Alexandra Tranvik, M.Div. ‘17, is one of 12 seminary students and early-career clergy chosen by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE) to participate in a two-week program in Germany and Poland this summer that uses the conduct of clergy and religious leaders in Nazi-occupied Europe as a way to reflect on contemporary professional ethics. The fellowship gives journalism, business, law, medical, and seminary students structured programs of study that explores the role of their chosen professions in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust and uses that historical focus as a framework to engage students in an intensive study of contemporary ethics in their field.
The FASPE seminary program examines the roles played by the clergy in the Nazi state, underscoring the reality that moral codes governing clergy of all religions can break down or be distorted with devastating consequences. With this historical background, the program aims to better position seminary fellows to confront contemporary ethical issues.
The 2017 seminary program is led by Rabbi James Ponet, the Howard M. Holtzmann Jewish Chaplain Emeritus at Yale University; and Father Kevin Spicer, the James J. Kenneally Distinguished Professor of History at Stonehill College and author of several publications on the role of Christian clergy in Nazi Germany.
“As a Lutheran, I look forward to celebrating this year’s 500th anniversary of the Reformation, yet I also feel compelled to explore the parts of my tradition that are not cause for celebration—the ways in which Lutheranism has been complacent, complicit, and culpable in anti-Semitism and other harmful forms of ‘othering,’” said Tranvik, “I am grateful to FASPE for the opportunity to confront these issues and to acquire the tools necessary to combat insularity and build relationships across divides and differences.”
Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minn., Tranvik received a B.A. in religion and political science from St. Olaf College in Minnesota. Tranvik is particularly interested in working with migrants and refugee communities and is currently in the ordination process through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
Tranvik joins 63 FASPE fellows across all five programs who were chosen through a competitive process that drew close to 1,000 applicants from around the world. FASPE covers all program costs, including travel, food, and lodging.
Seminary fellows travel with medical fellows, who together will consider how ethical constructs and norms in their respective professions align and differ. The two groups began their trip in Berlin on June 19 and traveled to Krakow and Oświęcim (the town in which Auschwitz is located), Poland, on June 23. In Berlin, the program includes museum visits, a meeting with a Holocaust survivor, and educational workshops at the House of the Wannsee Conference, the site where state and Nazi Party agencies convened in 1942 to coordinate plans for the Nazis’ “Final Solution.” In Krakow, fellows continue their seminars at Jagiellonian University, one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious universities, and at Auschwitz, they are guided by the educational staff of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.
After the program, each fellow will submit an essay focused on a contemporary ethical issue of his or her choice. Select essays are published in the annual FASPE Journal, which showcases work in all five disciplines.