February invites Manhattan College students and public to engage renowned speakers, authors, Christopher Browning and Immaculée Ilibaziga

2/7/2011 – Riverdale, NY – Christopher R. Browning, Ph.D., Frank Porter Graham professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will present, Holocaust History and Survivor Testimony: The Case of the Starachowice Factory Slave Labor Camps on Monday, Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. in Smith Auditorium. The event is sponsored by Manhattan College’s Holocaust Resource Center and is open to the public.

Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave Labor Camp (Norton, 2010) is Browning’s most recent work and the basis for his presentation at Manhattan College. With little documented information on the Starachowice Labor Camp in Poland, Browning relied heavily on the testimonies of about 300 survivors, many of which came from Stephen Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation (now a division of the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences) and a number from the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. In fact, a Riverdale resident who passed away in 2004, is one of the survivors whose Shoah Visual History Foundation testimony Browning viewed while researching his book.

“Paul Cymerman, who maintained a toddler park in Riverdale for 17 years and for whom Paul’s Park in Riverdale was officially named by the City of New York Parks & Recreation, was imprisoned in Starachowice before he was sent to Auschwitz,” said Martha Frazer, assistant director of the Holocaust Resource Center.

After the war, Cymerman immigrated to the United States with his wife and spent most of his life working as butcher. During the mid-1970s, he began volunteering in the lower section of the Henry Hudson Park (Independence Ave. at Kappock St.) and eventually started overseeing the opening and closing of the playground. Thanks to Cymerman’s commitment, the playground turned into a clean and safe place for children to play and also houses one of the last remaining sandboxes in the city. Cymerman passed away in February 2004 and in his honor, the toddler park was renamed Paul’s Park.

Stories like Cymerman’s inspired Browning to continue writing and providing lectures recounting what can be learned from the accounts of Holocaust survivors. He has served as an expert witness to combat Holocaust deniers in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. A prolific scholar and the recipient of numerous prestigious fellowships, Browning’s books have been translated into nine other languages, including Ordinary Men: Police Battalion 101 and Final Solution in Poland (1992).

“Christopher Browning is perhaps the most innovative and productive historian of the Holocaust working today and we are thrilled to welcome this exceptional speaker back to Riverdale,” said Jeff Horn, Ph.D., professor and chair of the history department and director of the Holocaust Resource Center at Manhattan College.

Immaculée Ilibaziga, author of Left to Tell, a New York Times bestseller, and Rwandan Genocide survivor will present A Story of Hope, Faith and Courage on Wednesday, Feb. 9 at 4:00 p.m. in Manhattan College’s Smith Auditorium. The event is sponsored by Mu Sigma, Manhattan’s local chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, the International Honor Society of Education and is open to the public.

“One goal of Mu Sigma is to increase global understanding in our members and in the campus community,” said Karen Nicholson, Ph.D., associate professor of education and associate counselor for Mu Sigma. “As part of this initiative, Mu Sigma Chapter has invited Immaculée Ilibaziga to share her extraordinary story.”

Ilibagiza lost most of her family during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which was sparked by the death of the president of Rwanda and resulted in a three-month slaughter of more than 700,000 Tutsis. By hiding in a Hutu pastor’s tiny bathroom with seven other starving women for 91 terrifying days, Ilibagiza was able to survive.

After securing a position with the United Nations in Rwanda, Ilibagiza immigrated to the United States in 1998 and continued her work with the UN. She shared her experiences with friends and co-workers and eventually released her autobiography, Left to Tell; Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust in March 2006. Ilibagiza’s story was turned into a documentary titled The Diary of Immaculée, and travels the world as a motivational speaker. Ilibaziga has been featured by several media outlets including: 60 Minutes, CNN, EWTN, The Aljazeera Network, The New York Times, USA Today, Newsday and much more.

In 2007, Ilibagiza received the 2007 Mahatma Gandhi International Award for reconciliation and peace and was also a recipient of the American Legacy’s Women of Strength & Courage Award.

Ilibagiza’s visit to Manhattan College will start with a candle lighting ceremony honoring the 800,000 victims of the Rwandan Genocide, a short video and a presentation by Ilibagiza.