HIS/JHI 1285: Holocaust - The Destruction of European Jewry

Stern College
JHI 1485H/HIS 1285H
Fall 2008
T, Th: 12:00 – 1:15

Prof. Joshua D. Zimmerman
Office: 215 Lex., Room 228
Office Hours: Tues: 10:30-11:45

This course examines the fate of European Jewry between 1933 and 1945. We shall cover the rise and fall of the democratic Weimar Republic in the 1920s, the Nazi seizure of power, anti-Jewish policy and legislation in Nazi Germany, ghettoization in Nazi Europe, and the conception and implementation of the Final Solution during the Second World War. Additional topics will include the problem of the Judenrat, Jewish resistance, life in the ghettos and camps, the Jewish Question and public opinion in Nazi-occupied Europe, and the reactions of the Allies, the Church, and world Jewry to the Holocaust.

Major Texts (for purchase at the university bookstore) 

  • Bauer, Yehuda. A History of the Holocaust. Revised Edition. Danbury, CT: Franklin Watts, 2001. ISBN: 0-531-15576-5
  • Documents on the Holocaust. University of Nebraska Press, 1999. ISBN: 0-80-325937-9
  • Levi, Primo. Survival in Auschwitz. Touchstone, 1996. ISBN: 0-68-482680-1
  • Kaplan, Chaim. Scroll of Agony: the Wartime Diary of Chaim A. Kaplan. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973. ISBN: 9780253212931.


  • Mendes-Flohr and Reinharz (eds.), The Jew in the Modern World: A Documentary History. 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 1995. ISBN: 0-19-507453-X

All assigned reading are on reserve at the university library. Books available for purchase should be brought to class during times they are assigned.  

Course Requirements: 

  • I. Papers: (1) Paper Assignment #1: The experience of one community during the Holocaust (appr. 5 pages); (3) The experience of one survivor during the Holocaust (appr. 5 pages); (4) Film Review: "Escape from Auschwitz" (appr. 3 pages).
  • II. Exams: (1) in-class Midterm;(2) in-class Final
  • II. Attendance and Class Participation: Regular class attendance, assigned readings, and class participation are required. Irregular attendance suggests a lack of motivation or interest in the course and will result in a grade reduction. Students are allowed up to three unexcused absences.

My expectations: 

  1. intensive and careful reading, critical analysis of primary sources, regular attendance, and active participation.
  2. that you remain in your seat during the lecture and discussions. Getting up and leaving the classroom is disruptive to me and to your fellow students.
  3. that you hand in your written work on or before the due date. Late papers will receive grade reductions.


The final grade is determined by the following four factors:

  1. 20% - Midterm exam
  2. 40% - Papers (#1, 15%; #2, 15%; #3, 10%)
  3. 30% - Final exam
  4. 10% - Class attendance and participation
Lecture Outline and Readings
  • Introductions: Are There Jews in Poland Today? [Aug. 28] 
  • Stanislaw Krajewski. Poland and the Jews: Reflections of a Polish Polish Jew. (Cracow: Austeria, 2005), Introduction (pp. 17-28) and ch. 6 (pp. 163-182)
  • Joshua D. Zimmerman, ed., Contested Memories: Poles and Jews during the Holocaust and its Aftermath (Rutgers U. Pr., 2003), editor’s introduction.
Part I:
Emancipation and Counter-Emancipation – Rise of the "Jewish Question," 1789-1914

Out of the Ghetto: European Jewry in the Age of Emancipation [Sept 2, 4]

Bauer, A History of the Holocaust, pp. 36-47. Study map on p. 40.

The Jew in the Modern World, Ch. III, Doc. 1 (Declaration…, 1789), 2 (Debate…, 1789), 4 (Constitution of France, 1791), 5 (Emancipation, 1791), 6 (Letter of Berr), 25 (Emancipation, 1869), 26 (Emancipation, 1871)

Responses to Emancipation: the Rise of Modern Antisemitism [Sept. 9, 11]

Bauer, A History of the Holocaust, pp. 47-60.

The Jew in the Modern World, Ch. VII, Doc. 14 (Marr), 15 (Duehring), 19 (Stoecker), 20 (Treitschke), 22 (Fritsch), 26 (Protocols)

Programs of the "League of Anti-Semites"(1879) and "Anti-Semitic People’s Party" (1890) [from Peter Pulzer. Rise of Political Antisemitism in Germany and Austria]

Jacob Katz, From Prejudice to Destruction: Anti-Semitism, 1700-1933, 245-72, 292-327.

Part II:
The Setting – World War I and its Consequences: the Rise of Nazi Germany

World War I and its Aftermath: the Treaty of Versailles and the Rise of the Nazi Party [Sept. 16, 18 ]
Bauer, A History of the Holocaust, ch. 3.

Founding Program of the Nazi Party (1920), in Documents on the Holocaust, pp. 15-18
Hitler, Mein Kampf, pp. 51-65, 97-125, 225-236, 300-329.

The Collapse of Democratic Germany: Establishment of the Nazi Dictatorship[Sept. 23]
Bauer, A History of the Holocaust, ch. 4. Study Table on p. 94.

Evolution of Anti-Jewish Laws in Nazi Germany, 1933-1939 [Th, Sept. 25; Tu, Oct 7]

Tues., Sept 30 and Th, Oct 1: Rosh Hashanah – no classes
Oct. 8 – 26: Yom Kippur through Sukkot, no classes
Bauer, A History of the Holocaust, ch. 5.

The Jew in the Modern World, pp. 642-660 (Documents 4, 6-20).

Saul Friedlander, Nazi Germany and the Jews (New York, 1997), chs. 1, 2, 5, 8.

Jewish Reactions to Nazi Antisemitism, 1933-1939 (I): German Jewry [Tues, Oct. 28]
Bauer, A History of the Holocaust, ch. 6.
Marion A. Kaplan, Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany (Oxford and New York, 1998), chs. 1-2.

Documents on the Holocaust, Docs. 14-18, 38-39.
Jewish Reactions to Nazi Antisemitism, 1933-39 (II): World Jewry and the Refugee Crises, 1933-1939 [Thurs, Oct. 30]

Tuesday, Nov 4: Election Day and Midterm Prep– No class
Y. Bauer, Jewish Reactions to the Holocaust (Tel Aviv, 1989), chs. 1-3.
"Evian Conference," Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, vol. 2, pp. 454-57.
Recommended: Yahil, The Holocaust, pp. pp. 88-104.

Part III:
Prologue to the "Final Solution" – Beginnings of World War II, 1939-1941

Thursday, Nov. 6th: Midterm Exam 

The Coming of World War II [Tues, Nov. 11]
No new readings

The Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland, 1939-1941 – Nazi Jewish Policy [Nov 13, 18]

Nov. 13 Paper Proposal Due (Proposed Title, one-paragraph description, list of sources)

Bauer, A History of the Holocaust, pp. 147-196 (be sure to study Map, p. 148).

Kaplan, Scroll of Agony, pp. 19-95 (journal entries for Sept 1 to Dec 31, 1939)
Documents on the Holocaust, Docs. 73 (*), 74, 75, 82, 83, 84, 87, 88, 92, 100-102.

Part IV:

The "Final Solution," Phase I: German Invasion of Soviet Russia, Local Pogroms, and the Einsatzgruppen, 1941 [Nov. 20, 25)

Thurs, Nov. 27: Thanksgiving – no classes

Bauer, A History of the Holocaust, pp. 196-203, 209-227.

The Jew in the Modern World, pp. 660-665 (Docs. 21 and 22).

Omer Bartov, "Operation Barbarossa and the Final Solution," in The Final Solution ed. D. Cesarani (New York & London, 1994), pp. 119-134.
The "Final Solution," Phase II: Death Camps - Conceptualization and Implementation, 1942-1943 [Dec. 2, 4]
Bauer, A History of the Holocaust, pp. 227-247.

Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz (Begin reading)

Documents on the Holocaust, nos. 124, 126-130.

The Fate of West European Jewry (I): Holland, France, Denmark, Italy [Dec. 9]

Bauer, A History of the Holocaust, ch. 10.
Joshua Zimmerman, ed., Jews in Italy under Fascist and Nazi Rule, 1922-1945 (Cambridge, 2005), chs. 1, 7. Maps 1-2.

Jewish Reactions to the Final Solution: Resistance – the Case of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising [Dec. 11, 16]

Bauer, "Forms of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust," in Bauer, The Jewish Emergence from Powerlessness, pp. 26-40.
Bauer, A History of the Holocaust, ch. 11.

The Jew in the Modern World, Documents 26, 27 (pp. 673-676)
Documents on the Holocaust, Documents 104, 125, 134-137, 139, 149-152.

Recommended: Yahil, The Holocaust, ch. 17.

The "Final Solution," Phase III: Final Liquidation of the Ghettos in Eastern Europe and the Tragedy of Hungarian Jewry, 1944-1945 [Dec. 18, 23]

Film: "Escape From Auschwitz"

Paper Due

Bauer, A History of the Holocaust, ch. 13.

Document: Emanuel Ringelblum, "Last Letter from Warsaw (March 1944)," in The Jew in the Modern World, pp. 676-79.

Reading Week: [Dec. 24 – 29]
Final Exam: Tuesday, Dec. 30 - morning
YC: Wed, Dec 31 – 1:00 to 3:15