Harry James Cargas Biographical Note

Black and white photograph of Dr. Cargas leaning on a stack of books Harry James Cargas was born on July 18, 1932 in Hamtramck, Michigan, near Detroit, where he lived until he went overseas to serve in the Korean War in the early 1950's. Upon his return, he earned a BA (1957) and an MA (1958) from the University of Michigan in English and American Literature. In 1968 he completed a Ph.D at St. Louis University in English, focusing on Daniel Berrigan’s protest poetry. The dissertation served as the basis for Cargas’1972 book Daniel Berrigan and Contemporary Protest Poetry. While a Ph.D. candidate, Dr. Cargas taught English at St. Louis University and started its English as a Second Language program. In 1970 he joined the faculty at Webster College (later Webster University) where he taught courses on the Holocaust, literature, writing, and religious studies until his death in 1998.


Dr. Cargas is probably best known for his contributions to the study of Christian views of and reactions to the Holocaust and he published regularly in these areas. His books and contributions include A Christian Response to the Holocaust (1981), Responses to Elie Wiesel (1978), and The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness (1997, with Simon Wiesenthal and others). Much of his work on the Holocaust was inspired by his friendship with Elie Wiesel. Cargas and Wiesel conducted several interviews, which Cargas published in 1976 as Harry James Cargas in Conversation with Elie Wiesel.


Dr. Cargas was selected by President Jimmy Carter to serve on the first U.S. Memorial Holocaust Council and he was the first Catholic ever appointed to the International Council of Yad Vashem.


Dr. Cargas was honored for his work on the Holocaust, human rights, and teaching excellence (a partial list of honors, awards, and career highlights is available).


Harry James Cargas died on August 18, 1998 at age 66. He is survived by his wife, Mildred Rieder Cargas, and six children.


Biographical note by Eileen Simon and Kathy Gaynor.