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The Holocaust

University of California, Santa Cruz via Coursera


This course focuses on the destruction of Jews in Europe by Nazi Germany, but the true scope of the course is much broader; exploring also the shifting historical conditions from which the Holocaust emerged. Students will explore memoirs, historical documents, poetry, documentary footage, filmic representations, novels, and other media that help to illustrate the multiplicity and variety of human experience during this important historical episode.

By the end of the course, you will have an expanded knowledge and understanding of Eastern and Western Jewish communities, the origins and development of antisemitism, the formation and operation of concentration camps, the resistance movements, and the Holocaust as a problem for world-history. Additionally, you will have engaged with the problematics of representation, memory, "the memorial", and witnessing.

This course is supported by the Neufeld-Levin Chair in Holocaust studies.


Module 1 - Emancipation, Acculturation, and Assimilation
Tec, Nehama. Dry Tears.
Bauer. Chapter One "Who are the Jews?"
Dan Pagis, some poems will be provided
Film: Image Before My Eyes

Module 2 - Shtetl Life and the Pale of Settlement
Badenheim 1939
Sholem Aleichem's "On Account of a Hat"
Bauer. Chapter Two
Film: Everything Is Illuminated

Module 3 - Narrating Modern Jewish Success and Nazi Antisemitism
Levi, Primo. Survival in Auschwitz (part 1)
Bauer. Chapters 6&7
Film: Shoah (excerpts)

Module 4 - Witnessing and Postmemory
Levi, Primo. Survival in Auschwitz (part 2)
Wiesel, Elie. Night. (part 1)
Bauer. Chapters 8&9
Paul Celan's poem "Death Fugue"
Film: Night & Fog

Module 5 - Nazi Racial Laws/Demolition of the Jews
Wiesel, Elie. Night  (part 2)
Schwartz-Bart. The Last of the Just [excerpts]
Film: Europa, Europa

Module 6 - Nazi Germany and the Totalitarian State
Browning, Christopher. Ordinary Men. [Excerpts]
Bauer. Chapter 11
Film: Divided We Fall

Module 7 - Ghettos/Resistance
Arieti, Silvano. The Parnas
Bauer. Chapter 12
Film: Partisans of Vilna

Module 8 - Establishing Extermination Centers
Borowski, Tadeusz. The Way for the Gas Ladies and Gentlemen
Bauer. Chapter 13
Film: The Wannsee Conference

Module 9 - The Hungarian Experience of the Holocaust
Kertész, Imre. Fatelessness
Kertész, Imre. "Who Owns Auschwitz?"
Bauer. Chapter 14
Film: The Pianist

Module 10 - Deportations & The Legacy of the Holocaust
Fink, Ida. A Scrap of Time
Film: The Shop on Main Street

Taught by

Murray Baumgarten and Peter Kenez


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4.8 rating, based on 10 reviews

Start your review of The Holocaust

  • Matt

    Matt completed this course.

    Professors Baumgarten and Kenez each present about an hour of lecture each week with Prof Kenez giving more of a history lecture and Prof Baumgarten more of a literature lecture. They often interact with each other during the videos which is where having...
  • Jan Carr

    Jan Carr completed this course.

    This is one of the best courses I have ever taken, either online or on campus. It has been a great experience because of the unique partnership of the instructors -- Kenez (historian) and Baumgarten (literature scholar). Kenez provides the necessary...
  • Carol Colffield

    Carol Colffield completed this course.

    Outstanding course! Professors Kenez and Baumgarten have taken us students, on a journey of enormous complexity. However, their approach, in which a dialogue between the Professors translated into a dialogue between History and Literature enriched the...
  • Rosette Rozenberg

    Rosette Rozenberg completed this course.

    The Holocaust is my third Coursera course and the one with which I have engaged the most. It is also the one on which I have spent the most time because it is so compelling. I very much like the interplay between the historical perspective and the literary...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This is a brilliant course! I only planned to audit the lectures, and I found that the literature classes were not very viable for me, as I had no access to the texts (nor time to read them) but my original degree was in literature and I can see that they would have been very valuable to people doing the full course.

    I did watch all of the history lectures, and I found them most compelling. Peter Kenez impressed with his comprehensive understanding of C20th Europe, and with the thoroughness of his approach. I was particularly moved by the quiet dignity and humanity with which he told of these most dreadful events. This course has been a privilege to watch, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.
  • Susan Drogalis

    Susan Drogalis completed this course.

    I love this class. First of all the approach is different than any other Holocaust class I have ever taken before. It is about a 50/50 split between straight history and Holocoaust related literature. This is the way history should be taught - the literature,...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Two wonderful lecturers! I liked that they are always present on stage and give inputs to each other. Peter is a historian. Murray focuses on literature. I recommend this course to everyone, it is very rewarding. There are 3 short assignments. The only drawback is: You could spend the whole week on the material. So the best thing would be to only select this single course. ;-)
  • Stuart Snyder

    Stuart Snyder completed this course.

    The class is fascinating for anyone who has an interest in the Holocaust or for those who want to learn more. Professor Kenez is a holocaust survivor. I do think the course is a bit lengthy and should be split in 2. Part of the course is on holocaust literature discussing the meaning of words or what did the author really mean. I'm more interested in the history than the meaning of what the word meaning really means.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Not only were the lectures fantastic, but the forum moderator was really helpful as well. I felt connected to the material and to the students. There were many technical issues at first (poor audio quality, quiz troubles, etc.) but that doesn't matter. This is a valuable and wonderful course. Please please offer it again.
  • Helga Maria Saboia Bezerra

    Helga Maria Saboia Bezerra completed this course.

    This was the best Coursera course I've ever taken. I strongly recommend it!

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