Yom HaShoah Commemorations at Appalachian to Begin with Play by Second-Generation Holocaust Survivor

Appalachian State University's Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies is working with a multitude of partners throughout North Carolina to organize several events around this year's Yom HaShoah commemoration.

Yom HaShoah was inaugurated by the Knesset in Israel in 1953 as a day to remember those who perished in the Holocaust, those who continue to fall by genocide, and those that commit acts of heroism in the face of genocide. It is typically commemorated by the reading of the names of the 6 million who died, the lighting of candles, and the recitation of the Mourner's Kaddish, a liturgical prayer said to remember the dead. In addition, the United States Congress established the Days of Remembrance as our nation's annual commemoration of the Holocaust that culminates in events to remember the murdered on Yom HaShoah.

Appalachian's commemorations will begin with a play, the Mitzvah Project, by a second-generation Holocaust survivor Roger Grumwald. The play will be followed by a panel discussion on Germans of Jewish ancestry in the Holocaust. The program will start on Saturday, April 30, 7:30 pm at Appalachian's Plemmons Student Union (Blue Ridge Ballroom, Room 201 AB). It is free of charge and open to the public. No tickets are required.

The play tells the tragic story of Christoph Rosenberg, a German half-Jew (Mischling), who became a decorated officer in Hitler's army. The 30-minute play is followed by a panel discussion with two Holocaust historians and the artist who will reflect on the Mischlinge serving in the Wehrmacht. Professor Thomas Pegelow Kaplan, the director of Appalachian's Center for Judaic, Holocaust & Peace Studies, will ponder the struggles of Mischlinge outside the military, focusing on their often long-lasting battles with state institutions such as the Reich Kinship Office--charged with determining racial descent in cases of doubt--and the Christian Churches. Professor John Cox (UNCC), finally, will talk about Jews and Jewish Mischlinge in the resistance against the Hitler state, demonstrating contributions made by Mischlinge in challenging a seemingly all-powerful Nazi party and dictatorship. The play and panel will be followed by a question-and-answer period.

Roger Grunwald has been a professional performing artist for almost four decades. In 2013, he was honored with a grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) for the development of The Mitzvah Project. He has performed the play to high acclaim in synagogues and on university campuses throughout the United States and will be heading to the U.K. in 2016. He is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Grunwald has appeared in over 70 stage productions in the United States and Europe.

Thomas Pegelow Kaplan is the Leon Levine Distinguished Professor and Director of the Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies at Appalachian State University in North Carolina. He has studied modern European history and American Studies in Tübingen, Eugene, Berlin, and Chapel Hill. Before coming to Appalachian, he taught Holocaust Studies at Grinnell College, Davidson College, and De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines. His research focuses on histories of violence, language, and culture of Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe and the 1960s global youth revolts.

On May 5, Yom HaShoah, the Center, Temple of the High Country and Appalachian's Hillel chapter will also hold a public reading of the names of European Jews murdered by the Germans during the Holocaust in front of Belk Library. This reading is scheduled to start at 10:00 am and will last until 6:00 pm, when it concludes with a public ceremony. For more information and instructions on how to sign up to be part of the reading, please see the Center webpage on this event.

For questions about the play, panel or reading, please call 828.262.2311 or email thomaspegelowkaplan@appstate.edu.

Published: Apr 6, 2016 12:00am