|Student confronts Holocaust family history in CentreTerm course
RELEASED: Feb. 3, 2005
DANVILLE, KYWhen Latauro Mansilla signed up for professor Tom McCollough's CentreTerm course, The Holocaust: Image and Reality, he knew he was in for an emotional experience. He just didn't know how personal it would become.
Mansilla, a freshman from Louisville, Ky., had a purely intellectual interest in learning about the Nazi regime's systematic extermination of six million Jews and five million more "undesirables" between 1933 and 1945. But during the intensive three-week course, which included a trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., Mansilla discovered his own connection to the Holocaust.
"The first weekend after the course began, I went home to visit my mom," says Mansilla. "She asked about my class and I told her about the themes of the Holocaust that we had covered. Then she revealed to me that my grandfather actually left Poland for Argentina at the age of 12 in 1937 to escape the Nazi regime in Germany. My own grandfather escaped the Holocaust! I was astounded. I now had a very personal, true connection to this course. Had he not escaped, I wouldn't exist."
While McCollough covered numerous historic and thematic topics in his class, he emphasized a multimedia approach. His course focused on what he calls "the ability of media of various kinds to capture and convey an act of ultimate evil." In addition to having a wide-ranging and challenging list of required reading, students viewed numerous cinematic responses to the Holocaust and engaged in detailed study of the planning, politics and architecture of the Holocaust Museum.
McCollough also required them to submit their own creative response to the Holocaust, along with a written explanation articulating the process and rationale for the creative work.
For his project, Mansilla chose to take a photograph, shown on this page, which manages to evoke the Holocaust itself as well as the Holocaust documentary film Night and Fog. For Mansilla, the photograph is an illustration of Picasso's dictum that "Art is the lie that tells the truth."
Other students in the class, while lacking the personal connection Mansilla discovered, found themselves significantly affected by their reading and by their visit to the Holocaust Museum.
"It's difficult to glimpse into the Holocaust without being moved; but it's impossible to be immersed in genocide for three weeks and remain the same person as before," says Katie Bouvier of Lexington, Ky. "Through our extensive readings and the many films we watched, the Holocaust became two things to me: the historical event of the mass annihilation of 11 million people and the individual stories of each of them. I now understand that the Holocaust must be understood in its entirety. Its magnitude must be appreciated, but not at the cost of losing the personal aspect of the suffering of each victim."
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