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HIS 142A: History of the Holocaust

Lecture—3 hour(s); Term Paper. Topics include comparative genocide, medieval and modern antisemitism, modern German history, the rise of Nazism, Jewish life in Europe before the Nazi period, and the fate of the Jewish communities and other persecuted groups in Europe from 1933-1945. GE credit: AH, SS, WC, WE.


Professor David Biale 






Spring 2021


In a century of genocides, the Holocaust of the European Jews remains perhaps the most systematic attempt to destroy a whole people. In this course, we will attempt to understand how one nation committed genocide against another, first by instituting policies of exclusion and expulsion and then mass murder. The course will consider the history of the Holocaust against the background of Jewish and German history in modern times.  We will also take up the question of the uniqueness of the Holocaust and comparisons with other instances of mass death, both by the Nazis (against the disabled mentally retarded, the Sinti/Roma, homosexuals, Poles and Russian prisoners of war) and by others in the twentieth century. Students should be aware that this is an emotionally, as well as intellectually challenging subject that has relevance to our world today.

Required Books:

  • Doris Bergen, War and Genocide
  • Sebastian Haffner, Defying Hitler
  • Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz
  • Joseph Pell, Taking Risks
  • Dawid Sierakowiak, The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak