Atina Grossman, professor of History at Cooper Union College in New York, gave a lecture at the Dodd Center Nov. 7 on Jewish immigrants who took refuge in Iran and India during the holocaust.
“This is an extremely contradictory world filled with the trauma of what was lost, the increasing knowledge that drips in piece by piece of what had happened, and still this adventure of trying to discover the exotic,” Grossman said.
The event was held in remembrance of Kristallnacht, or The Night of Broken Glass, the pogrom against Jews carried out in Germany in 1938. The Frances and Irving Selinger Memorial Endowment Fund made the event possible.
The many University of Connecticut students and other guests in attendance were welcomed by Avinoam Patt, the new director of Judiac studies at UConn. Patt welcomed Grossman to the stage.
“Dr. Atina Grossman is somebody who I have worked with closely over many years and has been something of an advisor and a mentor for me since I began my graduate work at New York University,” Patt said.
Grossman’s presentation focused on the Jewish refugees who took refuge in places not often discussed in history, in this instance, Iran and India.
The presentation examined the paradoxical position of privilege that these Jewish people lived with as Europeans in non-western societies while also having to learn the fate of Jewish people in Europe. The story was a personal one for Grossman as her parents, who were both from Berlin, met in Iran as refugees in the 1930s.
“These people, who happen to be my parents but I like to think that I would have found them interesting sources even if they were not, never would have intersected, never would have met at home even though they both came from Berlin,” Grossman said.
One detail Grossman discussed was the nostalgia refugees had for their home and how it was lost over time.
“We often talk about the nostalgia, especially in German Jews, for the world that they had lost but I think that it’s important to understand that they knew that this was a nostalgia for a world that was forever destroyed,” Grossman said.
There were many students in attendance at the lecture, including Julia March, a first-semester pre-teaching major from New Milford.
“I attended because I thought it was interesting and also it was an Honors event,” March said. “I thought it was really interesting because we never really learn about this part of the Holocaust.”
Another student in attendance was Roshni Karun, a first-semester pre-pharmacy major from Norwich. Karun attended the event to receive extra credit for a sociology course.
“I learned that how in Iran [Jewish people] were having a much more positive experience and we would never have learned about something like that because all we learn about are the horrors of the Holocaust, but for them it was something completely opposite,” Karun said.
Edison Escobar is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.