Sally Ann Shurmur
Lance Jones is the head of security at Casper College, a former longtime police officer and administrator, as well as a Holocaust scholar and instructor. We chatted with him about this week’s three-day Holocaust seminar, hosted by the college with a grant from the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES).
How did you become interested in the Holocaust? I was a cop for a lot of years, mostly in Texas. When I went to grad school, it was my advisor’s topic of interest and I got into it for him really. Just the whole societal overload that Nazi Germany had, where every institution, including the police, was just as consumed about the war against Jews as much as the war against the Allies. It really struck me being a policeman myself, that was not how I believed police or the government ought to be. It led me to eventually teaching it, which I’ve done for about a dozen years, and fortunately they had a spot for me on rotation here at Casper College.
What groups are you gearing the seminar toward? Pretty much everybody. We want the whole community to show up, students from college, high schools, junior high. It’s heavy material but depending upon the maturity level of the individual student, I think it’s a “handleable” thing for them. Teachers, college faculty members, librarians, the information has gone out statewide and the surrounding areas. We’ve had interest from clergy, nonprofit social groups, we’d like the world to come to be quite honest.
This is the first time on this scale? We did a one-day seminar about women and gender during the Holocaust, we hosted that about three years ago at the college. We had about 35 teachers for an in-service situation. And we had a survivor come out back in 2010 for a singular event. This grant from BOCES came to my attention back in late October. We are fortunate to have very good support from the college president; my boss, the vice president of student services, the academic affairs vice president. It’s kind of a macro organization up here, we’re trying to better the college, better the community, but I still have to obviously take care of my duties on the other side of the coin.
Your presenter slate is impressive. How did you find them? From other seminars, a couple were referred to me, the Jewish Partisans Educational Foundation, I encountered that organization several years ago. It’s a very historically accurate and reputable organization. And we really lucked out on getting the survivor, Inge Auerbacher, who speaks Saturday afternoon. She contacted us. I have two co-hosts, Inga McCoy at Kelly Walsh and Jon Trohkimoinen at NC. Inga McCoy put the seminar on Facebook and Inge Auerbacher saw it and reached out to us. She brought her honorarium way down to where we could afford it.
And this is the right time for the seminar, isn’t it? It’s a timely topic for sure. We had some incidents in the news nationally about bad stuff happening. There is such a lot of misunderstanding about this topic and others, some folks that would deny it ever happened. It’s important for young folks to hear from a person who was there. She’s 84. They are just not gonna have that chance very much longer, so teachers, bring your classes; parents, bring your kids. Everything is free, including the survivor lecture, but her presentation is at the Natrona County High School auditorium. Because of space, we have to issue tickets for that, available at eventbrite.com, the link on the Casper College Facebook page or call the college Fine Arts department.
Aside from the survivor, what’s another emphasis? Something that will be very appealing to the youth is Dr. Danny Cohen, a professor at Northwestern and founder of the Unsilence Project. They tell stories of marginalized people, youth in particular, who get overlooked in the shuffle. Bullying, suicide prevention, human rights issues, it’s all a part of Unsilence. And he presents twice, once on Friday and repeats on Saturday.
Briefly, the seminar specifics: “Through the Eyes of Many: Experiences in the Holocaust,” is Thursday through Saturday. All sessions except the survivor talk are in the Wheeler Concert Hall in the college Music Building. Sessions start at 9 a.m., 1 and 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. Cohen speaks from 9 to 11 a.m. on Friday and repeats his presentation from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, and Inge Auerbacher tells her story from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday at NCHS.
Follow community news editor Sally Ann Shurmur on Twitter @WYOSAS