Holocaust studies receives philanthropic funding boost

A generous philanthropic gift will support Master’s-level research in Holocaust studies at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington. A first of its kind in New Zealand, the postgraduate scholarship is funded for three years and open to students in any field relating to the Holocaust.

“We are grateful and delighted to be partnering with the Raye Blumenthal Freedman Trust to support Master’s research in Holocaust studies,” says Associate Professor Giacomo Lichtner from the University’s History programme. “The University has a proud record of teaching the Holocaust at all levels and has significant depth in Holocaust and genocide studies across its schools, and especially in subjects like history, literature, visual culture, anthropology, political science, music and law. This scholarship will help a Master’s student generate new knowledge and reinforce once more our collective commitment to combat the threat posed by denial and falsification of history.”

Born in Canada, Raye Freedman met her first husband, Ernest Blumenthal, on a ship from London to Canada after the start of the Second World War, when she was returning to Canada and the Blumenthal family were fleeing their native Czechoslovakia for a new life in New Zealand. Eventually, Raye and Ernest married and settled in New Zealand, where the Blumenthal family became active members of the country’s Jewish community. Raye was forever grateful to New Zealand for providing a safe haven to them. The Raye Blumenthal Freedman Trust was established by Mrs. Freedman in 2004 as a gift to the people of New Zealand for welcoming her and the Blumenthal family to their country.

“As a young Jewish woman, Raye was raised to pursue ‘mitzvot’, or good deeds, so the establishment of this scholarship is a fitting way to celebrate and remember Raye,” says Stephen Katz, Chair of the Trust. “It is important the Holocaust is not diminished in any way and an opportunity like this to partner with Victoria University of Wellington is a chance to keep our history alive in a country where despite having a large Jewish community a recent survey found people still have some doubt over whether the Holocaust was a myth.”

Just this week, a survey of young American adults found that almost a quarter of respondents believed the Holocaust was a myth, or had been exaggerated, or they weren’t sure. Almost two-thirds did not know six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust and more than one in 10 believed Jews caused the Holocaust. Surveys in the United Kingdom and Europe have revealed similar levels of ignorance.

The scholarship will be available from 2021, with applications opening on 1 October 2020 and closing on 1 November 2020. For more information contact Senior Communications and Marketing Adviser Mo Farrell at mo.farrell@vuw.ac.nz