Paul Hinlicky and Rob Willingham

Download 20.46 Kb.
Size20.46 Kb.

The Holocaust—HIST/RELG 246A

Paul Hinlicky and Rob Willingham

Spring Semester, 2007—Block E5: Mondays, 5:45-8:45

Roanoke College


The Holocaust of the Jews of Europe represents perhaps the lowest point of the human experience. All of humanity’s energy for violence and evil reached a feverish pitch in Europe in the 1940’s, as roughly six million Jews were murdered, along with perhaps as many victims from other groups.

Why? What happened in Germany, in Europe, and in the world at that time to make it all possible? This class will spend a great deal of effort trying to answer that question. We will look at the causes of the Holocaust in German politics, in European intellectual and religious history, and in the state of the world in the first part of the 20th century.
The Holocaust was an historical catastrophe of almost unimaginable proportions, which destroyed not only the lives of 6 million or more Jews (the primary target of the Nazi genocide) but the previous self-understanding of European humanity as a Christian people progressing toward human brother/sisterhood. What is to be made of this event requires of us not only detailed and careful historical study but philosophical reflection on the sources of the event and religious interpretation of its significance for the human future.
1. To acquire basic historical knowledge of the Nazis’ “war against the Jews” and others

2. To learn the debates among interpreters about the origins and motivations of the killers, the experience, suffering and resistance of the victims, and the responsibility of bystanders and possible rescuers

3. To understand philosophical and religious sources of the Holocaust

4. To study the philosophical and religious reflections on the future of civilization and faith in God after the Holocaust

5. To practice research and formal writing skills

6. To acquire the skill of reasoned debate on difficult and sensitive questions

Contacting the instructors:

Dr. Hinlicky:

Office hours: TTH, 9-11

Office: West hall, 303

Phone: x2454

Dr. Willingham:

Office hours: MWF 10:50-11:50

Office: West hall, 014

Phone: x2422



  1. A test on The War Against the Jews: 15%

  2. A midterm exam: 20%

  3. Four short papers in response to readings: 5% each

  4. Two pop quizzes: 5% each

  5. A (non-comprehensive) final exam: 25%

  6. Class participation: 10%

  7. There will also be a series of films made available as the course progresses, short responses to which will count as extra credit


You need to be aware of the following course policies:

  1. Attendance: Regular attendance and informed participation based upon the assigned readings constitute the minimal core requirement. As this course meets only once a week, if you miss more than one class period without advance notice and the permission of the instructor you can expect a letter of warning. You may expect to be dropped from the course upon a second unexcused absence. Also, please note that the pop quizzes cannot be made up.

  2. Late assignments: assignments are due at the beginning of class on the day they are due. For every 24 hours that your assignment is late, the assignment grade drops one full letter. Weekend days count.

  3. Grading:

F: Writing which shows no evidence of having researched or understood the assigned topic, with spelling and grammatical errors. Example: “Aristotle was a aristocrat who thohgt he was better than other’s cause he got character.”

D: Writing which does not explain, evaluate or analyze the topic but simply agrees or disagrees with some one else’s description posing no deeper questions. Example: “I agree with Aristotle that character counts, because in a democracy everyone’s equal.”

C: Writing which presents a plausible interpretation of the sense of the topic by correctly citing passages and relating it a coherent way. No spelling or grammatical errors. Example: “Aristotle is called the father of character ethics. He observed that human beings are not born morally good, but only potentially good. Thus moral education which forms character is essential to the good life and the good society.”

B: Writing which in addition to providing a plausible interpretation also delves into the complexities of the topic and the issues it raises (or fails to raise). The “B” paper is critically engaged with the assignment, putting questions back to the sources and wondering how the topic or argument works in present circumstances. No spelling or grammatical errors and stylistically clear and pleasant to read. Example: “Aristotle’s character ethic has much to commend it, since he clearly sees the necessity of the moral education of the young. But his rationalistic notion of human nature is a problem for us today, because it excluded slaves and women from the purview of the moral life.”

A: Writing which in addition to plausible interpretation, critical engagement and good style evinces the student’s own creative engagement with the issue raised by the topic. An “A” paper goes one step beyond (but does not skip over!) how the subject matter is to be understood, and speaks to the issues raised by it. Example: “Aristotle’s view of character formation, if it can be decoupled from his rationalistic notion of human nature, can be integrated with a more historical and holistic view of human nature. We would then understand that the formation of human character always reflects some social narrative which tells us how the world is and so guides us into the unknown future. The primary question in ethics is: What narrative do I belong to? How does it inform my life and form my character?”

Calculating the grade

In calculating your grade, I employ the following grading scale: A: 100-94; A- 93-90; B+ 89-87; B 86-83; B- 82-80; C+ 79-77’ C 76-73; C- 72-70; D 69-65; F less than 65. The proportions are as follows: 7 Quizzes (3% each = 21% of total grade); 6 Homework or Research Writing Assignments (4% each = 24% of total grade); Exams: Midterm (20%), Comprehensive Final (30%); Class participation, 5%.

  1. Disabilities: if you are on record with the College’s Special Services as having special academic of physical needs requiring accommodations, please meet with us as soon as possible. We need to discuss your accommodations before they can be implemented. Also, please note that arrangements for extended time on exams and testing in a semi-private setting must be made at least one week before exams.

  2. Cell phones and pagers must be turned off prior to entering the classroom.

  3.  The use of any electronic device during a quiz or exam is strictly prohibited. This includes Palm Pilots, Pocket PCs, and Blackberries. Any use of such devices during a quiz or exam will be considered a breach of academic integrity.

  4. All work must comply with the Roanoke College Code of Academic Integrity.

Required texts:
Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men. A now-classic examination of the motivation of individual Germans who participated in killings of Jews.
Lucy Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews. One of the handful of fundamental narrative histories of the Holocaust.
Donald Niewyk, The Holocaust, 3rd Edition. A collection of essays on major themes of the genocide by eminent scholars.
Art Spiegelman, Maus. A genre-founding graphic novel about the Holocaust, memory and family.
Richard Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity. A morally and intellectually challenging assessment of the relationship between Christian tradition and the National Socialist movement.
Kathrine Kressmann Taylor, Day of No Return. A fictionalized memoir of an anti-Nazi German pastor.
Please have the reading done ahead of time, in order to facilitate discussion.
Schedule [this is tentative, and we reserve the right to change it, with notice]:

Unit 1: What happened—read The War against the Jews
15 January: introduction of themes
22 January: From Kristallnacht to the camps. Prepare section III from Niewyk
29 January: Non-Jewish victims; Hitler’s Moral Agency. Prepare “Hitler’s Decisive Role” from Niewyk
Unit 2: The origins of genocide—Read The Holy Reich and Day of No Return
5 February: The evolution of anti-Semitism: from the Bible to today. Read chapter one from Holy Reich. Test on “The War Against the Jews.
12 February: As a driven leaf: Jewish history; the problems of resistance. Prepare “Anti-Semitism through the Ages”, “Two Thousand Years of Jewish Appeasement” and “Forms of Jewish Resistance” from Niewyk. Read chapter two from Holy Reich.
19 February: Philosophers, the modern and the road to Auschwitz. Prepare “The Nazi Doctors” from Niewyk. Read chapters three and four from Holy Reich.
26 February: A Special Path? On the nature of German Nationalism. Read chapters five and six from Holy Reich.
5 March: no class for spring break
12 March: Midterm Examination. Paper due on Holy Reich.
19 March: Germany from 1870-1938. Read 1st half of Day of No Return.
23-24 March: Trip to Washington DC.
Unit 3: A deeper look—Read Ordinary Men
26 March: Theologians for Hitler. Read to page 70 in Ordinary Men. Paper due on Day of No Return
2 April: Theologians against Hitler; the role of the Vatican. Prepare “The Silence of Pius XII” in Niewyk. Read to page 142 in Ordinary Men.
9 April: Perpetrators and bystanders. Prepare “Hitler’s Willing Executioners” and “Western Europeans and the Jews” from Niewyk. Paper due on Ordinary Men.
Unit 4: Is there meaning?—read Maus
16 April: Christian-Jewish rapprochement.
23 April: politics and memory after Auschwitz. Prepare “The Failure to Comprehend” in Niewyk and Maus.
30 April: Final Examination, 6:30-9:30. Paper due on Maus.

Download 20.46 Kb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2023
send message

    Main page