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Western Washington University to honor Holocaust survivor with genocide studies minor

Holocaust survivor Noémi Ban on the importance of remembering

Survivor Noémi Ban of Bellingham talks about the importance of remembering the Holocaust and how she survived the Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII.
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Survivor Noémi Ban of Bellingham talks about the importance of remembering the Holocaust and how she survived the Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII.

Students at Western Washington University can minor in Holocaust and Genocide Studies with a new program being offered starting this fall quarter, the university announced Wednesday, Sept. 4.

At a promotional event Thursday, Oct. 17, WWU will honor Noémi Ban of Bellingham, who died June 7 at age 96.

Ban survived Nazi persecution and the concentration camps, but her family was murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.

She inspired the new Holocaust Studies minor, along with the Ray Wolpow Institute, which opened in 2016, WWU said in an email.

“Western is the first public university in the state with such a minor,” said Sandra Alfers, director of WWU’s Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity.

Alfers said at WWU’s website that the new minor is particularly important because the state recently toughened its Holocaust education requirements for public schools.

WWU’s new course of study debuts as the white supremacist group Patriot Front has been organizing in Whatcom County, and WWU suffered three incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism in 2018.

To promote the new course of study and honor the woman who helped inspire it, the press release said, WWU will host a lecture with renowned Holocaust scholar James Waller, author of “Becoming Evil: How Ordinary People Commit Genocide and Mass Killing.”

Waller is a professor at Keene State College in New Hampshire, which is home to the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

He will speak on “Confronting Evil: Why Holocaust and Genocide Studies Matter Today” at 4 p.m. Thursday. Oct. 17, in the Wilson Library Reading Room. Admission is free.

Robert Mittendorf covers civic issues, weather, traffic and how people are coping with the high cost of housing for The Bellingham Herald. A journalist since 1984, he’s also a volunteer firefighter for South Whatcom Fire Authority.
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