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“Holocaust Accumulated All Genocides”

On February 11 JCC KEDEM hosted a meeting with Paul Shapiro, Director of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the Holocaust Memorial in Washington. The impressive portfolio of our guest includes BA degree in Government from Harvard University; a Master of International Affairs degree and a Master of Philosophy degree in History from Columbia University.  He has been a Fulbright scholar, an IREX scholar, and a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Eurasian Studies at The George Washington University.  He is the recipient of the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (2010) and the Order of Merit-Commander Class of the Republic of Romania (2009).

Mr. Shapiro served in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the United States Information Agency and Department of State, where he was responsible for the Fulbright Fellowship Program and other major international exchange programs.  Earlier, he was an Editor of the journal Problems of Communism and Editor in Chief of the Journal of International Affairs.  Mr. Shapiro served as a consultant to the Board for International Broadcasting, Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty, and the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI).  He performed the historical research that led to the denaturalization and deportation of the Romanian Archbishop of the United States, a former fascist leader in Romania, which was the first case, brought to successful conclusion by the OSI.

 Mr. Shapiro was a member of the Congressionally-mandated Interagency Working Group on Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records and served on the Academic Advisory Committee of the Center for Jewish History in New York. 

In 2003-4 he wrote major sections of the final report of the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania, chaired by Elie Wiesel.  He led the Museum’s effort to open the archives of the International Tracing Service (ITS)—the largest and last major inaccessible collection of Holocaust-related records anywhere—and continues to represent the United States on the 11-country International Commission which governs the ITS.  He has worked closely with French priest Father Patrick Desbois to explore in depth the long-neglected history of the Holocaust in the USSR.  Both the opening of the ITS archive and the work of Father Desbois have been featured on the CBS network’s 60 Minutes news program.  Most recently, Mr. Shapiro worked with filmmaker Steven Pressman to produce the HBO film 50 Children: The Rescue Mission of Mr. and Mrs. Kraus and completed a monograph entitled The Kishinev Ghetto 1941-1942: A Documentary History of the Holocaust in Romania’s Contested Borderlands (University of Alabama Press, 2015).    

During the meeting with the students of Chisinau schools and lyceums and interview to JCC KEDEM Mr. Shapiro told about the peculiarities of the Holocaust tragedy in Romania and Bessarabia. The roots of Anti-Semitism in Romania went yet to the 19th century. Many representatives of the leading thinkers and people of culture and science unfortunately at the same time expressed deep and intolerant Anti-Semitic views. The Holocaust itself in Bessarabia and Transnistria was one of the cruelest in Europe leading to about 400,000 of victims. Out of 90 mln. documents at the Washington Memorial  five million speak about events in this part of the continent.

 “Every tragedy, every loss of a human being life is unique. But Holocaust gathered all the features of genocides that were before”, said Paul Shapiro. “For us it is important to acknowledge that even now we live in societies with many mini-genocides where every group of risk may become a victim. The main thing is your personal behavior – how do we react against intolerance, murders or threats?”

The visit became possible thanks to strong and long-term cooperation of the JCC KEDEM with the local USA Embassy and support of the Municipal Department of Education, Youth and Sports.