The Ray Wolpow Institute is enlisting the help of Susanne Rinner this quarter, a visiting German professor who hopes to start a dialogue with her students in regard to the Holocaust.
The institute was established in 2016 and provides students with the resources to complete a minor in Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
This academic department is small compared to some of Western’s others; Ray Wolpow is only offering two courses towards the HGST minor this winter, one of which is being taught by Rinner herself. While the class will be offered again, it isn’t being taught in the spring. Rinner’s future with the institute and Western is not yet known.
Rinner was born in Germany and studied in Berlin before completing her Ph.D. in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. Now visiting Western, she’s teaching “Topics in Holocaust Studies,” a HGST course focusing on film and literature concerning the Holocaust.
Despite the heavy topics, some of her students already appreciate Rinner’s attitude toward the subject, according to Jake Piatok, a second-year student.
“It’s [the class is] very respectful of the content and the students,” Piatok said.
For Heather Bergeon, another second-year student pursuing the HGST minor in Rinner’s class, the structure of the course is what ultimately stands out.
“I like her teaching style a lot, she really encourages us to speak our mind and she’s really passionate about the subject,” Bergeron said.
While her students are enjoying the course, Rinner herself is enjoying their different viewpoints.
“Because of the nature of the minor, I’m teaching students with all kinds of different majors, which offers many different perspectives,” Rinner said.
One of the biggest factors that brought her to Western was the opportunity to work with all kinds of students.
“It’s exciting how the student body is so diverse here,” she said.
While Rinner is enjoying being able to both share with and learn from her students, she’s ultimately grateful for the Ray Wolpow Institute giving her the opportunity to be at Western this quarter in the first place.
“It’s a fantastic institute, I’m really impressed,” Rinner said. “It’s a great resource for scholars and teachers.”
Rinner knows how important it is to continue to teach about the Holocaust and devote time and effort to its legacy.
“It’s still very important today and we can relate aspects of it to other questions like equity issues for people with disability and mobility problems,” she said. “We can also reframe some of these questions into modern problems involving the border and immigration.”
Rinner said she feels a sense of responsibility to teach about the Holocaust.
“I think that as someone who grew up in Germany, third-generation after the Holocaust, it’s very important for me to contribute to the conversation,” she said.
Despite the different ways a professor can approach the Holocaust, Rinner said she has one core message that she hopes will be present throughout her course this quarter.
“Every life is worth examining, but to do that, we must always start by examining ourselves.”