Man I love those JCC lectures, they are so amazing.
Tonight after a long day at work I "schlepped" over to the JCC ("schlepped" in quotes just to emphasize the Yiddish-y goodness, not because it's really all that much of a schlep), to see a really fantastic, thought-provoking, powerful lecture by Daniel Goldhagen. He's the world-renowned author of Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans in the Holocaust. I read some of his Holocaust research during the History of the Holocaust course I took at Waterloo. His point-of-view is very different than many other Holocaust scholars (such as Hannah Arendt), and we read some famous examples of their wildly varying (fact-based) opinions on the role of the German people during the Holocaust. It is really quite a fascinating area of study, and he is a good speaker, and very passionate about the truth.
He had some points of discussion that could be considered by some to be "controversial", but he explained his research and his ideas quite carefully and thoroughly. His second book, A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair studies the role (or lack thereof) of Pope Pius XII and the Catholic Church during the Holocaust. Clearly this kind of book would draw a lot of controversy as well, but he said that he is "not a politician, he is a scholar", and he's keen to leave the talk of controversy to the newspapers - he is passionate about the facts, and spreading the truth... and what people take from his work is their own business, he said. Very interesting talk.
The talk was by no means an uplifting talk, it was very thought-provoking and concerning, and was not specifically meant to be pessimistic... but did have a sort of warning for the concerns of the future. It was really interesting to hear from one of the world's most well-known Holocaust scholars, and to hear his opinions on current affairs in the context of their historical significance was really interesting too.