Northfield News Publishes Commentary: An Initiation to Transfer of Memory

This commentary originally appeared in the Northfield News.

Oct. 6, 2021

By David R. Anderson and Steve Hunegs

St. Olaf College and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (“JCRC”) and our respective communities are deeply pleased to partner to bring the “Transfer of Memory” exhibit to St. Olaf.

We celebrate the opportunity to learn from the exhibit and from each other through the stories of the Holocaust survivors and the programming associated with the exhibit. We hope you will join us for the historic, spiritual and inspirational lessons embedded in the exhibit and the campus events supporting “Transfer of Memory.

Our collaboration reflects the upward trajectory of Christian-Jewish relations over the course of the immediate past decades and throughout American history. For both of our institutions, interfaith relations are mission-critical.

We also keep in mind the teaching of the eminent historian Prof. Salo Baron who taught us to avoid the “lachrymose” view of Jewish history. As one of the leading historians of the Holocaust Prof. Deborah Lipstadt notes: “If the main thing the next generations know about Jewish history is that we were persecuted and suffered, they will lose sight of the tremendous heritage of Jewish culture, theology and wisdom.”

At the same time, we must know and grapple with the Holocaust because of its impact on Jewish history and its meaning and lessons for civilization. As Transfer of Memory arrives on the St. Olaf campus, we note the confluence with significant commemorations of World War ll and the Holocaust: 2020 was the 75th anniversary of the liberation of concentration and death camps and VE Day. 2021 marks 75 years since the adjudication of the first Nuremberg war crimes trials and 60 years since the beginning of the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem. This is a time of remembering the reckoning of history and justice.

It is also a moment to remember the fighting spirit and sacrifices of United States military personnel and all of the Allied armed forces. It was a colossal effort to destroy Nazi Germany; liberate Europe and end the Holocaust.

The “Arsenal of Democracy” reached into every American community. At least 57 St. Olaf students or alumni were killed in action in World War ll. St. Olaf Prof. Emeritus Joseph Iverson, Jr. participated in the liberation of the Gunskirchen concentration camp as a member of the field artillery for the 71st Infantry Division. In his later years, as his obituary notes: “[Prof. Iverson’s] teaching continued with his need to speak about, educate and highlight Holocaust remembrance.” The spirit of liberator Prof. Iverson joins the pictures and stories of the survivors you will meet in the “Transfer of Memory” exhibit.

A goal of the JCRC through “Transfer of Memory”with the vision of photographer David Sherman, writer Lili Chester and curators Laura Zelle and Susie Greenberg—is to honor survivors of the Holocaust who came to Minnesota and with their families made new lives. St. Olaf joins over 60 Upper Midwest institutions in five states that have hosted Transfer of Memory in the past nine years. Colleges and universities are well represented including: St. Cloud State University; University of North Dakota; Bethel University; Viterbo University; Concordia College; Luther College; Dakota Wesleyan University and Gustavus Adolphus College. This arc of knowledge and common experience among the schools and communities also provides opportunities for future partnership opportunities—especially among the legacy Scandinavian colleges.

A strength of the exhibit is that it allows its hosts, including St. Olaf, to program around the interests of the community as reflected in the photographs and stories of the survivors. Students and faculty members from several St. Olaf academic departments will visit “Transfer of Memory.” For example: a classics professor will incorporate the exhibition in unit on how classical texts influenced racial thinking in Nazi Germany. It’s an opportunity to infuse coursework with the lived experiences of Minnesotans.

We look forward to welcoming you to this exhibition.

David R. Anderson is President of St. Olaf College, and Steve Hunegs is executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. “Transfer of Memory” will run through Oct. 28 at The Link, located on the main level between the Center for Art and Dance and Tweet Hall of Music at St. Olaf. It is open to the public daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.


As the consensus public affairs voice of the Jewish community, JCRC builds relationships to fight antisemitism and bigotry; educates about Judaism, Israel, antisemitism, and the Holocaust; advocates for Jewish values and priorities; and safeguards our community.