Adult Programs | Lectures

Grief Tourism

Holocaust Education Week

Free. RSVP Required.
Admission to the ROM must be purchased to attend Grief Tourism. Discussion included with Museum Admission.

Travel to sites associated with the destruction of European Jewry and of the Holocaust has grown dramatically in recent years. Auschwitz-Birkenau saw more than 1.4 million visitors in 2011, a record high. At these sites, visitors engage directly with mass suffering, death and grief. And, at the same time, the impact of tourism on the site and its civic context is both cultural and physical. It is an evolving phenomenon that elicits challenging questions, among them: How do these experiences enhance learning about the Holocaust and Jewish life in Europe preceding it? Where and how do institutions, regions and communities diverge in their approaches to preserving and interpreting meaning from these sites? What are the short and long-term implications of a tourism industry based on memorialization and grief?

A panel of international experts, HEW’s Scholar, Educator and Artist-in-Residence, will reflect on these issues from different perspectives: Karen Polak is a representative of the Anne Frank House in the Netherlands, which receives nearly a million visitors annually; Robert Jan van Pelt is an architectural historian and one of the leading experts on Auschwitz-Birkenau; and Slovakian born Canadian photographer and filmmaker Yuri Dojc has recently completed an extensive survey of sites and Holocaust survivors in Slovakia, entitled Last Folio.

Yuri Dojc was born in the former Czechoslovakia in 1946. Twenty-two years later when Russian tanks invaded, Dojc’s status as a summer student in London became that of refugee. After settling in Toronto, Dojc studied at Ryerson and launched a career as an art and commercial photographer. With nine published volumes, Dojc has achieved worldwide acclaim. The Last Folio was exhibited in 2011 at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, Cambridge University, and the European Commission in Brussels, with a publication by Indiana University Press and documentary film in production. Dojc is the recipient of numerous awards and represented in major public collections.

Scholar-in-Residence for Holocaust Education Week 2012 Robert Jan van Pelt, was born in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Currently a professor at the School of Architecture at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, van Pelt is acknowledged as a leading world-expert on the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau and a highly sought after lecturer.

In collaboration with Dr. Deborah Dwork, he authored Auschwitz: 1270 to the Present (1996) which received a National Jewish Book Award in 1996 and the Spiro Kostof Award in 1997, and in the 2003 the duo published the acclaimed Holocaust: A History. An expert witness for Deborah Lipstadt's defence team in the civil suit brought by British Holocaust denier David Irving, van Pelt published The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial (2002). His most recent work was annotation of David Koker’s diary At the Edge of the Abyss: A Concentration Camp Diary, 1943-1944 (2012). Among his many academic honours, van Pelt was named Outstanding Professor in 2005 by the University of Waterloo for his excellence in teaching and scholarly pursuits.

Karen Polak of the Anne Frank House, the Netherlands is the Educator-in-Residence for Holocaust Education Week 2012. A senior staff member of the International Department and pedagogical expert of the Anne Frank house, Ms. Polak has detailed expertise in the area of teaching the Holocaust in contemporary societies. She has worked at the Anne Frank House since 1991 and coordinates a project in 12 countries on teaching materials on antisemitism that was developed in conjunction with the OSCE/ ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights).

An internationally-recognized expert, Ms. Polak is also a member of the Dutch delegation to the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research (ITF) where she is a member of the Education Committee while also chairing the Sub-Committee on the Roma Genocide.

Free. RSVP Required.
Admission to the ROM must be purchased to attend Grief Tourism. Discussion included with Museum Admission.


Signy and Cléophée Eaton Theatre

Bloor Street (main entrance)