Jonathan Skolnik of German and Scandinavian studies will serve as interim director of the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies (IHGMS) following the retirement of founding director and Distinguished Professor James E. Young at the end of the summer, according to Julie Candler Hayes, dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts.
Hayes said a national search will be conducted for a senior scholar of Holocaust studies to serve as the institute’s new director. “I am grateful to Jonathan for his willingness to assume this role. He brings a multidisciplinary focus, expertise in German-Jewish literature, culture and film, and career-long devotion to Holocaust Studies and Judaica. We’re proud to have him lead the Institute during this important transition period," she said.
Young founded the institute in 2011 to house the generous gift of a permanent teaching exhibition on the Holocaust, "A Reason to Remember: Roth, Germany 1933-42," donated to the university by the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts. “For five years, James has dedicated himself to the institute’s important mission to foster research and teaching on the Holocaust, as well as preserve the memory and analyze the representation of this and other acts of genocide,” said Hayes. “Thanks to his efforts, the institute has been the beneficiary of several major gifts in recent years.”
Skolnik acknowledged Young’s important work and legacy, saying, "James Young has shaped the entire field of memory studies as we know it today and made UMass Amherst a center in the field. It’s an honor for me to help develop the institute and strengthen both local and international connections.”
Skolnik is associate professor of German in the department of languages, literatures and cultures, with adjunct appointments in history and Judaic and Near Eastern studies. He is also on the faculty in film studies.
Skolnik’s research and teaching focuses on German-Jewish studies, intellectual history and film studies. He is the author of “Jewish Pasts, German Fictions: History, Memory, Minority Culture in Germany, 1824-1955” (Stanford University Press, 2014) and has edited special issues of New German Critique on “Secularization and Disenchantment” and “German-Jewish Religious Thought.”
His articles on German exile cinema include “Exile on 125th St.: African-Americans, Germans and Jews in Edgar Ulmer’s ‘Moon Over Harlem’”; “Class War, Anti-Fascism and Anti-Semitism: Grigori Roshal’s 1939 Film ‘Sem’ia Oppengeim’ in Context”; and “28 May 1942: Bertolt Brecht and Fritz Lang Write a Hollywood Screenplay.”
Skolnik serves as president of the North American Heine Society and he is a founding member of the International Lion Feuchtwanger Society. He is a member of the executive committee of the Modern Language Association Division on Nineteenth- and Early-Twentieth Century German Literature. He has a Ph.D. in Germanic languages and literatures from Columbia University and a B.A. in history from Columbia College. He has held fellowships from the Leo Baeck Institute and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies.