Overview

Welcome to the EHRI Online Course in Holocaust Studies. We want to provide teachers, lecturers and students with source material and background information in order to give them an overview on recent trends in historiography. Since it is not possible to cover all the manifold topics encompassed by modern historical Holocaust research, EHRI has decided to develop a course that teaches by using selected representative examples: five overarching topics have been developed for the online course. Each of these topics is used to focus on a critical analysis of sources within the context of the current state and methods of Holocaust research.

The following topics have been chosen:

Each unit will include a general introduction as well as a discussion of the historiography of the subject at hand and an appraisal of the pertinent source types. Subsequently, approximately five chapters will offer perspectives on chosen central issues of the topic. Each of these chapters will consist of an introduction to the specific issue as well as about ten sources (including texts, photographs, sound and video sources). Sources will be presented first in facsimile wherever possible, followed by a transcription in the original language where legibility is an issue. This is to ensure that students appreciate the linguistic dimensions of Holocaust research as well as the often challenging layout and appearance of original documents. In the coming months, translations of the text documents will be added. The translations are carefully considered, so that they may be of use to students and researchers in as definitive a way as possible.

The units or chapters can be used for teaching as a whole or in part. Questions for self-study and for use in a seminary context can include topics such as the following:

  • What differences of daily life can be discerned in comparing ghettos and camps? What light is shed by the differences in perspective and experience?
  • How do perpetrator and Jewish sources differ in the description of similar phenomena? How can they supplement each other? What areas do they leave untouched?
  • What are the differences in persecution and the experience of persecution in East and West?
  • What differences and commonalities can be discerned in the reaction of the non-Jewish local population in Western Europe and in Ukraine?
  • What information can be obtained from propaganda/highly antisemitic sources?
  • How do post-war sources differ in perspective to more contemporary sources (both perpetrator and Jewish sources)? How does hindsight affect them?
  • Discuss the issue of translated sources – to what extent does a researcher have to be careful in avoiding interpretation errors when using translations of original documents?
  • Discuss the different approaches needed to gain insight through photographs and pictures vs. text sources. What types of source criticism are more particular to audio and video sources?
  • How do public and non-public perpetrator documents differ?
  • How are moral dilemmas dealt with in the sources – in Jewish, perpetrator (esp. Post-war) and “bystander” sources?
  • What approaches are necessary when dealing with ego-documents? What thinking stood behind Jewish attempts at self-documentation?
  • What role did labour play in different contexts of Nazi anti-Jewish persecution?
  • Discuss the difficulties encountered by Jewish resistance groups as reflected in the selected sources.
  • How did pre-war antisemitic predispositions influence behaviour during the Holocaust?
  • What linguistic dimensions colour sources of an administrative nature as opposed to more individual documents?
  • How do post-war interviews and judicial interrogations differ in their interest and structure?
  • What role did Jewish property play during different stages and in different regions of the Holocaust?