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--JS 211: The HolocaustSpring 2015Instructor: Prof. Sharon GillermanOffice Hours: Wednesdays: 1:00-3:00and by appointment Teaching Assistants: Sarah Rapaport ([email protected])Gavi Ruit ([email protected])Office: At Hebrew Union College(Hoover and 32nd, Room 15) Contact info: (213) 765-2152 email: [email protected]The historical event we now know as the Holocaust or the Shoah, occurred in atechnologically advanced, highly cultured and "civilized" society in the heart ofmodern twentieth-century Europe. Studying these events as well as theirinterpretations by among others, historians, political philosophers, and religiousthinkers, forces us to question some of the most fundamental assumptions of westernculture, including the foundations of the society in which we live today. Why did thepolitical and religious traditions of the West fail to prevent the industrialized masskillings of those deemed racially inferior? How could science and medicine becomeinstrumentalized to plan and execute mass murder? What allowed perpetrators ofgenocide to follow the norms of their government and peers, at the expense of theirconscience? Why were there not more Raoul Wallenbergs and Oscar Schindlers?This course is intended as an introduction to the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people,as well as to the genocide of Poles, gypsies, Soviet POWs, and the disabled, betweenthe years 1933-1945. In the class we will look at the kinds of ideological, political,and social factors that prepared the way for genocide, closely scrutinize themotivations of the perpetrators, try to understand the responses of those who becamebystanders, and consider the impact of dehumanization on its victims. As we examinethe specific historical, sociological, and psychological factors shaping human behaviorduring the Holocaust, we will focus especially on evaluating the moral dilemmas thatarose during this terrible chapter in the history of modern Europe and the West andreflect on the existence of parallel issues in our own society. The Holocaust was neither the first nor the last genocide of the twentieth century,however. It is crucial, therefore, that we situate the Nazi genocide within the largerperspective of twentieth-century genocides, and attempt to understand it in relation to1
those events that preceded and succeeded it. For this reason, the course will begin byexamining the genocide of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, and conclude in thelatter half of the twentieth century by looking at the genocide of indigenous peoples inCentral America, together with the cases of Rwanda and Sudan.Learning Outcomes. Students will be able to:1.Identify the social, political, intellectual, economic, and cultural forces that shaped interwar Germany and helped pave the way for the growth of fascism.