NEVER FORGOTTEN, NEVER AGAIN

RECENTERING NARRATIVES OF HISTORICAL VIOLENCE

Shocking violence permeates certain chapters of history. Remembering and recounting these stories is a vital aspect of historical work across many contexts. Yet even in the most well-known cases, the most marginalised victims of violence still have to struggle to have their voices heard. Histories of violence often don’t centre victims, but rather tend to emphasise the perspectives of perpetrators and bystanders, reflecting the enduring power structures that helped enable the violence in the first place. This panel seeks to recentre narratives of violence on marginalised experiences and perspectives, challenging traditional understandings of what happened and why it matters.

MODERATOR

RYAN ABT (/u/Kugelfang52)

PANEL MODERATOR

RYAN ABT (HE/HIM) received his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University for his work studying the representation of the Nazism and the Holocaust in US educational systems between 1933 and 1965. In 2019, he published an article in the Yearbook of Transnational History on the presentation of the Holocaust in Texas textbooks between 1945 and 1965. Prior to his Ph.D. studies, Ryan worked as a high school history teacher. He is also a moderator and contributor on AskHistorians.

SPEAKERS AND PAPERS

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NIKLI COOPER (/u/19thhistorian1865)

DIXIE’S CHILDREN: THE ROLE OF YOUTH IN SCHOLARSHIP ON POSTBELLUM RACIAL VIOLENCE

When racial violence is discussed, few historians shy away from the example of Emmett Till whose death demonstrated the brutality that even black children could not escape. His murder is often used as an aberration—an example of the worst of Jim Crow. But for African-Americans in the South, this treatment towards black children came as no surprise. Most studies on racial violence focus on instances in which white men kill black adults. But, by predominantly centering narratives of racial violence on black adult victims—and one fourteen-year-old — scholars insinuate that white supremacists had some degree of humanity by not regularly targeting children.

 

Children were not only victims, but they could also be participants in racial violence. Images of lynchings show that white children were present and engaged at these community-building events. White boys castrated black victims and white girls lit corpses on fire. While scholars are superficially familiar with the role of black children as victims and white children as audience members, young people are rarely central actors in these studies.

NIKLI COOPER (SHE/HER) is a second-year PhD student at Rice University in Houston, Texas. She studies racial violence against African Americans in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the U.S. South. She originally hails from Rochester, New York but has also lived in Atlanta, Georgia and on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. In May 2020, Nkili graduated Summa Cum Laude from Seton Hall University where she majored in History and minored in Africana Studies, Sociology, and Women and Gender Studies.

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MORGAN LEWIN (/u/aquatermain)

GRANDPA WAS NOT A TERRORIST: RETERRITORIALIZING UNION ACTIVISM DURING ARGENTINA’S LAST MILITARY DICTATORSHIP

On March 24th, 1976, Argentina’s democracy was toppled by the sixth coup d’état of the 20 th century, installing a dictatorship self-appointed as the “National Reorganization Process”. In the seven years the Juntas held de facto and unconstitutional control of the Argentine State, the military kidnapped, tortured and killed over thirty thousand people, many of whom continue to be missing: they are the Disappeared. This occurred in the context of a systematic State terrorism campaign which banned all forms of democratic process, and restricted political and civic liberties to a minimum, under the pretense of fighting a “Dirty War” against shadowy terrorist organizations. 

 

On March 26th, the offices of the Public Entertainment Workers’ Union’s headquarters in San Rafael were stormed by a group of commandos. While his family was beaten unconscious and their home ransacked, the Union’s Secretary General was kidnapped, as so many of his peers had and would continue to be in the following years. He was taken to a police station and illegally held captive, beaten, starved, hooked to a metal bed frame and electrocuted. Like the over 30000 Disappeared, most of whom were unionists, university students, artists and human rights activists, my grandfather, Antonio Campos, was accused of being a terrorist and a public menace, simply because he believed in and fought for his fellow workers’ rights. He was one of the lucky few who were released instead of being executed. 

 

Instead of “taking the hint”, he continued to run the Union clandestinely, working towards a democratic future for Argentina, at the risk of being found out and disappeared permanently, even jeopardizing the safety of his family in the process, for the remainder of the dictatorship. This paper aims to reterritorialize the “Dirty War” narrative, by analyzing non-governmental political participation forcibly turned clandestine as activism, not terrorism.

MORGAN LEWIN (THEY/THEM) is a student of the History Professorate at the Del Atuel Institute of Higher Education. Their research focuses on the political influences in Romantic era composition styles, as well as the intersection between folkloric and native rhythms and the composition of Latin American art music. Working in conjunction with their father, conductor Daniel Lewin, they’re the research director for the La Música Y Yo lecture cycles, currently in their third consecutive year at the Catholic University of Chile.

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SEAN REMZ (/u/silverliningDebrecen)

THE PORTRAYAL OF ROMA BY JEWISH SURVIVORS OF THE HOLOCAUST IN HUNGARY

Across fifteen or so memoirs of Hungarian Holocaust survivors, I have noticed patterns of representation of Roma in pre-Holocaust narration, in both quasi-ethnographic and anecdotal terms. These can be divided into three categories: their occupation and status in the social order of rural Hungary, Transylvania / Maramuresh, and Eastern Czechoslovakia, the depictions of friendship between Jews and Roma, and the dual thread of appreciation and appropriation of music and names that speak to a complex relationship that resists essentializing binaries. Likewise, sentiments of sympathy and otherness manifest through these memoirs, reflecting both a common thread of xenophobia and diverging paths due to Habsburg policy in a previous generation (that allowed for Jewish incorporation into economy and society, while forcing Roma to remain nomadic).

 

In light of the shared subaltern status between Jews and Roma in the Holocaust, these portrayals historicize the complexity of victim status, and point at different threads of xenophobia that ultimately resulted in parallel fates at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Given that there are less published memoirs by Roma genocide (Pharrajimos) survivors, the accounts of Jewish Holocaust survivors can be used to fill a gap of public awareness on specific parts of their ordeals, particularly the horrific liquidation of the “Gypsy Family Camp” of Birkenau on August 2, 1944. This is one way of addressing the consistent epistemic violence directed against them – the historical and ongoing misrepresentation of Roma communities. 

 

Matters of historical representation of Roma are of particular importance in the Hungarian context, since the Hungarian government (the Fidesz and Jobbik parties) for the past decade has promoted a sense of uncompromising nationalism that is foremost in its hostility to Roma, and seeks to whitewash Hungary’s genocidal collaboration with the Nazis and its independent initiative in the mass categorical violence against Roma.

SEAN REMZ (HE/HIM) is an MA student in the Department of Religions and Cultures at Concordia University, having previously completed an MA in History at the same university. His current research is focused on the migration of Hungarian Holocaust survivors and refugees of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution to Montreal, and his MA History thesis correlated ethnicity and class with bystander responses to the Holocaust in Hungary and its borderlands. Throughout his graduate career, Sean has used Hungarian Holocaust memoirs as often as possible to shed light on many aspects of the Hungarian-Jewish experience.