'Back to basics' series to conclude with look at Nazi Germany

By Meghan McBrady | 4/9/17 10:58pm


Jason Crouthamel, a professor of history at Grand Valley State University, will be leading the last talk of the “Back to Basics: The Liberal Arts and Sciences as Common Ground for Meaningful Engagement” series for the winter 2017 semester.

His lecture, “The Challenges of Teaching the History of Nazi Germany,” will be held Wednesday, April 12, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the L.V. Eberhard Center. During his talk, Crouthamel will focus on how the topics of racism and prejudice during Nazi Germany still resonate today.

“I’m going to be talking about how for a lot of people, these lessons are difficult to hear and it’s extremely important,” he said.

Crouthamel’s research focuses on the history of memory, trauma, masculinity and religious identity in Germany during the age of total war. In his classes, he said, current events are not the central topic but are connected to the history of racism, conformity and dystopia.

“Prejudices and indifference to prejudices that you may encounter in the 1930s didn’t just evaporate,” he said. “There are still forms of hatred and prejudice that still exist today.”

Andrew Spear, an associate professor of philosophy who has helped lead the “Back to basics” series, said the motivation for creating the series was to look at the political and social divisiveness throughout the world.

The series, he said, laid out the foundations for a “serious introduction” to areas like political science, history and philosophy. The goal in “understanding these things” was to have a conversation about what is going on in the world today.

As for Crouthamel’s talk, Spear said it was “no secret” that lessons and parallels could be drawn from the past—the history of Nazi Germany is something “that everybody thinks they know and has relatively strong and even obvious views about.”

“Probably most of us don’t actually understand that well,” Spear said. “We don’t really know that much about it. We know the concentration camps, we know of the war, the propaganda, but we don’t really have a deeper sense of the human realities that are behind that.

“I’m really hoping that professor Crouthamel will in various ways be bringing those out.”

Crouthamel said his talk would be condensed to what he normally discusses in the classroom. Primarily, the talk would address the difficulties students and the public may have when confronting the reality of racism and prejudice in society and determining who was responsible for the crimes the Nazi regime committed.

“People tend (to not) want to look at the long-term implications of that history,” Crouthamel said. “So, I’m going to talk about the basics and invite the audience to ask question(s) about this—why people might think it’s so difficult for our students in a contemporary society to draw lessons from its history.”

Crouthamel’s lecture is LIB 100/201 approved. For more information, visit www.gvsu.edu/events/the-challenges-of-teaching-the-history-of-nazi/

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