For more information, visit or call 319-353-2700. International Programs is part of the Office of the Provost.

For special accommodations, call Liz Crooks at 319-335-3900 or visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Joe Nugent, 319-335-2026,; Program: Amy Weismann, 319-335-0483,; Writer: Alexis Bushnell.