2020-2021: Witnesses to History

The Simon Fraser University Department of History invites you to attend our 2020-2021 Annual Public Lecture Series, Witnesses to History. Witnesses to History focuses on eye witness accounts and testimonies, and their importance to telling the stories of the past. 

Due to COVID-19, this year's lectures will take place entirely online, via the Zoom platform. Please note: only registered attendees will receive the Zoom webinar link.


November 5th, 2020:

I, the Witness; From Memory to Reality

Mariette Rozen Doduck in conversation with Lauren Faulkner Rossi

“Time didn’t really mean anything to me. Time meant only to survive that one day. I can’t explain. It’s not like I knew that next month I’m going away, there’s no such thing as next month. It was to survive this one day from starvation, from freezing, from being sold, from being caught, from being killed on the street.” - Mariette Rozen Doduck

Mariette Rozen Doduck was born in Brussels, Belgium, in May 1935, the youngest of eleven children. After Belgium fell to the Germans in 1940, she was hidden in many places, including an orphanage, a convent, and in Christian homes. She survived the Nazi genocide of Europe’s Jews but her family was shattered: her mother, three brothers, and countless extended family members – aunts, uncles, cousins across Europe – were killed. Mariette emigrated to Canada in 1947 with three surviving siblings, where she experienced continued (if less overt) antisemitism, and was placed on her own with a foster family in Vancouver. Because she was not used to having a “normal life,” she ran away twelve times during her first year there. Gradually she accepted her new family and community and attended Maple Grove, Point Grey, and Magee High Schools and the University of British Columbia, where she met her husband, Sidney Doduck. She went on to become actively and deeply involved in her community through numerous organizations and programs, including outreach work with at-risk youth in the Vancouver area, the co-founding of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, and her participation in its powerful high school symposium program as a survivor speaker.

In conversation with Lauren Faulkner Rossi (SFU Department of History), Mariette talks about her childhood in hiding and in silence, what it means to survive a trauma like the Holocaust, the struggles she faced as a young immigrant in Vancouver, the challenge of working with a child’s memories, and the emotional journey of researching and writing her memoirs.

Click here for past event information.

September 24th, 2020:

Witnesses to History: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz

Omer Bartov in conversation with Lauren Faulkner Rossi

For more than four hundred years, the Eastern European border town of Buczacz – today part of Ukraine – was home to a highly diverse citizenry. It was here that Poles, Ukrainians, and Jews all lived side by side in relative harmony. Then came World War II, and three years later the entire Jewish population had been murdered by German and Ukrainian police, while Ukrainian nationalists eradicated Polish residents.

In conversation with Lauren Rossi (SFU History), Omer Bartov (Brown University) discusses his most recent works, including Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz (2019) and Voices on War and Genocide (2020), and illuminates how significant individual witnesses are to the writing of history, particularly of conflict and war. Using primarily diaries and personal letters from eyewitnesses in and around Buczacz – perpetrators, victims, and survivors - he explains how ethnic cleansing doesn’t occur as is so often portrayed in popular history, with the quick ascent of a vitriolic political leader and the unleashing of military might. It begins in seeming peace, slowly and often unnoticed, as the culmination of pent-up slights and grudges and indignities. The perpetrators aren’t only sociopathic soldiers. They are neighbours and friends and family. They are also middle-aged men who come from elsewhere, often with their wives and children and parents, and settle into a life of bourgeois comfort peppered with bouts of mass murder.

Click here for past event information.