Fall 2005

SOCS 639
The Holocaust: Perpetrators, Bystanders, Victims


09/12/2005 - 12/17/2005
Monday 06:00 PM - 08:30 PM

Public Affairs Center 421

This course will discuss the Holocaust from a variety of perspectives: historical, literary, and contemporary accounts. The first segment of the course will examine how and why a modern state--Germany--adopted a policy of mass murder. We will pay special attention to major scholarly controversies: Hannah Arendt's thesis of the banality of evil; the Goldhagen thesis about radical German anti-Semitism as a primary factor in the Holocaust; and the 1980s debate between "intentionalists" and "functionalists" about whether the decision to kill the Jews was mainly Hitler's or whether German elites, anxious to please the Fuhrer, began to advocate mass murder on their own initiative.

The study of "victims" will focus on Jewish responses to unprecedented catastrophe. Some scholars (Arendt, Hilberg) stressed what they saw as Jewish passivity and lack of resistance. They condemned the Jewish councils (Judenraete) set up by the Germans as agents of collaboration. In Israel, for many years, official educational policy encouraged an invidious distinction between the allegedly helpless masses and the heroic few who fought back. In the past few years, however, scholars have arrived at a more nuanced understanding of what "resistance" really meant and what options the Jews actually had. Through a study of ghetto literature and sources written during the war itself, we will explore the role of the Jewish councils, the fighting organizations, and how ordinary Jews tried to face the Nazi assault.

The final theme of the course will concern the actions of third parties--so-called "bystanders." For case studies, we will consider President Roosevelt, the Pope Pius XII, the French (government and people), and the Poles (the underground leadership and society at large).

During the final week, we will consider the problem of genocide in comparative perspective. In what ways was the Holocaust unique? What features, if any, did it share with other genocides before and since?

Readings include a coursepack and the following books: Lucy Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews; Donald Niewyk, The Holocaust; Lucy Dawidowicz, A Holocaust Reader; Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men; Milton Teichman, Truth and Lamentation; Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz; and Semantha Power, A Problem from Hell.

Requirements include a 15-page paper, 4 short, reaction papers (3 pages), and 1 oral book report.

Samuel Kassow (B.A. Trinity College; M.Sc. London School of Economics; Ph.D. Princeton University) is the Charles H. Northam Professor of History at Trinity College. His many publications include Students, Professors, and the State in Tsarist Russia (Studies on the History of Society and Culture), Between History and Memory: Emanuel Ringelblum in the Warsaw ghetto (Indiana University Press, 2006), and Two Jewish Cities: Vilna and Warsaw (Indiana University Press, forthcoming).


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Christopher Browning, ORDINARY MEN (Harper Perennial), Paperback

Lucy Dawidowicz, WAR AGAINST THE JEWS (Bantam), Paperback

Lucy Dawidowicz, HOLOCAUST READER (Houghton Mifflin), Paperback

Primo Levi, SURVIVAL IN AUSCHWITZ (Touchstone), Paperback

Donald Niewyk, THE HOLOCAUST (Houghton Mifflin), Paperback

Milton Teichman, TRUTH AND LAMENTATION (University of Illinois Press)


PLEASE NOTE: A course packet will also be available for purchase at Broad Street Books.

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