University of Leicester eBulletin

Acclaimed Historian Gives University Holocaust Lecture

May 2003
No 113

The renowned 20th century historian Professor Sir Martin Gilbert delivered the eleventh Elchanan and Miriam Elkes memorial lecture at the University of Leicester Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust Studies on Wednesday, May 7, 2003.  

Sir Martin Gilbert, who spoke on The Triumph of Good: Christian Help for the Jews During the Holocaust, is reputed for his research and prolific publications on the Holocaust, 20th century British politics, both World Wars and the founding of modern Israel.

The central themes of the Elkes Memorial Lecture series are an encouragement of the understanding of the Holocaust in a wider context of inter-community relations and drawing lessons from the Holocaust to help other communities formulate new responses to the type of problems which led to the Holocaust.

Sir Martin's lecture was closely related to the themes of the Elkes Memorial Lecture series. Much of his previous work on the Holocaust has concentrated on its Jewish dimension. Non-Jews have come into the discussion either as co-victims - gypsies and gays for instance - or as a few high profile individuals - such as Bonhoeffer or Schindler.   On this occasion Sir Martin examined the much wider role many other Christians played in the concentration camps and elsewhere.

The Elkes Memorial Lectures were established in 1992. A number of the earlier lectures - including one by Sir Martin Gilbert - will be published in 2003 with financial support from the University of Leicester School of Historical Studies.

The lecture series was founded by Sarah Elkes and her brother as a memorial to their parents who, after 1941, heroically stood up to the destroyers of the Jewish community in Kovno, of which Dr Elkes was the head. It is unique, certainly in the United Kingdom, in that it seeks to go beyond remembrance and understanding of the Holocaust as a historical event to consider wider issues of intercommunal and inter-faith relationships, which the Holocaust raises and which are of such vital importance in the world of the 21st century. Sarah Elkes continues to play an active role in supporting the lectures and in selecting speakers and themes.

The 2003 Elkes Lecture was the first to be delivered since the creation of the University's School of Historical Studies, which has brought together nearly 40 academics and 1,000 students from the former departments of History and Economic and Social History.   Amongst these are specialists in central and eastern Europe, out of which the Holocaust developed. In particular the Centre for the History of Religious and Political Pluralism studies the ways in which the type of communal and religious tensions which created the Holocaust have developed.  

The Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust Studies was founded in 1990, and has received funding from the Burton Trusts since 1993. Now part of the School of Historical Studies, it acts as a national and international focal point, promoting research and publication on Holocaust issues, maintaining links with related groups across the world, including in London, New York and Israel.

Head of the School of Historical Studies, Dr Peter Musgrave, commented: "Leicester can fairly claim to have the largest concentration of scholars in this field in the UK. The School of Historical Studies looks forward to working with the Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust Studies and the organisers of the Elkes Lecture to develop further a research and teaching presence in this area."

Further information is available from Dr Peter Musgrave, Head of the University of Leicester School of Historical Studies, tel 0116 252 2592, fax 0116 252 3986, email

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