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Pacific Lutheran University To Offer Northwest's First Holocaust Studies Minor

AP Photo
Undated file photo shows the main gate of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz, in Poland, which was liberated by the Russians, in January 1945.

Disclosure: Pacific Lutheran University holds the license for KPLU.

Pacific Lutheran University will soon become the first Northwest college to offer a course of study in the Holocaust and other genocides.

The school will allow students to begin pursuing a minor in Holocaust and genocide studies starting next fall, says PLU professor and historian Bob Ericksen.

"There's a long, long background to Holocaust studies at PLU," said Ericksen, noting the school, which holds an annual conference on the topic, has endowed a chair of Holocaust studies since 2007. "All of this was building interest on campus, and I began recognizing other faculty members on campus attended our conference, were interested in the topic, interested in developing courses."

Ericksen began meeting with faculty members last spring in hopes of creating the minor.

Though a scattering of U.S. schools offers a minor in Holocaust studies, Ericksen says PLU faculty could find no other college in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon or Washington that offers such a course of study.

The coursework for the minor will focus not only on the Holocaust, but also on other periods in history during which governments moved to wipe out entire segments of their population.

Ericksen, noting atrocities in Darfur and Srebrenica, points out instances of genocide "seem to have increased in the 20th century." This year, Rwandans are marking the 20th anniversary of a genocide that claimedmore than 800,000 lives.

"They seem to be a product, almost, of the modern world, of modern culture," said Ericksen.

Ericksen hopes increasing awareness of genocide through academic study will prevent future atrocities.

Kyle Stokes covers the issues facing kids and the policies impacting Washington's schools for KPLU.