Leah and Paul Lewis Chair in Holocaust Studies
Dr. Zsuzsanna Ozsváth
Professor of Literature and History
The endowment of the Leah and Paul Lewis Chair of Holocaust Studies reflects the determination and vision of Miriam Lewis Barnett, Mitchell Barnett, their family members and friends to support the study of the Holocaust at UTD. Continuing the line of work started by Leah and Paul Lewis many years ago, the Lewis-Barnett family has committed itself to create this chair and thereby sustain UTD's Holocaust Studies Program in perpetuity.
Their decision points toward the future, but it also evokes the past. Just a few years after the end of World War II, Miriam's mother and father, Leah and Paul Lewis, dedicated their lives to the remembrance of, and education about, the Holocaust. Studying the history of the Nazi aggression and the mass killings the Third Reich unleashed in Europe, they became determined to raise national and international awareness about the destruction that eliminated more than two thirds of the European Jews. To make sure that the worlds will not forget, Leah and Paul decided to erect memorials that would preserve the memory of both the victims and circumstances of their murder. Having sponsored the first memorial of its kind in the United States in 1959, at Congregation Shearith Israel in Dallas, they supported the creation of more than twenty other memorials and monuments now erected in public places, synagogues, museums, and community centers.
They also supported Jewish day schools and higher education. For his work, Paul was awarded the Lewis Marshall Award by the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Searching for worthy causes in 1969, Lewis established a chair dedicated to the study of the Holocaust at the prestigious Yeshiva University in New York. Recognizing Lewis' determination to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive, then President Carter appointed him to the first United States Holocaust Memorial Commission.
The Lewis' daughter, Miriam Lewis Barnett, and her family, inherited this tradition of care and concern for the future of the world. They, too, wish to preserve the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and they, too, believe in the urgency of creating an environment for in-depth studies of this horrendous event. Hence, they have endowed the Leah and Paul Lewis Chair to sustain the Holocaust Studies Program at the University of Texas at Dallas. The program will thus continue to study and explore the intellectual, social, political, religious, moral, and philosophical crises underlying the Holocaust. It will continue to teach both the event and its aftermath, including the questions it has raised about human nature, about the prejudice and hatred play in society, and about our responsibilities to others in the world.
Zsuzsanna Ozsváth is founder and director of the Holocaust Studies Program. She has published a number of articles, dealing with aesthetic and ethical issues in French, German, and Hungarian literature as well as with the relationship between art and totalitarian ideology. Since the 1980's, she has undertaken several translation projects and worked on various branches of Holocaust studies.
"The Holocaust Studies Program, with its combination of scholarly research, education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and its distinguished lecture series, is one of the distinguishing hallmarks of UT Dallas. The program's success is a result of Dr. Ozsváth's passionate dedication and charismatic leadership," Provost Hobson Wildenthal said when she was named to the Leah and Paul Lewis Chair of Holocaust Studies in 2003.
In the field of translation, she started out with rendering and publishing a significant number of German and Hungarian poems and short stories in journals, but the culmination of her work in this field has been three volumes of poetry, each with UT Dallas professor Frederick Turner. Ozsváth has also published books and several articles on writers and poets of the Holocaust.
In 2009, she was named to The Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission, a newly formed state commission by Gov. Rick Perry. The commission is intended to provide educational materials to schools and colleges and help implement course studies and awareness programs of the Holocaust and other genocides.
In 2010, Ozsváth published her chilling memoir, When the Danube Ran Red, which tells the story of her childhood in Hungary, living under the threat of the Holocaust. The book has received reviews in a variety of journals such as The Sewanee Review, The English Review and Hungarian Literature Online.
Ozsváth received her doctorate in German literature from the University of Texas at Austin.