Painting of a man wearing a military uniform and helment and holding a gun as he looks into a dark pit.

ASU to host 10th annual Genocide Awareness Week


Rachel Bunning

The 10th annual Rosenbluth Family Charitable Foundation Genocide Awareness Week will be on the Arizona State University Tempe campus from April 4–9. Genocide Awareness Week is a weeklong event seeking to address how our global society confronts violent actions and threats of genocide and related mass atrocity crimes throughout the world. 

The event started in 2012 with a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Educators’ Workshop at Scottsdale Community College, which grew into a full conference the following year. From there, it became an annual, weeklong conference that drew in around 2,800 attendees. 

John Liffiton, an emeritus professor at Scottsdale Community College and the founder of Genocide Awareness Week, will be retiring after this year and is excited to bring the conference to ASU in hopes it will continue to grow.

“ASU is a much larger venue, and so the conference will grow from one presentation at a time to multiple presentations at a given time over its traditional week, thus not only continuing its legacy as the largest genocide conference, but becoming the preeminent genocide and Holocaust conference in the world,” Liffiton said.

This conference is an effort between ASU, the University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University and many community sponsors.

As it moves to ASU, Liffiton hopes it will “continue to foster genocide education for students and interested community members through in-person, remote and online delivery.”

This year’s conference will be in person, with the majority of the presentations available on livestream as well. Speakers for the conference include international and national educators, law enforcement and those who have worked in the justice system. 

The keynote speaker is Father Patrick Desbois, a distinguished author, professor, historian, forensic detective and human rights advocate. Desbois is the founder of Yahad-In Unum, a nonprofit organization dedicated to discovering genocidal practices wherever they are found around the world. He culminated his research into a book, "The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews," as well as a traveling exhibit of the same name, which is now on display at ASU. 

“The exhibition is an important part of the Rosenbluth Family Charitable Foundation Genocide Awareness Week, which seeks to address how we, as a global society, confront violent actions and current and ongoing threats of genocide throughout the world, while also looking to the past for guidance and to honor those affected by genocide,” said Volker Benkert, ASU assistant professor of history and Genocide Awareness Week board member.

The event hopes to broaden the topics, regions and groups of survivors in the program as it develops on the ASU campus. Lindsay Montgomery, Genocide Awareness Week board member and assistant professor in the University of Arizona’s School of Anthropology, is excited to see these developments. 

“To date, these conference sessions have largely focused on what genocide scholars call the ‘20th century core,’ which includes the Holocaust as well as genocides committed in Armenia, Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia,” Montgomery said. “(Genocide Awareness Week's) partnership with ASU promises to expand the scope of the conference, to include genocides on the periphery, like those against Indigenous peoples in the Americas, Indonesia, Greece, East Timor, Maoist China and many others.”

As part of the larger initiative, the three state universities have coordinated to offer classes in genocide, social justice, World War II and memory-related courses. 

“(Genocide Awareness Week) is truly becoming a more statewide initiative that will build on the already impressive legacy of John Liffiton and Scottsdale Community College,” said Alexander Alvarez, a board member for Genocide Awareness Week and a professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at NAU.

Anyone wishing to attend the conference can see the full list of speakers and programs for this year on the conference’s website. Registration is also available via the ASU Events page listing.

Other programming for Genocide Awareness Week includes the "Holocaust by Bullets" exhibit, which will be on the first floor of ASU's Hayden Library until April 17.