Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Lauren Stokes ’09 was awarded one of eight Fulbright Scholarships at Swarthmore this year. Stokes, one of this paper’s Editors in Chief, will be spending next September through July in Berlin. She is planning on studying how Holocaust education is handled in “the new multicultural Germany.”
Stokes says she wants to focus on the problem of “engaging students when they’re not ethnic Germans,” especially Turkish students, who belong to the largest ethnic minority in Germany. Parents sometimes pull their children out of school because their own ancestors weren’t part of the Nazi movement and they don’t understand why their children have to learn about it, but according to Stokes, “it’s become part of what it is to be a German citizen, to have responsibility for this.”
Stokes visited Germany before, and said she was “struck by how differently the Holocaust was taught to me as an American, and to Germans: what the emphases are, why you learn that you have to learn about it, what you learn it in conjunction with.” She wants to look at “how they bring everybody into this relationship of the Holocaust, whether they be Jewish or Muslim or Christian or German or Turkish or Russian.”
So then, the question is how to implement change, and Stokes notes that she’s trying to enter the project without preconceptions. There are a lot of important questions to ask—”should you teach Turks about the Armenian genocide? If you’re learning about the Holocaust in a German public school, should you just be learning about the Holocaust, or should you be doing a comparative genocides class?” She hopes to discover the answers by observation, both in the classroom and in a period of residence at RavensbrÃ¼ck (a large all-female concentration camp, now memorial site, to the north of Berlin).
Stokes will also be continuing her studies of Turkish this summer, which she thinks will prepare her to meet and talk with Turkish Germans. She doesn’t expect to be fluent, but hopes that her year of study will make her enough of a novelty to intrigue people and gain contacts. Her interest as an American in the German culture was “fascinating” to the international students she worked with in Germany last summer, she said.
And she is an unusual candidate for work on German study of the Holocaust—”I don’t really have any obvious reasons to be interested in it, I’m not Jewish, I’m not really of German ancestry, I’m just this person who finds these things really interesting.”
But the double major in history and German studies spent last summer working in a former concentration camp. There, with students from Germany, Poland, Ukraine, and Russia, she “spent a lot of time talking about how the Holocaust has been taught to us in our different countries, and what it meant for us to be coming together and doing restoration work at a former concentration camp.”
And how she became interested in German in the first place? “That was honestly because Pieter Judson [a professor in German and Austrian history] gave our First Collection speech,” which inspired her to study the German language and German history. “If he hadn’t, I might be going to Iceland.”
Stokes also notes that “if I find out any Swatties came to Berlin and didn’t visit me, I’ll be really upset. People should know that.” Be warned.