The Holocaust 
Dickinson State University

I. Course Content

Without a doubt, the history offered here cuts against the grain of the American ethos. One learns of evil unredeemed, of death, of destruction. The Holocaust offers no happy ending, no transcendent meaning, no easy moralism. And even if we pause occasionally to learn of courage and valor, of heroism and decency, the overriding theme of the Holocaust is evil perpetuated by individuals, organizations, and governments. While one imparts no single meaning to the events of the Holocaust, we see in their perpetration a violation of every essential American value. Yet, perhaps in the deepest sense, the study of the Holocaust is American for it calls upon the ideas of inalienable rights of all people, equal rights under law, restraint of the power of government, and respect for that which our Creator has given and which the human community should not take away.

The Holocaust is a course unlike any other subject in the university curriculum. This is not only due to the enormous demands it makes upon us intellectually, challenging us to develop and draw upon knowledge in history, sociology, psychology, philosophy, politics, and theology, covering centuries of history drawn from a dozen nations. But the study of the Holocaust is also extraordinarily challenging because of the additional emotional and moral demands it makes on us. The issues raised by a study of the Holocaust call into question many of the basic values of Western Civilization, and it challenges us to redefine the meaning of human being.

This course introduces students to the historical problems associated with Nazi Germany's systematic mass murder of Europe's Jews between 1933 and 1945. These problems include the origins of anti-Semitism; the development of Germanic, National Socialist, and Social Darwinist ideologies; the origins of Nazi racial policies in the 1930s; Nazi eugenics and euthanasia campaigns; the war of annihilation waged against Jews under Germany's control during World War II; the mass murders of other groups during the war; Jewish resistance to the Holocaust; and the help or lack thereof offered by non-Jews to mitigate the Holocaust.

This course attempts to deal with some of the most difficult questions of the twentieth century specifically and western civilization generally: Who were the Jews? What was their relationship to the societies they lived in? What was the Jewish attitude toward non-Jews? What were the first instances of Antisemitism? When was the first historical expression of radical Antisemitism? There are few aspects of the Holocaust without controversy: Was the annihilation of the Jews planned from 1933? or from 1920 or 1923, in Hitler's mind? Did it evolve over the years, growing in intensity through the 1930's and then become entwined with the war? Was it not conceived until 1941? or 1939? Were all the murderers Nazis? Was the Holocaust another in a series of pogroms that span millennia? Is this genocide different from others--the Armenian, Cambodian, Ebo, native American, African American or Bosnian? Did most of Europe know what was happening or was the genocide a successfully kept secret until the end of the war? Was the Holocaust a function of World War II or incidental to it? Were civilians involved in the murders? Was the army? Or was it primarily the Nazi SS and affiliates? Did the Jews resist or didn't they? Did they somehow collaborate in their own destruction? What were the motives behind the perpetrators? Who were they? Were they insane racists? Or were they normal, average citizens? Some of these questions are historical or psychological, or sociological, ethical or economic, political or moral.

These questions are highly complex, not simple. Perhaps the worst that can occur in such a course is drawing simple conclusions or assuming simplistic answers. Few events are more complicated, confounding or baffling than this one. If nothing else, you should recognize the mistake of "terrible simplification" regarding the Holocaust. The questions above, and countless others, arise at once when considering the history of the Holocaust. Perhaps the only question that is not at issue is the reality of that event--how and why are legitimate, perplexing and critical questions to be discussed or argued. "If" simply is not a legitimate question.

II. Required Textbooks Books

Students registered for The Holocaust in Historical Context must use the following text:

Available through the National Social Science Press.

Students may also find these two supplemental texts useful:

Nazi Germany and the Jews 1933-1945 and

The Years of Extermination.

III. Student LearningOutcomes (Institutional, Program, and Course Outcomes)

Institutional Student Learning Outcomes

Specifically,  this course serves most of Dickinson State University’s learning outcomes, especially:

I. Demonstrate knowledge of human cultures, the humanities, the social sciences, the fine and performing arts, and the physical and natural worlds.
II. Demonstrate the intellectual skills of inquiry, …. critical and creative thinking, and problem solving.
III. Demonstrate written, oral, and visual communication skills, information literacy, and technological skills.
V. Demonstrate responsible ethical reasoning and social and intercultural engagement.
VI. Demonstrate advanced accomplishment in discipline specific performance.
VII. Demonstrate integrative learning across the curriculum.

Program Student Learning Outcomes

Specifically, the Holocaust in Historical Context (HIST 382) serves the various history majors and minor fields. It provides the student with an upper-level class designed to assist in the fulfillment of graduation requirements for the major/minor in question. It merges with materials covered in the second survey of World Civilizations (HIST 212) survey courses as well as The World since 1945 (HIST 440). Its unique contribution is in the presentation of unique elements of historical analysis explaining in general the elements commonly addressed in dealing with the course of world history.

Course Student Learning Outcomes

These outcomes follow closely the materials outlined below under Course Content Outline and in the items described above. The definition of the items listed below and their historical significance is the intended subject of the course and constitutes the core of the lectures presented during the class. Given the limitations of student knowledge of foreign languages and relative inability to access the materials through either the Internet or through published works, lectures will provide the key meansby which students will develop a proper understanding of the materials over which they will be tested.

IV. Assignments

The assignments for The Holocaust can be divided into three groups: readings, reviews, and in-class examinations.  All readings correspond to the topics assigned below and are taken from the Hilberg work.  Each student will write a mid-term, final examination, and three book reviews.  Students will be allowed to drop their lowest score.  You may use any materials you elect during the examination. Furthermore, students will be allowed to work in groups and to hand in a single examination with all participating students signing the final product of their labors.    

V. Lecture Topics & Readings

Topic 1:  Part A, Holocaust or Shoah?

Topic 1:  Part B, Remote Origins of the Holocaust:  Germans and Jews in Modern Times 

Topic 2:  Rise of Adolf Hitler.
Review Antisemitism.
Five pages double-spaced, 12-point font, Times New Roman or Courier. 
How do you write a book review?

Topic 3:  Ghettoization

Topic 4:  Mobile Killing Operations
Review Browning's Ordinary Men:
Five pages
double-spaced, 12-point font, Times New Roman or Courier.  How do you write a book review?

Topic 5:  Deportations and Mid-term Examination.  

Topic 6:  Killing Center Operations

Review The Catholic Church and the Holocaust.
Remember: Five pages double-spaced, 12-point font, Times New Roman or Courier. 
How do you write a book review?

Topic 7:  The Nature of the Process

Topic 8:  International Responses

Topic 9:  Aftermath
Final Examination


© 2013 by David A. Meier