The Holocaust: The Destruction of European Jewry is an adaptation of an on-campus course that has been co-taught by Murray Baumgarten, Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature (Literature Department), and Peter Kenez, Professor Emeritus (History Department), for over 20 years at UC Santa Cruz.
In this course, you will explore the Holocaust from the overlapping perspectives of literature and history—through memoirs, historical documents, poetry, documentary footage, filmic representations, and novels. You will expand your knowledge of the literature of the Holocaust, Eastern and Western European Jewish communities, the origins and development of antisemitism, the establishment of labor and extermination camps, resistance movements, and the Holocaust as a problem for world history.
There is more than one way to take this course: You can complete all of the activities (and earn a Verified Certificate) or only the activities that are most interesting to you. Whatever you choose to do, we encourage you to find a havruta (a study partner) in your community or in the Coursera community so that you can experience the course in a more interactive and meaningful way.
Who were the Jews?
-This module is an introduction to the study of the Holocaust and a prehistory of the Holocaust. Profs. Baumgarten and Kenez discuss the roots of modern antisemitism, the culture of European Jews in the 19th century, Nehama Tec’s Dry Tears, and the various genres of Holocaust literature. The module also contains general information about the course.
Prelude to the Holocaust
-In this module Profs. Baumgarten and Kenez discuss the changing demographics and political landscape of early 20th century Eastern Europe, Jewish identity, the Bildungsroman, Silvano Arieti’s The Parnas, Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz, Aharon Appelfeld’s Badenheim 1939, and Elie Wiesel’s Night.
Rise of the Nazis
-In this module Profs. Baumgarten and Kenez discuss the political and social environment of 1930s Germany, the Jewish question, and the treatment of evil in poetry.
Beginnings of war
-In this module Profs. Baumgarten and Kenez discuss the conditions that were necessary for the Holocaust to occur, the early events of World War II, Thomas Kenneally’s Schindlers List, Andres Schwartz-Bart’s The Last of the Just, and questions of guilt and responsibility.
Witness to trauma
-In this module Profs. Baumgarten and Kenez discuss the invasion of the Soviet Union, Thomas Kenneally’s Schindler’s List, and questions of witnessing. Guest speaker Dora Sorell shares her own experience of the Holocaust.
Establishment of the camps
-In this module Profs. Baumgarten and Kenez discuss the establishment of labor and extermination camps, memorialization, Tadeusz Borowski’s This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, and Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men.
Deportation and extermination
-In this module Profs. Baumgarten and Kenez discuss the Holocaust in Western Europe, the complex history of Hungary, Imre Kertész’s Fatelessness, and Ida Fink’s A Scrap of Time.
The perpetrators, the neighbors, and the outside world
-In this module Profs. Baumgarten and Kenez discuss the unique case of Romania, the culpability of the outside world, and the end of World War II. The text of Adolf Hitler’s last testament is provided.
Murray Baumgarten and Peter Kenez