In 1993, longtime professor of chemistry and mechanical engineering Bill Giessen established the Robert Salomon Morton Lecture Series. Giessen (1932-2010) grew up and was educated in Germany during and following the Nazi period. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he met Robert Salomon Morton in a Cambridge barbershop.
Robert Morton was born in 1906 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and was educated in the School of the Orthodox Synagogue, Kahal Adath Jeshurun. He was not only a witness to but also thel target of Nazi persecution in the years leading up to World War II. A particularly harrowing experience in 1934 convinced him that he had no choice but to apply for immigration to the United States -- a process that took three years, but finally resulted in his coming to Boston. For many years, he and his wife, Sophie, were caretakers of and caterers for the Hillel Foundation at Harvard University.
Giessen's and Morton's chance barbershop meeting fostered deep conversation and a long friendship between the German non-Jew and the victim of Nazi persecution. The annual Morton Memorial Lecture, which was created by Giessen to honor Morton, embodies a spirit of reconciliation and understanding.
The Morton Lecture brings to campus a distinguished speaker to deliver the keynote Holocaust Awareness Week talk. Morton lecturers have included scholars, authors, directors, lawyers, activists, and others. Notable speakers have included Deborah Lipstadt, a prominent scholar of Holocaust denial among other Holocaust topics; Pierre Sauvage, a documentary filmmaker and president of the Chambon Foundation; Al Staggs, a performance artist; and Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center and human rights activist, among many others. Lecturers have spoken not only about the Holocaust, but also about other genocides, fulfilling the Holocaust Awareness Committee's goal of raising awareness that such tragedies continue to occur.
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"Remembrance and Reconciliation: Why the Memory of the Holocaust Matters Today"
"'Lost' Between Memory and History: Writing the Holocaust for the Next Generation"
Douglas Davidson, Wesley Fisher, Marc Masurovsky, Victoria Reed, & Laurel Leff
"Masterpieces of Moral Justice: Who is Heir of Plundered Art?"
"Inter-Generational Effects of Genocide: A Survivor's Daughter Reflects"
Ann Kirschner, Arlene Hutton, Murray Nossel, and Jill Vexler
"Telling Sala's Holocaust Story: Her Letters' Journey into a Book, Exhibit, Play, and Film"
"East West Street: A Personal Account of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity"
"Does the Past History of Antisemitism Tell Us Anything about its Future?"