History and Literature of the Holocaust
Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin once said, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” That statement offers some insight into why the death of more than six million Jews, Gypsies, and others during the Holocaust is so difficult for many people to understand. But the Holocaust was both a statistic and a tragedy. This course will provide a deeper understanding of the Holocaust by looking at both its development and its implementation from historical and personal perspectives by combining historical research with memoirs and fictional accounts written by victims. It will trace the historical antecedents that led to the tragedy, such as anti-Semitism, the euthanasia movement (Nazi Germany largely drew its inspiration and justification from the strong euthanasia movement in 1920s-America), and the rise of Hitler. It will trace the step-by-step implementation of the Holocaust, from anti-Jewish laws to concentration camps to the killing factories at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Treblinka. Finally, students will be asked to explore how the Holocaust compares to other genocidal events, such as the Russian Gulag system, China’s Great Leap Forward famine, and the Rwanda and Bosnia genocides.
Live Classes: Tuesdays, 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, from January 12th to May 11th
Student Expectations: Each student will choose a survivor’s story and write a report discussing that person’s Holocaust experience, as well as the person’s life both before and after. The students will then share the story with the other students in the course.
Student Support: The instructor will be available via email and individual face-to-face online conferences.
Materials: The required text will be The Holocaust: A Concise History by Doris Bergen. Additionally, students will choose one of the following works to read: Night by Eli Weisel, An Interrupted Life by Etty Hillesum, or the graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman. Students will also explore documentaries and survival testimonies available on the internet.