New Course Focuses on Little-Known Role of Blacks in the Holocaust

HOUSTON, TX (Feb. 16, 2009) Among the millions of Holocaust victims were Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals and those who were handicapped. But, the story of one more group of victims whose Holocaust stories are not often told is now finding its voice through the collaborative effort of Texas Southern University (TSU) and Holocaust Museum Houston.

TSU, the second largest historically black college in the nation, launched a new class with the cooperation of the Museum that will allow students to explore the role of blacks in the Holocaust.

"Anytime we can open our doors to college students who want a more in-depth education on the Holocaust, we are fulfilling the wishes of our founders," said Susan Myers, executive director of HMH.

The aim of this collaborative course "Blacks and the Holocaust" is to contribute to the dialogue between Jews and blacks and to contribute to the studies of black history, the Holocaust in general and particularly the role of blacks in the Holocaust.

Myers described the significance of intercultural dialogue between the Jewish and non-Jewish community. "The Holocaust was allowed to happen because the non-Jewish community in general did nothing, therefore it is important everyone learn not to be a bystander," Myers said.

Dr. Alioune Deme, the adjunct history professor at TSU who developed the course, stated in the class syllabus that the history department at TSU is attempting to highlight one of the biggest crimes against humanity in efforts to eliminate ignorance.

In addition to combating overall ignorance about the Holocaust, Deme described what he perceives to be an ignorance concerning blacks’ roles during the Holocaust.

The idea for the class was born one year ago when Deme discovered that his African history students were unaware that there were black victims of the Holocaust.

"There is no surprise that the topic of blacks and the Holocaust is unknown by the public in general and by people of African descent in particular,” he said. “This is very unfortunate because African-Americans exiled in pre-Nazi Germany, Afro-Germans, Africans in Nazi Germany and African-American soldiers have a strong but untold and missing history that needs to be preserved, revealed and taught," he added.

Senior political science major April Brantley took the class last year and said she was eager to learn about the role of blacks in the Holocaust and added that she still has an interest in learning about the subject, even now that the class is over.

"The concepts of antisemitism and anti-black share a commonality in the belief of inferior races displayed historically by those who believe in a 'superior race,'" Brantley said.

The class, which meets from 1 to 2:15 p.m. on Tuesdays at TSU and Thursdays at the Museum, is comprised of 11 students, one of whom is senior history major Camesha Scruggs.

"I hope I come away from this course with more than my limited knowledge of the Holocaust," Scruggs said.

Deme said he hoped teaching TSU students about the Holocaust and its untold history will produce students, activists, scholars and leaders who will cultivate values like respect for human rights, peace, justice, pride in black history, and rejection of modern-day genocide, racism and antisemitism.

Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.

Holocaust Museum Houston is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004.

For more information about the Museum, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org .

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