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New York, NY, United States, 2007/02/28 - Christine van der Zanden was recently appointed Director of Education at The JFR, a non-profit organization that identifies, honors, and financially supports aged and needy non-Jews who risked their lives to rescue Jews during the Holocaust.
Christine Schmidt van der Zanden's commitment to learning about the Holocaust began at a young age. After reading The Diary of Anne Frank and feeling a connection to the young girl, she was instantly curious about why and how Anne found herself in such a terrible set of circumstances. However, when she turned to her schoolbooks, the history of the Holocaust was largely absent. Her inquisitiveness led to continued searching and reading—and she learned more from her own family. Van der Zanden discovered that her grandfather, Donald E. Welch, served in the U.S. Army during World War II and witnessed firsthand the aftermath of the horrors of the Holocaust.
When van der Zanden enrolled at the University of Michigan-Dearborn (UMD) in 1994, she immediately registered for all courses available on the Holocaust and twentieth-century European history. She also began to work for the Voice/Vision Survivor Oral History Archive, a scholarly collection of oral interviews conducted with Holocaust survivors by UMD professor Dr. Sidney Bolkosky. Out of this early engagement with the topic grew van der Zanden’s professional passion for research and study of the Holocaust. Now residing in Manhattan, van der Zanden was recently appointed Director of Education at The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous (JFR), a non-profit organization based in New York that identifies, honors, and financially supports aged and needy non-Jews who risked their lives to rescue Jews during the Holocaust.
Van der Zanden will oversee the JFR’s renowned national Holocaust education program and will help lead the publication and distribution of the JFR’s extensive teaching resource materials. Recently, she assisted in the JFR’s 2007 Advanced Seminar for educators, which features in-depth seminars led by respected scholars on particular issues in Holocaust history. Last year, she spoke at the JFR’s Summer Institute for Teachers, held annually at Columbia University.
The Summer Institute is an intensive, week-long residential seminar in which educators learn from esteemed Holocaust scholars, such as Debórah Dwork, Robert Jan van Pelt, Nechama Tec, and Peter Hayes, and from survivors, such as Roman Kent. The educators participate in lectures, discuss pedagogy, and share teaching concepts throughout the week.
In 2003, van der Zanden was one of the first graduate students to earn her Ph.D. in History from the first doctoral program in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University (Worcester, MA), which is directed by JFR Vice Chair and Board Member, Dr. Debórah Dwork. Van der Zanden comes to the JFR after conducting research in Hungary for over a year, during which she was affiliated with the Corvinus University of Budapest. Her research was funded by post-doctoral fellowships from the Hungarian Ministry of Education and from the Fulbright Scholar Exchange Program, sponsored by the U.S. State Department. Building. Upon her dissertation, which focuses on collective rescue in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France, she began to examine broadly rescue under collaborationist regimes—comparing the cases of Vichy France and Hungary during World War II. Prior to her efforts abroad, she also worked as an applied researcher for the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and completed a Museum Studies Program at George Washington University, where she specialized in exhibition development and collections management.
Additionally. van der Zanden has worked as a freelance editor for various scholarly journals, and has been an assistant researcher and editor for several exhibition projects, including the recently opened exhibition at the Stiftung Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas (Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe) in Berlin.
The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous was created in 1986 to provide financial assistance to non-Jews who risked their lives and the lives of their families to rescue Jews during the Holocaust. Today, the JFR supports more than 1,300 aged and needy rescuers in 27 countries. The Foundation also runs a nationally and internationally renowned Holocaust education program for middle and high school teachers and Holocaust Center staff. The JFR aims to preserve the legacy of the rescuers and their courageous acts during the Holocaust through its Holocaust teacher education program.