Film Sheds Light on Black Victims of the Holocaust

TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 19, 2009) – Very little is known about Black victims of the Holocaust and some skepticism about their existence but a documentary Black Survivors of the Holocaust sheds light on their stories Sunday, Dec. 6, at 2 p.m. at the University of South Florida.  USF Africana Studies Professor Edward Kissi will provide contextual background information and a clinician panel with psychiatrist Jessica Rausch Medina, M.D., psychotherapist Sheldon Wykell and USF Associate Professor of Women’s Studies Kim Vaz will discuss the psychological dimensions.  The screening will be held at 12901 Holly Drive (off of Bruce B. Downs Blvd. behind the College of Medicine, USF Health Medical Clinics).   It is part of “Fears of Difference: The Diversity of Holocaust Experiences,” a monthly film series at USF that began in September and continues through May 2010.  All are free and open to the public.


Sponsored by USF’s Department of Women’s Studies in cooperation with the Tampa Bay Psychoanalytic Society, Inc., Tampa Bay Institute for Psychoanalytic Studies, Inc., the USF Libraries Holocaust and Genocide Studies Center, the Florida Holocaust Museum, the Hillel Jewish Student Center of Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival, the series of Sunday screenings always includes introductions and post-screening discussions led by clinical experts and scholars who help illuminate the stories and provide both psychological and historical contexts. 


I am very impressed with the quality of the discussions and moved by what participants are sharing,” Vaz said.  “We have people driving in from surrounding areas and colleagues in different fields meeting each other.  All of this enhances the interdisciplinary nature of the exchanges and more collaborations are being planned based on this experience.”


The films are providing both information and opportunities to make sense of it.


“Holocaust deniers might be surprised to discover that in addition to the yellow Star of David patch many of us are familiar with, there were dozens of different identifying insignias forcibly worn by people who were Jewish, gay, non-white, or who were involved with them – that targeted them for persecution and extermination,” said Vaz.  “It’s hard to imagine such madness but the films get us a little closer to what they went through and they open up the opportunity to talk about and understand the dynamic between the hated and the haters.”  


Vaz was inspired to organize the film series in conjunction with Tampa Bay’s psychoanalytic community after attending a clinical workshop on treating survivors of trauma she attended last spring and by President Barack Obama’s recognition of the significance of International Holocaust Day last  April. 


“Psychoanalysts have always been at the forefront of helping those who were traumatized by the Holocaust and working to understanding what motivates the perpetrators of such violence in an effort to help them as well,” she said.  “Through the film series we want to share with those who are interested what is known and learn more.  There have been so many mass genocides since the Holocaust and we need to find ways to help both sides or we can only expect more of the same, over and over again.”


A major interdisciplinary effort, participating USF scholars include:  Cornelis Boterbloem (history), Patrizia La Trecchia (Italian studies), Tamara Zwick (history), Edward Kissi (Africana studies), Margit Grieb (world languages), Darrell Fasching (religious studies), Rina Donchin (world languages) and Vaz.  Renowned musician, filmmaker, author and scholar Yale Strom, currently an artist-in-residence in the Jewish Studies program at San Diego State University, will also take part.  USF and non-USF clinicians include:  John Hartman, Sheldon L. Wykell, Will Spell, Elizabeth Reese, Dr. Edward Stein (health sciences), Dr. Harris Feinstein (counseling center), Dr. Lycia Alexander-Guerra and Michael Poff.


“Since the Holocaust, genocidal acts have continued throughout the world,” Vaz said.  “We’re all trying to gain a better understanding of what kinds of people were capable of inflicting such harm on their fellow human beings, why they need to demonize people who are different from themselves.  Some people believe cruelty is part of human nature but while it may be in some people’s natures, I don’t think it is in all.  Our goal is to prevent the behavior that leads to such acts by understanding and acting in accordance with what we learn and in the meantime, help with the healing of those who have experienced the traumatizing horrors associated with this massive victimization.”


The remaining films are: 


•  Dec. 6 (2 p.m.) – Black Survivors of the Holocaust

•  Jan. 10 (2 p.m.) –  The Reader

•  Feb. 14 (2 p.m.) – The Summer of Aviya

•  Mar. 28 (2 p.m.) – A Secret (Un Secret)

•  Apr. 11 (2 p.m.) And the Violins Stopped Playing and

                             Purple Triangles

•  May 9 (2 p.m.) – The Nasty Girl 



The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged, four-year public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The university has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.