Three students also awarded for activism and leadership in Holocaust and Genocide Studies
On Monday, April 2, the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies put on its sixth annual Genocide Awareness Lecture in the Mabel Brown Room.
The lecture was “designed to encourage people of good will and conscience to give vigilant, public attention to our still genocidal world”, according to Henry Knight, the director of the Cohen Center.
The main lecture—Overcoming Evil: Preventing Genocide and Creating Peaceful Societies—was created and presented by Dr. Ervin Staub, professor emeritus and founding director of the doctoral program in the Psychology of Peace and Violence at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
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Before the lecture began, there was a brief, but very powerful, award ceremony for the three recipients of the 2012 Susan J. Herman Award.
The Susan J. Herman Award—which is named after a professor emeritus from Keene State College who was widely recognized for her ability to inspire leaders and her enthusiasm for increasing awareness of holocaust and genocide studies—recognizes a student at KSC and one or two community members who “through personal leadership and actions, stimulated greater understanding of genocide, increased activism on behalf of the victims of crimes against humanity or inspired community engagement in educating people about genocide both historically and in our contemporary world,” according to the award’s website.
This year’s recipients were Danielle Flaherty, a Holocaust and Genocide Studies and History major and current executive board member of the Holocaust and Genocide Awareness Club; Fred Schwartz, President and founder of the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation; and Stephen Lewy, a Holocaust survivor who escaped to the United States in 1938 and then, with remarkable courage, enlisted in the United States army and traveled back to Germany to fight in General Patton’s Army.
“The Susan J. Herman was one of the best honors I’ve ever received at Keene State College,” Flahery said.
“Susan J. Herman was an incredible woman and to be honored with two other astounding men, I couldn’t ask for anything better. It was a great ending to four years,” she said.
After the presentation of the Susan J. Herman Awards, Staub took the stage.
With just a PowerPoint slideshow and a clicker, Staub quickly turned the Mabel Brown Room into an enormous makeshift classroom.
With the confidence of a well-versed professor, Staub clicked through his slides and treated the audience members to a compelling distillation of his most relevant works.
Staub’s main theme during the lecture was a concept he called the “active bystandership.” Essentially, an active bystander is a person who takes a conscious role, direct or indirect, in ending genocide—or really anything bad for that matter. The opposite is “passivity,” which is essentially doing nothing.
Staub explained his concept best by saying, “The three recipients of the Susan J. Herman award are active bystanders.”
Staub also explained the perils of an “Us vs. Them” mentality. While he was in Rwanda offering revolutionary humanitarian programs, Staub witnessed firsthand the damage that an “Us vs. Them” mentality can do.
“They often exclude the other from the moral and human realm. Killing these other people becomes the right thing to do,” Staub said.
Another memorable point made by Staub was a product of his work studying the factors that lead to a altruism—whether by a person or a group.
Staub believed that there had to be a common theme among selfless actions; there had to be a common trigger or reason as to why people act selflessly.
In a sort of beautifully cyclical way, Staub concluded—after conducting a variety of studies— that people are much more inclined to help others if they have been helped before.
“If you receive help you will later help others,” Staub said.
Staub believes that this conclusion can lead to more efficient genocide prevention techniques and help all parties interested understand how to stop genocide and create peaceful societies.
Charlie Lindstrum, a Holocaust and Genocide Studies major at KSC, thoroughly enjoyed the lecture.
“I think the active bystander part is very important and it worked out well that [tonight] was the [presentation of the] Susan J. Herman Award, because the idea that one voice can make a difference was at the core of his speech. Every single person has the ability to make a difference,” Lindstrum said.
It is important to note that the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at KSC, which put on the Genocide Awareness Lecture, is not directly affiliated with the Holocaust and Genocide Studies major, which was established in 2009 and is the only one of its kind.
“[The relationship] is kind of like how the Redfern [Arts Center] is for art students,” Knight said. “It’s the synergy between what they do and what we do; and when you put what they do together with what we do, our work is enhanced and their works is enhanced. One plus one equals more than two,” he said.
It is a synergy that Flaherty has felt through her four years at KSC and that Staub highlighted in his lecture.
“Something that stuck out about Ervin Staub’s presentation was when he pointed out the incredible support that we have on campus within our studies. It’s something that I’ve definitely taken for granted. Not only does the community work with our department but the campus also collaborates and supports us heavily. Being the only undergraduate department of our kind, it’s extremely hard to find,” Flaherty said.
Dylan Morrill can be contacted at