To mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we present a reading list of books and articles that look at all aspects of Holocaust scholarship, including remarkable stories those who risked their lives to save Jews, post-Holocaust Jewish theological responses, and the challenges of recording oral histories.
I come from a people who gave the ten commandments to the world. Time has come to strengthen them by three additional ones, which we ought to adopt and commit ourselves to: thou shalt not be a perpetrator; thou shalt not be a victim; and thou shalt never, but never, be a bystander.
–Yehuda Bauer, Czech-born Israeli historian: speech to the German Bundestag, 1998, quoted in his own speech to the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust, 26 July 2000. From Oxford Essential Quotations.
A Thousand Darknesses by Ruth Franklin
What is the difference between writing a novel about the Holocaust and fabricating a memoir? Do narratives about the Holocaust have a special obligation to be “truthful”–that is, faithful to the facts of history? Ruth Franklin investigates these questions as they arise in the most significant works of Holocaust writing.
Mothering the Fatherland: A Protestant Sisterhood Repents for the Holocaust by George Faithful
After the Allied bombing of Darmstadt, Germany in 1944, some young Lutheran women perceived their city’s destruction as an expression of God’s wrath–a punishment for Hitler’s murder of six million Jews, purportedly on behalf of the German people. Some of these women went on to form the Ecumenical Sisterhood of Mary in order to embrace lives of radical repentance for the sins of the German people against God and against the Jews.
Why Should Jews Survive? Looking Past the Holocaust toward a Jewish Future by Michael Goldberg
Rabbi Michael Goldberg asserts that the twin pillars, the Holocaust and Israel, are brittle and have already begun to crumble: they will not be enough to support or sustain the next generation’s Jewish identity. In an urgent warning to the Jewish people, Goldberg argues for a refocus on the original Exodus story and with it a deeper and more positive sense of what it means to be Jewish.
After the Evil: Christianity and Judaism in the Shadow of the Holocaust by Richard Harries
The evil of the holocaust demands a radical rethink of the traditional Christian understanding of Judaism. This does not mean jettisoning Christianity’s deepest convictions in order to make it conform to Judaism. Rather, Richard Harries develops the work of recent Jewish scholarship to discern resonances between central Christian and Jewish beliefs.
The Oxford Handbook of Holocaust Studies Edited by Peter Hayes and John K. Roth
At the start of the twenty-first century, the persecution and murder perpetrated by the Nazi regime have become the subjects of an enormous literature in multiple academic disciplines and a touchstone of public and intellectual discourse in such diverse fields as politics, ethics and religion. Forward-looking and multi-disciplinary, this handbook draws on the work of an international team of forty-seven outstanding scholars.
Wrestling with God: Jewish Theological Responses during and after the Holocaust Edited by Steven T. Katz, Shlomo Biderman, and Gershon Greenberg
Presenting a wide-ranging selection of Jewish theological responses to the Holocaust, it is one of the most complete anthology of its sort, bringing together a diverse selection of topics that represent virtually every significant theological position that has been articulated by a Jewish thinker in response to the Holocaust. Included are rarely studied responses that were written while the Holocaust was happening.
Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews by Peter Longerich
Holocaust is perhaps most remarkable for its extensive use of the 1930s archives of the Central Association of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith, which re-emerged in the 1990s after years languishing in Moscow. The letters and reports from this archive document in detail the attacks suffered by ordinary Jewish people from their German neighbors. They show how, contrary to what has been believed in the past, the German populace responded relatively enthusiastically to Nazi anti-Semitism.
Beyond Auschwitz: Post-Holocaust Jewish Thought in America by Michael L. Morgan
Morgan offers the first comprehensive overview of Post-Holocaust Jewish theology, looking at the background of the movement in the postwar period, its origins, its character, and its legacy for subsequent thinking, theological and otherwise.
The Mark of Cain: Guilt and Denial in the Post-War Lives of Nazi Perpetrators by Katharina von Kellenbach
The Mark of Cain fleshes out a history of conversations that contributed to Germany’s coming to terms with a guilty past by drawing on letters exchanged between clergy and Nazi perpetrators, written notes of prison chaplains, memoirs, sermons, and prison publications to illuminate the moral and spiritual struggles of perpetrators after World War II.
In the summer of 1942 in Belgium, when the Nazis began the brutal roundup of Jewish families, a group of Jewish children found sanctuary with other families and schools–but especially in Roman Catholic convents and orphanages. We read the stories of the women of the Resistance who risked their lives in placing Jewish children in the care of the Church, and of the Mothers Superior and nuns who sheltered these children and hid their identity from the authorities. Read “The Children” from Hidden Children of the Holocaust on Oxford Scholarship Online.
Looking at Oberammergau’s unique history to explain why and how some villagers chose to become Nazis, while others rejected Party membership and defended their Catholic lifestyle, Waddy explores the reasons why both local Nazis and their opponents fought to protect the village’s cherished Catholic identity against the Third Reich’s many intrusive demands.
“Case Study: ‘Above all, we need the WITNESS’: The Oral History of Holocaust Survivor” from The Oxford Handbook of Oral History on Oxford Handbooks Online
Holocaust survivor and witness accounts began long before the Second World War ended. Diaries, journals, letters, notes hidden, buried, and stuffed into jars or between floor boards were mostly lost and destroyed, but those that have been recovered express desperation to tell, to document, to bear witness, and to commemorate. This article records the oral history of holocaust survivors. Together with the countless thousands of testimonies that would be recorded during the next sixty years, these eyewitness accounts would change the face of research and education, not only in the field of Holocaust studies but across academic boundaries.
“Constricting and Extinguishing Jewish Life” by Truder Maurer in Jewish Daily Life in Germany, 1618-1945
As of summer 1938 more extreme persecutions peaked in the pogrom of November 9-10 and the arrest and internment of about 30,000 men in concentration camps. This made the defenselessness and isolation of the Jews clear-cut. Even at that time they received little help from non-Jews. Emigration seemed the only remaining option. But this option became virtually impossible once the war started and was finally prohibited entirely in October 1941. At the same time, forced labor and the withdrawal of almost all food stripped Jews of the material basis for survival and all psychological strength.
“‘On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re A Nazi’: Some Comparative Legal Aspects of Holocaust Denial on the WWW” by David Fraser in Extreme Speech and Democracy
Legal regulations in Canada and Australia provide two frameworks under which Holocaust Denial can be outlawed. Canada has chosen to proceed by way of complex analyses of the content of the ‘speech’ and its reception by an intended audience. Australia, conversely, has adopted a legal framework which examines the possible adverse impact of the ‘speech’ on an identified victim group. What unites the two, and the aspect which is perhaps most troubling from a variety of perspectives, is a distinct rejection of any claim that the Holocaust actually happened, as an underlying normative basis for legal regulation.
“Writing to Remember: The Role of the Survivor” by Zoë Vania Waxman in Writing the Holocaust: Identity, Testimony, Representation
This chapter charts the path of the ‘liberated prisoners’ and their gradual re-categorization over time, first as ‘Displaced Persons’, and eventually as ‘survivors’. It shows how the post-war introduction of the concept of ‘the Holocaust’ to describe survivors’ experiences, and the adoption of the post-war identity of the survivor as witness, acted as organizational frameworks for survivors’ experiences, enabling personal experiences of suffering to be viewed as essential components of a collective historical event.
“On the Global and Local Representations of the Holocaust Tragedy” by Jeffrey C. Alexander in Remembering the Holocaust: A Debate
The universalization of the Holocaust is alive and well, even as the collective consciousness continually addresses fears of forgetting. This chapter provides a historical context for “The Social Construction of Moral Universals”, and examines how the movement, from a progressive tragic trauma narration created moral particularism alongside universalism, and fueled social splitting and antagonism at the same time as cooperation and expanded solidarity.
“Perpetrators With a Clear Conscience: Lying, Self-Deception and Belief Change” by Ralph Erber in Understanding Genocide: The Social Psychology of the Holocaust
This chapter focuses on psychological mechanisms underlying perpetrator behavior, by looking at the possibility that a specific form of self-deception may play an important role. It also examines what Hannah Arendt calls “lying self-deception”: the effects of telling lies repeatedly on subsequent belief change.
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Image credit: Auschwitz I entrance snow by Logaritmo, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons