Spring 2019

The People and Power: Dictators, Supporters and Detractors, was a conference held at Florida State University on February 20-22, 2019 and sponsored by the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights and the Rintels Professorship on Holocaust Studies.

This century is seeing a new proclivity for populist dictatorships that few would have predicted two or three decades ago. At the same time, the world is witnessing an increased use of mass collective actions, a surge in ‘people power’ protests and grassroots initiatives together with human rights activism, that resist advances in tyranny. Individual autocrats are often blamed for autocracy. But how have peoples facilitated dictatorships or democracies in recent national histories? What (perceived) circumstances of opportunity or grievance explain the success of strongmen and their repression of democracy? This conference examined the historical role over the course of the past several decades or more that a country’s people have played, collectively and aggregately, in movements toward or away from democracy and autocracy.

Keynote/Introduction, Adam Roberts, Oxford University
“Civil Resistance against Authoritarian Rule: The Tragedy of the Arab Spring”
Watch Adam Roberts's keynote address here.

Marina Ottaway, The Wilson International Center
”The Arab Uprisings: Romantic Views and Hard Realities”

Michael Bernhard, University of Florida
“Paths of Extrication and the Framing of Post-communist Memory Politics”

Laura Henry, Bowdoin College
“People Power in Putin’s Russia: The Ambiguous Role of Popular Mobilization”

Olga Onuch, Manchester University
“Revolutionary Moments and Movements: Mass Mobilization in Ukraine”

Azat Gundogan, Florida State University
“Mass Violence, Populism, and the State in Turkey: A Tale of Two Authoritarianisms, 1925 to

Andrew Bacevich, Boston University
"Why Trump Is Not the Problem"

Federico Finchelstein, The New School, Latin America
“Populism in Latin America as Global History”

Zachariah Mampilly, Vassar College
“Protesting Democracy in Africa: Popular Movements and Political Transformation?”

Meredith Weiss, University at Albany/SUNY
“Malaysia Paradoxes of Reform: Protest, Progress, and Polarization in Malaysia”

Diana Fu, University of Toronto
“The Era of Authoritarianism? Goliath State and Prostrate Civil Society in Contemporary China"


Fall 2018

Nadine Strossen, John Marshall Harlan II Professor of Law at New York Law School, is the immediate past President of the American Civil Liberties Union (1991-2008), the nation’s largest and oldest civil liberties organization.  Strossen still holds leadership positions in the ACLU and other human rights organizations, and she is a frequent public speaker and media commentator.  Her newest book is HATE:  Why We Should Resist it With Free Speech, Not Censorship (Oxford University Press 2018).  Read about Nadine Strossen's career and new book in the Washington Post article, "Free speech's worst enemies aren't who you'd expect!"

In her 13 November 2018 lecture at the Broad Auditorium Nadine Strossen, along with a panel of four distinguished members of the FSU community, explained and defended the distinctions that U.S. law make between constitutionally protected and unprotected “hate speech,” and why they best promote not only liberty and democracy, but also equality, dignity, and societal harmony.  Drawing upon actual experience with laws in other countries that punish speech solely because its views are hateful or hated, she shows that such laws especially endanger dissenting viewpoints and expression by minority group members.  You can see her talk here.

Confronting the Nazis: Reflections on the Forms and Dilemmas of Resistance, a conference held at Columbia University on 4-5 October 2018, was sponsored by Columbia University and Florida State University in conjunction with the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, the Israel and Jewish Studies Institute, and the German Consulate General, New York.  See the program here.

Spring 2018

Jan Tomasz Gross, Norman B. Tomlinson Professor of War and Society, and Professor of History at Princeton University, spoke on “Jews and their Neighbors in German-Occupied Poland" on February 27. 

Watch the lecture here.

Gross addressed the question of whether the complicity of the local Polish population in the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust was the work of marginal and criminal elements only.  Drawing on examples from post-war trials he argued that citizens of good standing including leaders of the local society participated in such persecution.  The lecture was co-sponsored by the Holocaust Education Resource Council.

Steve Crawshaw, Office of the Secretary General, Amnesty International, London, “Against Impossible Odds: Extraordinary Achievements in Confronting Tyranny.” The lecture took place on February 13 at 5 PM.

Watch the lecture here.

Steve Crawshaw is a former international advocacy director at Amnesty International and author of Street Spirit: The Power of Protest and Mischief (2017), foreword by Ai Weiwei. He was the Germany bureau chief for the Independent and as East Europe Editor he reported on the east European revolutions, the Soviet coup, and the Balkan wars. He is the author of 'Goodbye to the USSR’ (1992) and a five-part BBC series 'Germany Inside Out’. (2003) His book, Small Act of Resistance (2010) co-authored with John Jackson, with a preface by Václav Havel,has been translated into 10 languages including Arabic, Bahasa Indonesian, Czech, Tibetan, and Chinese.  He is also the author of Easier Fatherland (2004).

Again and again, we hear how change in certain circumstances is unachievable – until it is achieved. (Often those achievements come through what Vaclav Havel described as the “power of the powerless”.) As a journalist with The Independent and in his roles at Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, he has repeatedly witnessed remarkable transformations – often combined with creative mischief. He will relate stories of courage and change,  in especially dark times of human rights abuses.

Fall 2017

Nigel Young, "Commemorative Politics and the World Wars: Contested Memorials and Current Policy in Europe" sponsored by The World War II Institute and the Rintels Professorship for Holocaust Studies. Thursday, October 19, 5:00 PM, G40 William Johnston Building.
Nigel Young is Editor-in-Chief of the 'Oxford International Encyclopedia of World Peace' for which he won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.  Having helped start the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament at Oxford (1958-61), he has since held academic positions in sociology, politics and peace studies, at over a dozen universities and colleges worldwide.
History shows that memory can be influential in shaping public opinion and policies. How we remember, and what we remember, is political, and the politics of commemoration are controversial and highly contested. At this time one hundred years ago the battle of Passchendaele raged on, one of the bloodiest episodes of the First World War that symbolizes why that war is viewed as the seminal devastation of the twentieth century. Was it a British victory? A criminal waste of life? Nigel Young will consider this and other cases of history and memory from the World Wars in Europe.

Norman JW Goda, Braman Professor of Holocaust Studies, Center for Jewish Studies, University of Florida spoke on November 8, 2017 at 5 PM on "France, the Jews, and the Trial of Klaus Barbie."  The lecture was held in the William Johnston Building room G40.

Antisemitic attacks have been on the rise in France in the past decade or so, amidst a certain official and popular reluctance to define these attacks as such. The 1987 trial of Klaus Barbie reveals origins of the problem, owing to its muddled definition of crimes against humanity, its flirtation with Holocaust denial, and the subsuming of the Holocaust within post-colonial narratives.
Eric Kurlander,  Professor, Stetson University, "Hitler's Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich" on Tuesday December 5 in WJB room G40 at 5 PM.
Watch the talk here.
The Nazi fascination with the occult is often dismissed as pulp fiction or Hollywood fantasy. As Eric Kurlander argues in his new book, however, supernatural thinking was inextricable from the Nazi project. The regime enlisted astrology and the paranormal, paganism, Indo-Aryan mythology, witchcraft, miracle weapons, and the lost kingdom of Atlantis in reimagining German politics and society and recasting German science and religion. In this talk, Eric Kurlander reveals how the Third Reich’s relationship to the supernatural was far from straightforward. Even as popular occultism and superstition were intermittently rooted out, the Nazis drew upon a wide variety of occult practices and esoteric sciences to gain power, shape propaganda and policy, and pursue their dreams of racial utopia and empire.

Spring 2017

David Clay Large "Deadly Waters: Natural Medicine, Racial Politics, and the Holocaust in Nazi Germany's Spa Towns."  The grand spa towns of Central Europe were locales of leisure, luxury and healing, but they also had a darker side -- one that during the Nazi era fed into the greatest human catastrophe of our modern era.
David Clay Large is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of European Studies, U.C. Berkeley and Professor of History at the Fromm Institute, University of San Francisco. He has taught at Smith, Montana State, and Yale, where he was Dean of Pierson College. Among his major book publications are Wagnerism in European Culture and Politics (1984); Contending with Hitler: Varieties of German Resistance in the Third Reich (1992); Germans to the Front: West German Rearmament in the Adenauer Era (1996); Where Ghosts Walked: Munich’s Road to the Third Reich (1997); Berlin (2000); And the World Closed Its Doors: One Family’s Abandonment to the Holocaust (2003); Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936 (2007); and Munich 1972: Tragedy, Terror and Triumph at the Olympic Games (2012).
Tuesday, March 28, 5:00 PM, 249 Fine Arts Building
Watch the talk here.

Robert M. Beachy is Professor of History, Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea. He is author of Gay Berlin: the Birthplace of Modern Identity (Knopf, 2014) The Soul of Commerce: Credit, Property, and Politics in Leipzig, and co-editor of three volumes of essays on 1) German Moravians in the Atlantic World, 2) on Women in European Business and Commerce, and 3) on Urban Elites in Europe and North America. He has also been the recipient of numerous fellowships and prizes, including a John S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, residential fellowships at the National Humanities Center and Stanford University’s Center for the Advanced Study of the Behavioral Sciences.  He is recipient of The American Historical Association’s Higby Prize for the best article in European history.  Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity won the 2015 Randy Shilts Prize for the best non-fiction work in LGBTQ literature. Gay Berlin was also named a Non-Fiction Honor Book by the Stonewall Book Awards of the American Library Association.

This talk is based on Professor Beachy's current research for a forthcoming book on Homosexuality in Hitler’s Germany.

Mordecai Paldiel "German Rescuers of Jews: Individuals versus the System" Thursday April 21, 5:00 7:00 PM, 249 Fine Arts Building

Watch the talk here.

Dr. Mordecai Paldiel is a survivor and the former Director of the Department of the Righteous at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust authority. Born in Belgium, Mordecai Paldiel fled with his family to France where a Catholic Priest smuggled the family into Switzerland. A leading authority on Rescue, he is the author of a number of books including German Rescuers of Jews: Individuals versus the System (2017), Saving One’s Own: Jewish Rescuers during the Holocaust (2017), The Righteous Among the Nations: Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust (2007), Churches and The Holocaust: Unholy Teaching, Good Samaritans And Reconciliation (2006), Saving the Jews: Amazing Stories of Men and Women who Defied the Final Solution Hardcover (2000), The Path of the Righteous: Gentile Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust (1993).