Danny M. Cohen, Holocaust expert from Northwestern, to speak at Yom HaShoah commemoration | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Danny M. Cohen, Holocaust expert from Northwestern, to speak at Yom HaShoah commemoration 

A specialist on how people learn about Holocaust history and prejudice will speak in Milwaukee.  

That speaker, Danny M. Cohen, is an associate professor of instruction in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. He teaches courses on Children and the Holocaust, The Holocaust and Education and Holocaust Memory, Memorials and Museums. 

A London native and the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, Cohen will serve as the keynote speaker for the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s Yom HaShoah commemoration on May 5.  

“I’m a learning scientist by training,” Cohen told the Chronicle in an interview. “Concerned with how people learn, and my specialization is in how people learn about not only Holocaust history but also how we learn about acceptance, how do we learn about compassion, how do we learn about prejudice, and how to undo and challenge prejudice in our communities and within ourselves.”  

Cohen’s work is rooted in his experience as a teenager. He ran peer-led youth programs in London, working with immigrant communities and people from various religious backgrounds. He also worked in human rights education in South Africa. Some exposure to antisemitism and even Holocaust denial led him to pursue academic work and Holocaust scholarship.  

Cohen plans to “connect the history with our lives and the world today” when he speaks in Milwaukee, as he typically does in public speeches.  

“My goal is to really help people think about, ‘What is our relationship to Holocaust memory today? And how should we be using it, or how could we be using it — and how should we not be using it — as a lens for violence or our world today?’” he said.  

“The Holocaust has been and maybe has always been, but maybe even more so recently, politicized by people with different goals and different perspectives. And often, that politicization is not even intentional. It’s such an extreme example — in some ways, the extreme example — of where prejudice and hatred can lead. I think we very quickly grab hold of it, hold on to it, and hold it up as a warning, which isn’t wrong; it should be a warning for humanity. A warning for the world, but what obviously becomes controversial, and what becomes really tricky to navigate, is when the Holocaust is used as a mirror for very complex global events.”  

Cohen realizes that recent events have been very difficult for American Jews.  

“Especially since Oct. 7, within the Jewish community, there’s been so much collective trauma, and I would say unnamed or even hidden collective trauma, and I think we need to really be explicit about naming that and supporting each other through that collective experience. And within that collective experience, we have so many different complex responses, emotional and intellectual.”  

Cohen added that he sees his role as not only teaching the history of the Holocaust itself but about “how to figure out how we feel” about both the Holocaust and other traumatic events.  

In 2022, Cohen came to Milwaukee to deliver an interactive talk on “Mickey Mouse and the Holocaust,” also under the auspices of HERC.  

Cohen uses his middle initial to distinguish himself from the world’s many other Danny Cohens, one of whom is the executive producer of the recent Holocaust film, “The Zone of Interest.” 

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Milwaukee Yom HaShoah commemoration
Featuring Danny M. Cohen

May 5, 3 p.m.
At the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center

Presented by the JCC, Milwaukee Jewish Federation and the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center