Stories from Europe

Solon Christensen-Szalanski '10: Salzburg, Austria

Solon worked at Schloss Leodpodskron in Salzburg, Austria with the Institute of Historical Justice and Reconciliation (IHJR), an independent initiative of the Salzburg Global Seminar. As an intern, he worked with the IHJR's Middle East project. The goal of the project was to produce the first joint Palestinian-Israeli atlas of the War of 1948; it was to be composed with more than 80 maps and with shared narratives to accompany them. His work was ambitious, as at the beginning of his internships, no maps had yet to be finished. Yet, near the end, one fourth of the total maps had been completed. He also participated in the formation of an India-Pakistan textbook project, in which researchers will work to create a shared narrative of these historically similar, but politically different, countries. The hopes of this project are to reduce the textbook propaganda that is such a dangerous hurdle for peace.

Alexis Herr '07: Italy

Alexis Herr

Even as alumna, Claremont McKenna College's Center for Human Rights Leadership continues to have a lasting impact on my scholastic and personal pursuits. The experiences I gained from academic travel trips to Washington, D.C. and Berlin, Germany along with the knowledge I obtained through the Holocaust and Genocide academic concentration, molded my personal and academic goals. The Center's AnneMerie Donoghue Human Rights Fellowship Program afforded me the opportunity to intern at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies. Most importantly, the mentorship and support of Professor John Roth and Professor Jonathan Petropolous inspired me to dedicate my life to the study of the Holocaust and the prevention of genocide.

With the encouragement of Professor Roth, I applied to Clark University, the only university in the world that offers a Ph.D. in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. As a second year graduate student at Clark, I have focused my research on Italy and the Holocaust. My dissertation, "Remembering Fossoli di Carpi: From Death's Waiting Room to Ruins," explores the historical significance and cultural remembrance of Fossoli di Carpi, a former WWII deportation camp in northern Italy.

CMC's Center for Human Rights Leadership provided me with an outlet to develop my passion for the prevention and study of genocide. Once I have achieved my Ph.D. I plan to pursue a career in genocide prevention and relief work. One day, I hope to return to the classroom and inspire students just as my CMC professors did for me. My experiences with CMC's Center for Human Rights Leadership created an invaluable sense of purpose and passion, which continue to sustain my academic and personal pursuits in the field of Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

Becky Grossman '08: Berlin, Germany

Becky Grossman

Throughout my time at CMC, I was very involved in the Center. I joined the Center's SAC my sophomore year and participated in the academic travel program to Berlin that summer. Upon returning to CMC, I enrolled in Professor Roth's class on the Holocaust and starting working as a research assistant at the Center. I spent the next two years working for the Center. I was an AnneMerie Donoghue fellow over the summer of 2007; the fellowship allowed me to take a course on comparative genocide studies in Toronto, Canada. As part of my duties as a research assistant, I helped to organize and lead the academic travel program to Israel last May.

Additionally, the Center was very important to my experience at CMC. Through SAC, I met many like-minded students who were passionate about human rights issues. Through the academic sequence, I took was able to approach the discipline of genocide and human rights studies in an academic atmosphere. Through the fellowship, I engaged with individuals from all over the world who were also interested in issues of human rights. I am very grateful for the opportunities which the Center provided me while at CMC and continues to provide for me today.

After graduating, I was accepted for a Humanity in Action fellowship in New York City, where I engaged with European and American students on issues related to minority rights in democratic societies. I know that my experience with the Center prepared me well for this competitive fellowship. Through Humanity in Action, I was then able to secure an internship with the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin, Germany, where I worked for four months this past fall. Since January, I have been serving as a legal intern at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The Center at CMC definitely propelled me down the path of international human rights law, which is what I hope to study once I hunker down and apply for law school.

Alice Reichman '11: Budapest, Hungary

Over the summer of 2009, Alice interned for the Public Interest Law Institute (PILI), which is headquartered in Budapest, Hungary. She used funding from The Center's Human Rights Fellowship Program to support her work at PILI, an organization that uses the power of litigation to improve government legal systems and help impoverished people and nations acquire resources to help maintain and improve civil liberties. Alice performed research, edited publications, and participated in meetings that enabled her to experience first-hand public interest law and international law.

Alice Reichman

Update from Alice

I have been writing press releases about the work PILI has done through our clearinghouse program. We have helped many NGOs acquire necessary pro-bono legal assistance from European law firms; each NGO is involved with a different cause including one that gives aid to orphans in Eastern Europe and another that helps secure funds for survivors of the Holocaust and the GULAGs in Russia. Living in Budapest has also proven to be a very educational experience. I attended the House of Terror in downtown Budapest. This museum is located in a building that was the party headquarters of the Hungarian Nazis during WWII and the headquarters of the Communist Party following WWII. I saw exhibits about the oppression many Hungarians faced under both regimes and even explored the basement where old torture chambers and prison cells are still in tact. I toured the Synagogue in Hungary, the largest in the world, where I learned about the Holocaust in Hungary, the last Jewish population to be decimated by the Nazis. One of the most interesting and shocking experiences I have had in Hungary was stumbling across an enormous Neo-Nazi demonstration. In the downtown area in the main park hundreds of Neo-Nazis were gathered, surrounded by police in riot gear. Men were waving swastikas and the old Hungarian national socialist symbol. Although I was aware that anti-semitism and national socialism still exist, it was very shocking to see such a huge demonstration in a central downtown area. It really made me more aware how the study of the Holocaust remains relevant today and that the fight for human rights and equality is not just necessary in third world countries and rural areas, as some believe, but it is truly an issue that needs to be addressed world wide.