May 9, 1996
Vol. 15, No. 17

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    Holocaust survivor and wife establish professorship

    Meyer chair in field of modern European Jewish history Ulrich Meyer, a Holocaust survivor, and his wife, Harriet Meyer, have established a professorship in the field of modern European Jewish history. The Harriet and Ulrich E. Meyer Professorship is intended for eminent scholars who are in a position to contribute significantly to the field of Holocaust studies.

    "We decided to make our gift to Chicago because of its pre-eminence as an academic institution, its commitment to the area of Jewish studies and the addition of Professor Fishbane to the faculty," said Ulrich Meyer, a Chicago-area philanthropist and the former owner and chairman of Carpetland USA Inc.

    Meyer said he and his wife are impressed with the fact that the Committee on Jewish Studies is interdisciplinary, allowing a cross-fertilization of thinking to take place among scholars of religion, psychology, history, music and other fields.

    Michael Fishbane, the Nathan Cummings Professor in the Divinity School and Chairman of the Committee on Jewish Studies, said the Meyer chair will add to an already significant community of scholars in the area of Jewish studies.

    "In the last six years, the University has witnessed remarkable growth in faculty and library resources, and we now have one of the largest and most pre-eminent programs in Jewish studies in the world," Fishbane said. "The Meyer chair will give us depth of understanding of this critical phase in modern European history and create another magnet around which we can draw from the interdisciplinary resources of the University in areas of history, culture, film and literature."

    In making the gift, the Meyers wrote of their vision for the professorship.

    "While we realize that the Holocaust is but one tragedy in the long history of the Jewish people, it is undoubtedly the most profound of all tragedies perpetrated upon them. It is impossible to ignore the efficiency of the methods employed by the Germans, the enormity of the numbers of people massacred and the absolute indifference of the rest of the world to what was obvious," they wrote. "It is unfathomable that such inhumane events could occur in the middle of the 20th century within an enlightened Europe. These facts, and a multitude of others, serve as a wellspring for psychological, historical, cultural and literary topics worthy of inquiry."

    "I've met Ulrich and Harriet Meyer," Fishbane said, "and I'm deeply impressed by their academic and cultural vision and the moral seriousness of wanting to deepen the University's resources in this area. They have made this gift knowing that the University is a place where culture is transmitted to the next generation in a responsible way, and by recognizing that, they've given a gift not only to this generation but to all generations that will benefit from Chicago students to come."