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Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities

Berkshire Conference Panel

Left to right: Panelists Dr. Yuki Terezawa (organizer), Dr. Rochelle G. Saidel, Dr, Kim Jimin, and Dr. Peipei Qiu. Photo by Mindy Mangot

Remember the Women Institute participated in the 17th Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders, and Sexualities
June 1-4, 2017
Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY

Chair, Yuki Terazawa
Hofstra University

Japanese Military Sexual Slavery in Occupied China
Peipei Qiu
Vassar College

Sexual Violence against Jewish Women during the Holocaust
Rochelle G. Saidel
Remember the Women Institute

"Comfort Women" Activism in the United States: The Example of the Kupferberg Holocaust Center
Jimin Kim
The Kupferberg Holocaust Center at Queensborough Community College

The Cross-National Solidarity Efforts by the Survivors of the Japanese Military's Wartime Sexual Violence: New Issues and Challenges
Yuki Terazawa
Hofstra University

This panel explored issues of the documentation and preservation of testimonies of wartime sexual violence from comparative perspectives, focusing on the cases of sexual violence in Japanese and Nazi-controlled territories during World War II. In each national and/or cross-national context, scholars and activists face challenges. In Japan there is little support from either the government or academic institutions. The task is being carried out by non-governmental groups that often lack sufficient financial and institutional support. In South Korea where this issue has strong support from the government and general public, it is overburdening for the support groups to combine their efforts in activism, research, and preservation. In the United States, both within and outside the academia, the general topic of Holocaust has generated substantial interest and support for many years but insufficient attention has been paid to the issue of sexual violence against Jewish women until recently. As survivors of wartime sexual violence are now dying it is particularly important that we work out strategies to preserve their testimonies and other source materials.

Dr. Saidel pointed out that the situation was different in Nazi-occupied Europe, because the sexual violence was not perpetrated by the military against Jewish women. Instead, it was under the auspices of the SS and the Gestapo. In addition, the Holocaust was not specifically World War II, but rather was the genocide of six million Jews carried out by the Nazis as they fought the Allies during World War II. While the focus of the panel was on atrocities of the Japanese military in the Asian Pacific, the comparison with sexual violence during the Nazi regime offered perspective. In both cases, the final result was violated, shamed, and often silenced women. This year’s Berkshire Conference, entitled “Difficult Conversations,” was appropriate for a discussion of sexual violence during the Holocaust, she concluded.

The Berkshire Conference of Women Historians was founded in 1930, in response to the marginalization that women historians faced in a male-dominated profession. In the early 1970s a new generation of women scholars fused their scholarship and advocacy, and the first "Big Berks" conference took place in 1973. Today the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders and Sexualities, sponsored by the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, is the leading conference on these subjects. The program of the 2017 conference had scholars, activists, artists and performers from 35 countries.

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