sealPurdue News

March 17, 2003

Holocaust Remembrance Conference features war hero

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – With war looming in Iraq, the 22nd Greater Lafayette Holocaust Remembrance Conference at Purdue University will feature a speaker who braved a past international conflict to bring 1,000 World War II refugees to the United States on behalf of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The conference, "Confronting Terror in the 21st Century," will open at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 29, with remarks by Purdue President Martin C. Jischke in Matthews Lecture Hall and conclude at 9:30 p.m.

Ruth Gruber

Ruth Gruber, 92, a New York City resident who formerly served as a foreign correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune, will speak at 8:30 p.m. She has written 16 books chronicling her life as a journalist, photographer, activist and humanitarian. Gruber will be introduced by Edna Tusak Loehman, an associate professor of agricultural economics at Purdue who was 3 years old when she and her parents sailed from Italy with Gruber and other World War II refugees.

Another featured participant will be Xu Wenli, who was released from a Chinese prison in December 1992 after being imprisoned for advocating democracy. He will share his experiences at 2:30 p.m.

U.S. officials helped secure Wenli's release after being encouraged by resolutions and letters drafted at three previous Holocaust Remembrance Conferences. Petitions also were submitted by other worldwide organizations, including Amnesty International. Wenli will be joined by his wife He Xintong and their daughter, Jin Xu, who pleaded for her father's release at two previous conferences. He will be recognized by Amnesty International and the Greater Lafayette Holocaust Remembrance Committee.

Conference coordinator Rabbi Gedalyah Engel, Gruber and Wenli will share their experiences with conference attendees.

"Courageous people, such as Gruber and Wenli, help us to continue our efforts to promote freedom and democracy," Engel says. "Our community's history of providing such assistance also is recognized by Woodford McClellan, professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, whose wife, Irina, was helped to leave the USSR almost 20 years ago and became an honorary citizen of Greater Lafayette."

Academic speakers at the conference include Peter Hayes, the Theodore Z. Weiss Professor of Holocaust Studies at Northwestern University who specializes in the history of Germany's Nazi era. Hayes will discuss "The Future of the Holocaust" at 1:30 p.m.

Hayes has written or edited five books, including a prize-winning study of the IG Farben Corp. during the Nazi era. He is currently completing two other works, "Profits and Persecution: German Big Business and the Holocaust" and "Gold, Gas, and Gain in the Third Reich." Hayes serves on the academic advisory boards of the Fritz Bauer Institute in Frankfurt, the concentration camp memorial at Buchenwald-Dora and the Academic Committee of the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

A student panel will consider "Fighting Terror on Campus" at 3:30 p.m. Their discussion will be followed at 4 p.m. by remarks from Elana Stern, a Purdue graduate who serves as the assistant Midwest director for the Chicago Anti-Defamation League. She will discuss "Campus Anti-Semitism" and lead a workshop on the topic.

Five other concurrent workshops include "Teaching the Holocaust," "Being Jewish in the Former Soviet Union," "Rebuilding Afghanistan's Kabul University," "Implementing Campus Diversity" and "Understanding Violence in the Holy Books of Judaism, Christianity and Islam."

Recognizing that Americans should be mindful of both the atrocities in the past and in the present, the mayors of Greater Lafayette will read a Holocaust Conference proclamation at 8 p.m. Holocaust survivors and their children will then light the Memorial Flame of Remembrance and the Candle of Hope in memory of the millions of people killed in the Holocaust and the seven astronauts who died on the shuttle Columbia.

The proclamation for the conference also will be read by mayors Dave Heath and Sonya Margerum at 10 a.m. Monday, March 24, at West Lafayette City Hall. A special exhibit also will be available March 27 through April 19 at the Morton Community Center in West Lafayette. It will feature photographs taken by Gruber from 1944 to 1947. Gruber will introduce her photos and autograph books at a reception at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 27, at the center.

All lectures, workshops and the exhibit are free and open to the public. For further information, contact Engel at (765) 743-1716, A complete schedule of conference events is available online. Registration materials will be available at the conference.

The conference is sponsored by the Greater Lafayette Holocaust Remembrance Committee in cooperation with the Diocese of Lafayette, St. Thomas Aquinas Center, the Hillel Foundation, Purdue University's Ackerman Center, the School of Liberal Arts, the Jewish Studies Program, and university and Tippecanoe County religious leaders. The committee is chaired by Al Black and Marla Bluestein. Grants are provided by the CINERGY Foundation, PSI Energy, Eli Lilly and Co. Tippecanoe Laboratories and the Journal and Courier of the Gannett Foundation.

Writer: Marydell Forbes, (765) 496-7704,

Source: Rabbi Gedalyah Engel, (765) 743-1716,

Related Web site:
Holocaust Remembrance Conference

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