History 331 The Holocaust: Destruction of European Jewry, 1933-1945



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 History 331




History 331
The Holocaust: Destruction of European Jewry, 1933-1945

This course investigates the history of the systematic mass murder of Europe's Jews during World War II, commonly known as the Holocaust. The main questions with which we will be concerned are: how was it possible for a modern state to initiate and carry out the destruction of European Jewry? How did the Jews actually live in Eastern and Western Europe prior to their near annihilation? How might one characterize the Jews' experiences of life and death in the Holocaust? How did the policies and actions toward the Jews fit into the context of the history of the Second World War? How does the Holocaust fit into German history and historiography? How did Nazi racism affect other European communities? What does the Holocaust mean for the persistence of Jewish life in Europe? How has the Holocaust influenced Jewish communal life and consciousness in modern Israel and the United States?

The cultural underpinnings of Hitler's Germany, and the aspects of the western world which assisted, acquiesced, or opposed the Final Solution will be emphasized. Special attention will be devoted to the intersection of culture and politics, as it relates to European Jewish history, Nazi anti-Semitism, and how media has been used to transmit and modify the legacy of the Holocaust. The films we will see, including "Image before My Eyes" (on Jewish life in Poland between the Wars), "The Diary of Anne Frank," and parts of the documentary "Shoah," will be regarded as essential--not supplementary--course material.

Although the process of destruction is at the center of this course, in order to put the event into context it is essential to explore more general developments in German history, European history, and Jewish history. In other words, the course will not be exclusively focused on the horrors of concentration and extermination camps.

Regarding the controversy surrounding the so-called "revisionist theory" that the Holocaust did not occur, this course adopts the position of the Council of the American Historical Association (AHA) which "strongly deplores the publicly reported attempts to deny the fact of the Holocaust. No serious historian questions that the Holocaust took place." [resolution unanimously passed at AHA Council meeting, December 30, 1991, quoted in Perspectives (February 1992), p. 3]

The main purpose of the course is to provide a narrative of the principal circumstances and events leading to and comprising the Holocaust, and to have students think more analytically, critically, and historically about the Jewish people and the conditions which made possible the Holocaust.

Students will be evaluated from two examinations (a mid-term and a final exam) and one paper of 7-8 pages. These will be based on the required texts, films, and lectures. (There is no "research" paper.) More detailed descriptions of the assignments will be presented in the course of the term.

All students must be officially enrolled in the course by the end of the second full week of the quarter. No requests to add the course will be approved by the Departmental chair after that time. Enrolling officially and on time is solely the responsibility of each student.

Plagiarism, which will be defined here as the unattributed use of a source, or trying to pass off someone else's work as one's own, will not be tolerated. All quotations and paraphrases must be cited with footnotes or endnotes. Failure to do so is plagiarism, a serious infraction of university rules. If suspected, the alleged offenders will be prosecuted to the extent of university guidelines.

Required readings:

David and Linda Roskies, eds., The Shtetl Book


Jerzy Kosinski, The Painted Bird
Karl Loewith, My Life in Germany before and After 1933
Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
Robert Lifton, Nazi Doctors
Donald Niewyk, ed., The Holocaust
supplemental text on reserve: Leni Yahil, The Holocaust (New York: Oxford, 1989)


Tentative schedule:

Monday, March 27, 1995. Introductions. reading: Roskies, pp. vii-89.

Wednesday, March 29, 1995. The problematic split between Judaism and Christianity and the emergence of anti-Semitism as a component of Christianity; varieties of Jewish existence. reading: Roskies, pp. 90-139; 174-211; 284-299; Kosinski, pp. 1-65.

Monday, April 3, 1995. Myths versus realities of Jewish life in Eastern Europe before and after 1881.

Wednesday, April 5, 1995. Jewry in Central and Western Europe; anti-Semitism in the 19th and early 20th centuries; from religious-based to modern anti-Semitism; fin-de-siecle France. reading: Kosinski, pp. 66-148; Loewith, pp. ix-33.

Monday, April 10, 1995. The First World War and its relationship to the Holocaust; the consequences of the peace.

Wednesday, April 12, 1995. The structural weaknesses of the Weimar Republic; the "Renaissance" of Jewish culture in Weimar Germany. reading: Kosinski, pp. 149-251; Loewith, pp. 34-84; Lifton, pp. xi-79.

Monday, April 17, 1995. Hitler's Weltanschauung (world-view); Eastern Europe between the Wars.

Wednesday, April 19, 1995. film: "Image Before My Eyes." Monday, April 24, 1995. In-class exam: short-answers and essays. reading: Loewith, pp. 85-147; Lifton, pp. 80-144.

Wednesday, April 26, 1995. The Nazi rise to power and the road to war. reading: Frank, Lifton; pp. 147-238; Niewyk, pp. 1-53.

Monday, May 1, 1995. decision for the Final Solution; key Nazi figures.

Wednesday, May 3, 1995. Ghettoization and the murderous sweeps of the Einsatzgruppen: "Ordinary Men"?;


lawyers and doctors: euthanasia and systematic murder; selections from "Shoah." reading: Lifton, pp. 239-302, 337-383; Frank; Niewyk, pp. 55-159.

Monday, May 8, 1995. selections from "Shoah;" culture, politics, and resistance in the ghettos; "liquidation" of the ghettos.

Wednesday, May 10, 1995. film: "The Diary of Anne Frank." reading: Lifton, pp. 418-504; Niewyk, pp. 161-211; Frank

Monday, May 15, 1995. Nazi occupied Western Europe.





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