Freshman Seminar

Holocaust and Memory

The Holocaust is one of the most significant events of the 20th century. That people during a period of incredible intellectual and scientific advance persist in such barbarous behavior seems such a contradiction and therefore must prompt serious inquiry about the nature of modern life, the impact of technology, the persistence of religious and ethnic hatred and the role of the state in perpetuating hatred and violence. We have an obligation to make the past useable, to interpret it in creative ways, to employ history to interrogate the present, to insure that lessons are learned and that we not be rendered immobile or apathetic by the immensity of this past evil.

Critics take different positions when it comes to the question of how one “ought” to represent the Holocaust. Some see Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” as kitsch, others as monument to humanity. Are the 2.711 monumental concrete steles of the recently opened Holocaust Memorial in Berlin an appropriate way to remember the victims? In order to make sense of the rise of Nazism and its consequences, in order to acknowledge and pay tribute to the millions dead, what tools can we and should we use? How do we compare the relative claims and ambitions of “objective” historical analysis, personal testimony, literary and dramatic fiction, architectural monument, or popular film? This seminar will investigate the particular strengths and limits of a wide range of texts and images, facts and fictions that each in its own way claims to represent some “truth” of the Holocaust. We will also discuss the social and political context of these representations and consider the meaning of the Holocaust in contemporary German and American culture.

Click here for the full syllabus of the Freshman Seminar: Syllabus FSEM100H4

Holocaust Memorial (1985) by Kenneth Treister and Tony Lopez in synthetic color, Miami Beach, Florida

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