MC’s Julian participates in Holocaust seminar

MC’s Julian participates in Holocaust seminar

Aug. 30, 2019

Dr. Kathryn Julian, visiting lecturer in history at Maryville College, was selected to attend a summer seminar at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C. The seminar, titled “Interreligious Studies and the Holocaust: New Research, New Conversations,” was presented July 15-19 by the museum’s Program on Ethics, Religion and the Holocaust (PERH) at the Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies.

Julian said the interdisciplinary nature of the seminar served as an impetus to apply.

“At Maryville College, I have the benefit of being a historian housed in the Division of Humanities, which includes religion and philosophy,” she said. “Conversations with MC colleagues in other disciplines has broadened and enhanced the way I teach and write about history. I wanted to continue these types of interdisciplinary conversations in a seminar with experts on the Holocaust, history and religious studies. My current book project focuses on religious communities and memory in post-1945 Germany, so that was an added bonus!”

Classroom applications at MC

Julian is teaching a new course, “History of the Holocaust,” at Maryville College this fall. Several factors inspired her to develop the upper-level course, including recent global outbreaks of anti-Semitism, as well as student questions about the Holocaust.

“Last year, I was struck by a student’s question about the relevancy of studying the Holocaust,” Julian recalled. “How was something that happened in Europe relevant to an undergrad in 2019? This student unwittingly got to the heart of an issue I, too, have grappled with as an educator: Holocaust fatigue. How much more can we learn from something that is often taught (especially in high schools) through the narrow lens of Hitler, Nazis and Anne Frank? As instructors, how can we relay the importance, the comparisons and the urgency of studying a genocide like the Holocaust? And most important, perhaps, what moral lessons are relevant to our society today?

“The timing of the PERH seminar focused on interreligious dialogue was fortuitous,” she added. “I could learn from experts in Holocaust studies and benefit from the Museum’s resources while preparing my new course.”

Julian said the week-long conversations she had with scholars, faith leaders and activists at the seminar “revealed just how dynamic Holocaust history still is,” and she plans to utilize the variety of readings, oral histories and digital resources available through the USHMM in the classroom this fall.

“In my course, we’ll discuss underexplored aspects of Holocaust history – from connections between Nazi Germany and the Jim Crow South to the Holocaust in North Africa to marginalized voices, like Sinti and Roma victims in Central-East Europe,” Julian said. “The PERH seminar also taught me that histories like the Holocaust are not meant to be studied in isolation or left tucked away on a library shelf. The insights we make as historians should be made accessible to a wide range of people. My students this semester will contribute to public knowledge about the local and global relevance of Holocaust history through student-designed digital projects while pursuing research that sparks their interest. My hope is that this course will inspire MC students to continue our conversations outside of the classroom and to apply the lessons of history to their everyday lives – to be compassionate individuals in the face of injustice.”

Seminar presented annually

The annual seminar is designed for professors, doctoral students, scholars and clergy interested in historical topics related to issues of ethics, religious leadership and the role of different religious communities during the Holocaust and the implications of this history after 1945, according to the seminar description.

The seminar was co-led by Dr. Mehnaz Afridi, associate professor of religious studies and director of the Holocaust, Genocide and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College, and Dr. Victoria Barnett, director of the Programs on Ethics, Religion and the Holocaust at USHMM. In addition to special presentations by experts in the field, the seminar included a review of curricular resources, new research and publications, as well as an introduction to the museum’s resources for scholars.

“In recent years, new research about minority religious communities throughout Nazi-occupied Europe and North Africa has opened a new lens into interreligious dynamics and the history of different religious communities under National Socialism,” the seminar description on the USHMM website reads.

Seminar topics included: an overview of the history of the international interreligious movement in the early 20th century (with a particular focus on the role played during the Holocaust by diverse religious leaders and communities in Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied territories); post-Holocaust theological approaches; the challenges of addressing the past, issues of memory and reconciliation, and the Holocaust’s legacy for interreligious issues; and an exploration of different pedagogical approaches for incorporating Holocaust scholarship into the broader field of interreligious studies, with a particular focus on the work of Muslim scholars.


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2019 semester is 1,148.