Thursday, May 28, 2009

Obit: Rev. Franklin H. Littell, scholar of the Holocaust

The Rev. Franklin H. Littell, 91, of Merion Station, a Methodist minister widely acknowledged as the father of modern Holocaust studies in America, died Saturday at home after a long illness.

Mr. Littell dedicated his life to Holocaust research after spending nearly 10 years in postwar Germany as chief Protestant religious adviser in the U.S. high command. He was the first American scholar to offer courses on Holocaust and genocide studies, and at Temple University he established the nation's first doctoral program on Holocaust studies in 1976.

His scholarship examined individual responsibility in a free society and sought to encourage interfaith dialogue, especially between Christians and Jews.

Mr. Littell was the author of more than two dozen books and more than 1,000 articles, and was working most recently on his memoirs. He also was an activist who had marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil-rights struggle, said Marcia Sachs Littell, his wife of 30 years.

"He believed you could not hide behind the ivory tower of academia or the sanctity of the church," said Marcia Littell, a professor of Holocaust studies at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. "You must be actively involved in all that you do."


In 1970, Mr. Littell founded the annual Scholars' Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches, which for the last decade has been based at St. Joseph's University. His 1975 book, The Crucifixion of the Jews (Harper & Row), was the first work to explore Christianity in response to the Holocaust.

In 1976, in addition to beginning the doctoral program on Holocaust studies at Temple, he founded the National Institute on the Holocaust there.

President Jimmy Carter named Mr. Littell a founding member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. In 1979, he was the first Christian appointed to the International Governing Board of Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, in Jerusalem.

Mr. Littell was emeritus distinguished professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Richard Stockton College and a visiting professor in the Institute of Contemporary Jewry at Hebrew University in Jerusalem for 25 years.

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