Michigan State University

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Waltzer, Kenneth

Professor Emeritus
Social Relations and Policy

Wells Hall
619 Red Cedar Road Rm C-725 Wells
East Lansing, MI 48825



Ph.D., Harvard University; History


Professor Waltzer's interests cover American social and political history, including urban, labor, and minority history, immigration and social relations in the United States and elsewhere, and modern Jewish history, including the study of anti-Semitism and of the Holocaust. His major current project is a book on The Rescue of Children and Youths at Buchenwald. In summer 2005, he was a member of the Israel Studies faculty seminar at Brandeis University, and in summer 2006 he taught in Israel. In 2008, he was among 15 international scholars brought by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to research in and help evaluate the newly opened Red Cross International Tracing Service Archives in Germany. Between 2008 and 2010, by invitation, he gave the USHMM’s annual Wineman Lecture in Washington DC, lectured at the Buchenwald Gedenkstaette in Weimar, and presented at the Holocaust Museum in Melbourne. In 2012-13, he was the Winegarden Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan-Flint.

Professor Waltzer’s interests include the study of American immigration, issues of multiculturalism and inter-group relations in the United States and abroad, as well as issues of Holocaust historiography, Jewish responses during the Holocaust, rescue and survival during the Holocaust, and history and memory about the Holocaust and its legacy. His next work after the Buchenwald study will be a study of the development of two new post-Holocaust centers of Jewish life in Israel and America during the 20th century, asking how divergent societies and cultures were created by people with shared origins.

In 1990, Professor Waltzer was awarded a State of Michigan Teaching Excellence Award. In 1998, he was awarded the Mid-Michigan Alumni Club Quality in Undergraduate Teaching Award. In 2001, he was recognized as Outstanding Study Abroad Director by the College of Arts and Letters. He was Acting Dean of James Madison College 1990-92, and served as Associate Dean 1989-90, 1994-96. He served as Director of the Center for Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities in the College of Arts and Letters 1997-2005. He has been Director of Jewish Studies at Michigan State University from 2004 to the present.



Professor Waltzer has taken on the role of Executive Director of a new national initiative called The Academic Engagement Network.  AEN fights the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, supports academic freedom and freedom of expression, and seeks through education and other methods to stir and support robust conversation about Israel and Israel/Palestine on campuses.  AEN also works against anti-semitism on American campuses. Waltzer says not only Madison grads get to contribute to public policy; sometimes Madison faculty do as well.

Professor Waltzer presented the film "Kinderblock 66" at the University of California-Santa Cruz in May 2014.and co-directed the Workshop on Testimony" at the University of Michigan-Flint July, 2014.

Professor Waltzer was a featured speaker in March 2014 at the Testimonies III Conference sponsored by Ghetto Fighters House and Yad Vashem in northern Israel, where he presented a paper on "The Maurerschulen (Bricklayers' Schools) at Auschwitz."  He also lectured on "The Rescue of Children and Youths at Buchenwald," at the new Weiss-Livnat graduate program in Holocaust Studies at Haifa University in March.

Professor Waltzer presented “Moving Together and Moving Alone: The Story of Boys on a Transport Auschwitz to Buchenwald,” a micro-history of boys moving with Elie Wiesel in the concentration camp universe during World War II,  to the International Conference on Micro-Histories of the Holocaust, which convened at L’École Normale Supérieure and at L’Memorial de la Shoah in Paris in December 2012. This study will soon appear in the Brandeis Working Papers Series on Children During the Holocaust.  He is also publishing an essay, “The Boys of Buchenwald: Underground Rescue of Children and Youths in a Nazi Concentration Camp,” in Simone Gigliotti, ed., Young Victims of the Nazi Regime, forthcoming. 

Professor Waltzer co-directed (with Teddy Robertson), summer 2013, the Workshop on Teaching and Researching with Holocaust Testimony that convened at the University of Michigan-Flint, July 15-19, 2013 in cooperation with the U.S.C. Shoah Visual History Foundation. 

Professor Waltzer published “The Uneasy Years,” an essay in Michigan Jewish History (Fall 2013).  He will speak at the Holocaust Memorial Center in August on “Working with Testimony,” and the Touro Law College in New York in October on his work on “Rescue at Buchenwald.”

Professor Waltzer will also appear with Stephen Smith of the Shoah Foundation and Henry Greenspan of the UM Res College  on a panel titled “A Space Between: Holocaust Survivors and the Present Moment,” focusing on the challenges linked with the passing of survivors and current efforts to use their testimonies collected in video archives.

Kenneth Waltzer is the Winegarden Visiting Professor at the UM -Flint during winter, 2012, where he is leading a faculty seminar on "New Directions in Study of the Holocaust" and also working with students in using survivor testimonies in doing original research. He presented on "Utilizing Survivor Testimony to Tell the Story of Rescue In a Concentration Camp" at the "Beyond Testimony and Trauma: Oral History in the Aftermath of Mass Violence" conference scheduled in Montreal Canada, March 22-25, 2012 and, with Henry Greenspan of the UM Res College, will offer a pre-conference workshop there on working with survivors in retelling their stories.

Professor Waltzer is historical consultant to a feature-length historical documentary, Kinderblock 66, being made by Bigfoot Productions in New York. The film focuses on the main barrack in which underground personnel participated in the rescue and protection of children and youths at Buchenwald. Elie Wiesel was one of the boys sheltered in block 66.

Read the opinion article by Professor Kenneth Waltzer, "After Liberation, a Struggle to Understand" in The Jewish Daily Forward, online weekly newspaper. In a related event, Professor Waltzer was invited to and attended the State Dinner and ceremonies at Buchenwald on April 10-11, and lectured to students.

Ken Waltzer was a special guest in July at a ceremony marking entrance of the late Fyodor Michalitschenko into the list of Righteous among the Nations at Yad Vashem. He has been featured on CBS and in many other media outlets for this story. In his research at the Red Cross International Tracing Service archive in June 2008 in Bad Arolsen, Germany he discovered that Fyodor was Rabbi Israel Lau's protector in block 8, the children's block, at Buchenwald. Lau had been looking for Fyodor from Rostow for sixty years but could not find him. With the opening of the records, Waltzer was able to discover his protector and informed Lau. Israel Lau is now chair of the Yad Vashem Council, which is honoring the late Fyodor.

Ken Waltzer's article, "Opening the Red Cross International Tracing Service Archives," appeared in the John Marshall Journal of Computer and Information Law 21:6 (Winter, 2009), the first scholarly article on the recently opened Holocaust archive. Waltzer also had the opportunity to deliver a paper, "No Angel at the Fence," with a translator, at the First International Forum on "Schlieben: A Forgotten Concentration Camp," in Schlieben, Germany in April 2009.

Waltzer will chair two panels at the Association of Jewish Studies meeting in Los Angeles, California in December 2009, one panel on "Writing Holocaust History with Holocaust Testimonies and Memoirs," in which he will present a paper on "Schlieben: A Forgotten Buchenwald Aussenlager," the other panel on "Contemporary Anti-Semitism: Inversions in the Radical Critique of Israel," in which he will serve as respondent.

Ken Waltzer, Madison Professor and director of MSU's Jewish Studies program, was a key member of a team of that disproved a Holocaust memoir set for publication in February. Waltzer began raising questions to the agent and publisher in November, suggesting that the story was fabricated. [ CNN Video Clip MSU News Article Lansing State Journal Article ]

Professor Kenneth Waltzer, director of Jewish Studies at MSU, was selected by the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to participate in an international research workshop of scholars that was the first to work in the newly opened Red Cross-International Tracing Service (ITS) Archives in Bad Arolsen, Germany in June 2008. Waltzer discussed his expectations for workshop and his research into child survivors of the Nazi concentration camps on a Spartan Podcast.

Ken Waltzer delivered the Mona and Otto Weinman lecture at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in May 2008 on "The Rescue of Children and Youth at Buchenwald," and was one of 15 international scholars supported by the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the Museum to explore the newly opened Red Cross International Tracing Service archive in Bad Arolsen during June. This fall, he will give the Dean Fred Herzog Lecture at John Marshall College of Law in Chicago on "Opening the Red Cross Archive" in September, and he will present aspects of his work on child-saving at Buchenwald at the World Federation of Child Survivors in Alexandria, VA, in November 2008, and the Association of Jewish Studies in Washington DC in December 2008.

Professor Ken Waltzer will participate in a panel of Jewish Studies directors at the Association for Jewish Studies meeting in Toronto, Canada, December 2007. The Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has invited Professor Waltzer to deliver the Monna and Otto Weinmann Lecture in Washington DC, May 15, 2008. He will speak on his work on The Rescue of Children and Youth at Buchenwald.

Ken Waltzer will present a paper on “The Kovno Boys: Survival at Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Mauthaussen,” at the 37th Annual Holocaust Scholars Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, March 11-13, 2007.  A train from Dachau to Auschwitz carried 131 Kovno boys marked for death but, on arrival at Birkenau, the children were not gassed. Based on testimonies, interviews, and archival work in the U.S. and Israel, Professor Waltzer follows them inside Auschwitz-Birkenau, and then follows the remnant, about 40 boys, to Buchenwald and Mauthaussen. 

Ken Waltzer will present on his book-in-progress, The Rescue of Children and Youth in Buchenwald, at James Madison College on April 11, 2007.   In this book, Waltzer explores why, when the U.S. Third Army liberated Buchenwald, April 11, 1945, there were 904 children and youth still alive to be liberated?  Among these were Elie Wiesel, a 16-year-old youth from Transylvania, (later Nobel Peace Prize winner) and also Israel Meir Lau, an 8-year-old child from Poland (later Israel Prize winner).   

Ken Waltzer led the MSU Jewish Studies program at Hebrew University's Rothberg International School during summer 2006 until forced by the conflict involving Israel and Hezbollah to return home early. While in Israel, he also had the opportunity to interview many former Buchenwald boys for a book on The Rescue of Children and Youth at Buchenwald. Waltzer also presented his research on rescue at Buchenwald at the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust in Dearborn in late August, and will be a featured speaker at the 9th Annual Holocaust Education Series in Montreal in late October. He recently submitted a paper for publication on "The Three Youngest Children at Buchenwald" and is submitting another on "Kovno Boys at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Buchenwald." His review,"Spielberg's Munich, Ethics, and Israel," appeared in Israel Studies 11:2 (2006).

Professor Waltzer presented a paper, "The Rescue of Children at Buchenwald: Behavior in a Grey Area," at the Midwest Jewish Studies Scholars Colloquium, Cohn-Haddow Judaic Studies Program, Wayne State University (Detroit, May 22, 2005).

Professor Waltzer presented a paper, "American Reactions to the Holocaust 1945-1948," at the Wayne State University and University of Michigan-Dearborn Commemoration of the Holocaust (Dearborn, April 8, 2005).

Professor Waltzer presented a paper, "Jewish Rescue in Poland: The Jewish Underground in Warsaw," at the 35 th Annual Holocaust and the Churches Conference (Philadelphia, March 8, 2005).