The Holocaust as a Global Archetype? The Position of the Jewish Genocide in Rwanda’s National Memory Culture



October 6, 2022 at 12:00 PM Pacific Time

A public lecture by Charlotte Kiechel (Visiting Assistant Professor of History, Williams College)
2021-2022 USC Shoah Foundation Katz Research Fellow in Genocide Studies

Organized by the USC Dornsife Center for Advanced Genocide Research and USC Shoah Foundation

In the wake of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda, government officials, memory workers, and human rights activists have all deployed a litany of Holocaust references — from discussions of “Never Again” to allusions to Primo Levi’s “grey zone.” Drawing upon research conducted with testimonies from the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive, this talk illuminates the global uses of Holocaust memory by examining the use of Holocaust references by Rwandan governmental forces.

More than many other genocides, the commemoration and remembrance of the Tutsi genocide has been a top-down affair. Shortly after the genocide, members of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, Rwanda’s ruling party, began to oversee how the genocide was commemorated and discussed. This talk describes the disproportionate use of Holocaust references by RPF supporters and argues that this practice points to Holocaust memory’s often illiberal uses.

Charlotte Kiechel is the 2021-2022 USC Shoah Foundation Robert J. Katz Research Fellow in Genocide Studies. At the time of her fellowship, she was a PhD candidate in Global History at Yale University. She is now a visiting assistant professor in the history department of Williams College. She earned her doctoral degree in history from Yale University. Her research and scholarship have been supported by institutions such as DAAD, the Max Kade Foundation, la Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Her first book project, The Politics of Comparison: Holocaust Memory and Visions of Third World Suffering, 1957-1970, is a global history of Holocaust memory and the European New Left. Based on sixteenth months of archival research, it is the first monograph to show how references to the Jewish genocide shaped European leftists’ understandings of – and political engagements for – the peoples and nation-states of the Third World.