Rachel Auerbach, cultural genocide and a new conception of victims' testimonies

Professor Leora Bilsky
Event date
Event time
17:30 - 19:30
Blavatnik School of Government (in person and online)
Venue details

This event will take place at the Blavatnik School of Government and online through Zoom

Event type
Lectures and seminars
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Booking required

Since the 1990s, international criminal law has struggled to find the proper role for victims in mass-atrocities trials. Notwithstanding the rise of the victim-centered trial, victims still participate in these trials mainly as witnesses for the prosecution, and not as full and proactive participants.

In this lecture, Professor Leora Bilsky returns to the forgotten contribution of Rachel Auerbach (1903-1976), a Jewish-Polish writer, historian, and Holocaust survivor, and explores her important contribution to the Eichmann Trial (1961), where she helped shape a new conception of a victim-centered atrocity trial in the wake of World War II. As a former participant in the clandestine ‘Oyneg Shabbes’ archive in the Warsaw Ghetto, Auerbach promoted a novel understanding of the centrality of the crime of Cultural Genocide and of victims’ testimonies as a counter-measure to such crimes. Auerbach’s vision for the trial, as Professor Bilsky shall present in this lecture, has largely been forgotten from collective memory of the Eichmann trial, and the annals of international law. Professor Bilsky argues that in many aspects Auerbach was ahead of her times, and can be understood as an early precursor of later developments in both international criminal law and, more broadly, in the field of transitional justice.

The lecture, chaired by Professor Jo Wolff, Alfred Landecker Professor of Values and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School, will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Professor Wolff, and then a drinks reception.

The Alfred Landecker Memorial Lecture, held each year to mark United Nations Holocaust Remembrance Day, is delivered in partnership with the Alfred Landecker Foundation. The lecture is an integral part of the Alfred Landecker Programme at the Blavatnik School of Government, which investigates the rights and interests of minorities and vulnerable groups, exploring, in particular, the values and institutions that underpin democratic society.