Robert Melson - Spring 2012

Robert Melson"The Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust Through the Extraordinary Experiences of Two Survivors Who Outwitted Their Killers"

Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Central Michigan University
Bovee University Center - Rotunda
7:00 p.m.
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Robert Melson compared and discussed two extraordinary instances from the memoirs of two survivors of genocide, Grigoris Balakian, who survived the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1918, and his father, Willy Mendelsohn, who survived the Holocaust with Melson and his mother. Balakian's memoir, "Armenian Golgotha," was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2009. His father's story appears in "False Papers: Survival and Deception in the Holocaust," published by the University of Illinois Press in 2000.
His talk interpolated some of the history of the two genocides, and asked two important questions: What do the two stories illustrate about the motives of the killers and the apparent success in outwitting them of the two survivors? And what if anything do these experiences teach us about our common humanity?

About Robert Melson

Robert Melson is Professor Emeritus at Purdue University, where he taught political science and was a charter member of the Jewish Studies Program. In 2003-2005, he was the President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS). In 2006-2008 he was the Cathy Cohen-Lasry Distinguished Professor in the Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts. He completed his undergraduate education at MIT and his doctoral work at Yale and MIT.
His major area of teaching and research has been ethnic conflict and genocide. His interest in the topic derives from his personal experience in Europe, as well as from his field work in Nigeria in 1964-65, a year before the onset of the Nigerian-Biafran civil war. The story of his and his family's survival during the Holocaust is told in "False Papers," (University of Illinois Press, 2000), which was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award for 2001.
Among his other books, "Revolution and Genocide: On the Origins of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust" (University of Chicago Press, 1992/6), won the international PIOOM Award in Human Rights for 1993 awarded by Leiden University. (PIOOM is a Dutch affiliate of Amnesty International. The acronym in Dutch stands for "Interdisciplinary Program of Research on the Root Causes of Human Rights Violations.")
He has published (with Howard Wolpe, eds.), "Nigeria: Modernization and the Politics of Communalism" (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1971) and articles in The American Political Science Review, Comparative Studies in Society and History, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Genocide Studies and Prevention, and elsewhere.
Professor Melson has been a Foreign Area Fellow of the Ford Foundation (for research in Nigeria 1964-66), a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Studies at the University of Illinois (1969-70), Fellow of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture (1983), and a Fellow of the Center for Humanistic Studies at Purdue University (1987,2001).
On September 14, 2000 he testified before the House Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights concerning the Armenian Genocide.
He has held positions as Research Associate at the Harry S. Truman Institute of the Hebrew University, as Research Fellow at the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University and at the Center for International Studies at MIT.
He has lectured on problems of ethnic conflict and genocide at universities around the world.

Event Sponsors

This talk was sponsored by the Dr. Harold Abel Endowed Lecture Series in the Study of Dictatorship, Democracy and Genocide and the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences at Central Michigan University.