Friday, September 5, 2008

The Passing of Dan Bar-On

It is with great sadness that I heard today about the passing of Dan Bar-On. Dan was an inspiration. Dan embodied the importance of dialogue and contact between people in times of conflict without romanticising what this entails. He will be missed. He touched many people’s lives with his compassion and sharp intellect.

Dan Bar-On was born in 1938 in Haifa to parents of German descent. He was a member of Kibbutz Revivim for 25 years where he served as a farmer, educator and Secretary of the Kibbutz. After completing his M.A. in psychology in 1975, he worked in the Kibbutz Clinic, specializing in therapy and research with families of Holocaust survivors. In 1981 he received his Ph.D. at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1985 he launched a pioneering field research in Germany, studying the psychological and moral after-effects of the Holocaust on the children of the perpetrators. His book Legacy of Silence: Encounters with Children of the Third Reich was published in 1989 by Harvard University Press and has since been translated and published in French, German, Japanese and Hebrew. Since then, Bar-On has brought together descendants of survivors and perpetrators for five intensive encounters (the TRT group, shown by the BBC on TimeWatch, October, 1993), as well as students from the third generation of both sides. His book Fear and Hope: Three Generations of Holocaust Survivors' Families was published in Hebrew, English, German and Chinese .His last book The Indescribable and the Undiscussable was published in 1999 by Central European University Press. In 1998 and in 2002-3, Bar-On was the Ida E. King Chair for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Stockton College of New Jersey. He is currently a Professor of Psychology at the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Ben-Gurion University, where he served as Chair of the Department in 1993-1995 and again in 2003-5. He is the co-director of PRIME (Peace Research Institute in the Middle East) near Beit Jala, PNA, together with Professor Sami Adwan of Bethlehem University. He is married, and has four children and four grandchildren.