Myrna Goodman - On the Frontlines of Holocaust Education

myrnagoodman.pngEmerita Professor Myrna Goodman, Sociology, has spent 17 years as a Holocaust and genocide scholar including serving as Director of the Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide at SSU.

The issues confronting educators today are essentially the same as they were when she first began teaching about the Holocaust and genocide in 1997.

The question remains, she says: "How do we create an educational environment in which students are able to comprehend how the historical, recurring and current circumstances lead to genocide?"

What are the critical issues facing today's Holocaust and genocide educator?

In some ways, students are much more aware of some aspects of the Holocaust than they were when I first started teaching about it in the college classroom. Today many more high schools expose students to the Holocaust through required readings such as The Diary of Anne Frank, Night by Elie Wiesel and many of them have visited the United States Memorial Museum in Washington and the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

Honoring a Career in Holocaust Studies

Professor Myrna Goodman will be honored at a commemorative event on Sunday, Jan. 26 at Ner Shalom, 85 La Plaze, Cotati from 1-5 p.m. The importance of preserving the legacy of Holocaust and genocide education at SSU is being recognized at the event and the public is invited.

The program includes a keynote speech from Her Excellency Professor Mathilde Mukantabana, currently ambassador to Rwanda, who was a member of the Alliance for the Study of the Holocaust for many years before being named to the post.

For more details, visit

Popular culture also contributes to a very basic understanding of the Holocaust through films like Schindler's List and they are also familiar with the Rwandan genocide because they have seen Hotel Rwanda. The difficulty we face is moving them intellectually to an analytic understanding of how genocide happens and inspiring them to take action in their communities and to raise awareness of genocide and genocide prevention.

What impact has this lecture series and your work had on students over the years?

The students who enroll in our course at SSU have, in general, sought out an opportunity to learn about and understand why genocide persists. They hear and see fragments about the current situations in Africa and they want to know more about how genocide is possible. Many of my former students have written and emailed to tell me how important the course was to them and how grateful they were to have heard Holocaust and genocide survivors speak to them.

What impact has it had on you, being exposed to this subject for so many years?

My career as a Holocaust scholar and educator has been very meaningful. It has given me the opportunity to mentor and inspire students. Many have gone on to graduate study or work as social activists in various organizations.

I hear from many former students that their experience in the Holocaust lecture series has inspired them to be active in their communities because the course helped them understand the importance of our connections to each other.

I am deeply grateful for the friendships I have been able to establish with the survivors of the Holocaust and genocide. Their insights have helped me better understand the complexity of human experience and their resilience and appreciation of life constantly remind me of the gifts I have in my life.

I have also gained a deep appreciation for how important it is to help students and others experience learning about the Holocaust and genocide with both their hearts and their minds. Feeling deep emotion clouds the knowledge that must be used to inspire understanding as well as preventative action.

The mantra for this field is "Never again." Do you think this is possible?

Unfortunately, "Never Again" has proved to mean, ...never again will the Jews of Europe be murdered by a genocidal regime, bent on killing every single man, woman and child using modern weapons and methods while the rest of the world did nothing to prevent it.

"Never Again" today is a rallying cry for persistent vigilance and effective action to prevent genocide. It encourages us to remember and learn about the experiences of victims of past genocides. The United States Holocaust Museum considers it a promise to past and future generations that we will do everything we can to ensure the horrors of the Holocaust are not repeated. That idea is the foundation of all we do as educators.

For more information on Emerita Professor Myrna Goodman visit

See the upcoming list of speakers at the 31st Holocaust and Genocide lecture series at

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