Renowned Holocaust scholar dies at 81

Raul Hilberg, professor emeritus at UVM and lead?ing Holocaust scholar, died on Aug. 4 in Williston, Vt. at age 81. Hilberg died of a recur?rence of lung cancer, though he was never a smoker. Hilberg was born in Vi?enna, Austria in 1926, and was forced to move to Cuba and then to United States in 1939 with his family at age 13. He was drafted into the 45th Infantry Division during World War II, but was quickly assigned to the War Documen?tation Department, with which he was able to do research throughout Europe. It was through this research that he developed a strong in?terest in the Holocaust. After receiving his B.A. in 1948 from Brooklyn Col?lege, Hilberg went on to get his M.A. in 1950 from Colum?bia University and his PhD in 1955, also from Columbia. Hilberg began teaching at UVM in 1956, and retired in 1991. “I consider it a privilege and a great honor to be at the University that was graced for virtually his entire career by the teaching and scholar?ship of the most influential and important authority on what state-sponsored genocide en?tails in a modern industrial na?tion,” President Daniel Fogel said. Hilberg’s 700-page book “The Destruction of the Euro?pean Jews” was originally pub?lished, with great difficulty, in small numbers in 1961, but was revised and expanded in 1985 to a three volume, 1,273-page book. The book was very contro?versial and took an original approach to how it addressed the Holocaust. In the book Hil?berg estimates the number of Jews killed in the genocide to be closer to 5.1 million, not the more widely believed number of 6 million. He also states that the Jews were too passive in their reac?tion to the genocide. Christopher Browning stat?ed in “The Revised Hilberg” that, “if one measure of a book’s greatness is its impact, a second is its longevity. For 25 years ‘The Destruction of the European Jews’ has been recognized as the unsurpassed work in its field.” Professor Hilberg “put to?gether, as no one else has, the story of the intricate and vast bureaucratic and technologi?cal machinery that brought an enormous population into complicity with the industrial process of murdering millions of their fellow humans,” Fogel said. In addition to ‘The Destruc?tion of the European Jews,’ Hilberg wrote “Perpetrators Victims Bystanders,” “The Pol?itics of Memory” and “Sources of Holocaust Research.” Hilberg taught in the po?litical science department at UVM, and played a major role in the creation of the Universi?ty’s Holocaust Studies depart?ment. Hilberg has been the recip?ient of numerous awards, and was recently awarded with Germany’s highest civilian award by the ambassador of the Federal German Republic, according to Fogel. “On the occasion of receiv?ing that last award … Profes?sor Hilberg remarked ‘These awards are all very nice, but they do not bring back the dead,'” Fogel said. He was elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a national honor society, in April of 2005. Hilberg leaves behind his wife, Gwendolyn Montgomery and two children from a previ?ous marriage, David and Deb?orah.