Title: Sociology and the Holocaust

Comparative Modern Societies: The Third Reich and the Holocaust
V93.0133-001, Fall 2005
Mondays and Wednesdays, 9:30-10:45 AM, Waverly 668
Download the complete syllabus in .pdf format
Registered students only: the Blackboard site for this course (log in with your NYU Home username and password)

Mikaila Mariel Lemonik Arthur     marthur AT ric DOT edu 
Office Hours: Wednesdays 11-12:40 or By Appointment, 269 Mercer Rm. 436
Monika Krause                          Monika.Krause AT nyu.edu 
Office Hours: By Appointment Only, 269 Mercer Rm. 814

Course Description:
The Holocaust was an extreme and a unique event in human history. But it was hardly a “historical accident”. Over a period of more than a decade, Jews, homosexuals, Roma, political adversaries, and mentally and physically disabled people were systematically marginalized and later murdered. This immense act of destruction required the co-ordination of millions of peoples’ actions. How could this happen in the twentieth century, at the height of modern western civilization, in a country respected for its achievements in the arts, in literature and in philosophy?

This question remains challenging to us today. Have we fully understood what made this event possible? What are the implications of the fact that this happened for our assumptions about modern society? How can we as citizens learn lessons from the Holocaust and how do we include them in our everyday practice? The course asks systematically over the course of a semester: how could this happen and what can we learn about modern social life—including contemporary US society—by looking at evidence about the Holocaust?

This course gives you an opportunity to think about key issues in contemporary social life through a systematic engagement with modernity’s most extreme event. You will learn—among other things—about the specific role of racism, the state, bureaucratic organizations, and capitalism in modern life. It will equip you to better:
  • employ key concepts of the sociological tradition in analyzing modern social life;
  • assess explanations of the Holocaust;
  • think critically about the assumptions we make about social life around us. Can they account of the fact that the Holocaust could and did happen or do they need to be rethought in the light of this event?; and
  • reflect on the ethical and political implications of being a citizen after the holocaust–within the university and outside.

Course Requirements:
Regular attendance and class participation are expected of all students, as is the completion of all reading assignments. Part of being prepared for class is being able to discuss the reading assignments. Discussion questions to help you prepare for class can be found in Blackboard.

The required materials for this course include two books and a reading packet:
Todorov, Facing the Extreme and Wiesel, Night are available at Shakespeare and Company Booksellers, 716 Broadway, or on reserve in the library
A photocopied reading packet consisting of the bulk of required readings is available at New University Copy, 11 Waverly Place.

Your grade in this course will be determined as follows:
Class participation:                       5%
Midterm Exam (take-home):          15%
Final Exam (in-class):                   30%
Essays (5; 10% each):                 50% (Assignments to be distributed in class and via Blackboard)
[back to top]

Course Schedule:
Readings are due in class on the date for which they are listed. All readings are in the reading packet except for the Todorov and Wiesel readings.
W 9/7
Introduction to the Course
Be sure to review the detailed syllabus (available above), log into the Blackboard site, read the academic integrity statement in the syllabus, and buy the reading packet/course books.
M 9/12
The Holocaust and Modernity
Adorno, "Education After Auschwitz" (from Never Again! The Holocaust's Challenge for Educators)
Weissmark, "Introduction" to Justice Matters
W 9/14
Why Germany?
Goldhagen, "Introduction" and "Explaining the Perpetrators' Actions" from Hitler's Willing Executioners
Elias, "Introduction" from The Germans
M 9/19
Why Not?
Browning, "Ordinary Men" and "Afterword" from Ordinary Men
W 9/21
Modernity: The Classical Tradition in Sociology
Simmel, "The Metropolis and Mental Life"
Weber, "Bureaucracy"
M 9/26
Modernity and Racism
Postone, "Abstract Labor" from Time, Labor, and Social Domination
Gilroy, "Modernity and Infra-Humanity" from Against Race
First Essay Due: Why Germany/Why Not?
W 9/28
Racism, Part II
Postone, "Anti-Semitism and National Socialism," New German Critique 1
Gilman, "Are Jews White?"
M 10/3
The State: Bureaucracy
Browning, "The German Bureaucracy and the Holocaust" from Genocide
Baumann, "The Scandal of Ambivalence" from Modernity and Ambivalence
W 10/5
No Class: Rosh Hashanah
M 10/10
No Class: Columbus Day
W 10/12
The State: Bureaucracy II and International Aspects
Wyman, "Background" and "The War Refugee Board" from The Abandonment of the Jews
Second Essay Due: Modernity, Bureaucracy, and Racism
M 10/17
International Aspects of the Holocaust
Wyman, "Conclusion" and "Afterword" from Abandonment of the Jews
Black, "A Nazi Medal for Watson" from IBM and the Holocaust
W 10/19
Viewing the Holocaust
Film TBA
M 10/24
The Camp and State-Citizenship
Arendt, "The Perplexities of the Rights of Man" from The Origins of Totalitarianism
Take-Home Midterm Due
W 10/26
The Camp and State-Citizenship II
Raluff, "Interview with Giorgio Agamben" in German Law Journal 5:5
Krause, "Statelessness Today" (to be distributed via Blackboard)
M 10/31
The Logic of Profit
Hays, "Commerce and Complicity" from Industry and Ideology
Hilberg, "Aryanizations" from The Destruction of European Jews
Marx, "Wage Labor and Capital"
W 11/2
The Logic of Profit II
Black, "The Spoils of Genocide II" from IBM and the Holocaust
Pross, "Taking Stock" from Paying for the Past
M 11/7
Profit and Technology
Black, "The Dehomag Revolt" and "France and Holland" from IBM and the Holocaust
Aly and Roth, "Introduction," "Statistics on Jews," and "The Value of a Human Being" from The Nazi Census
Third Essay Due: Comparisons
W 11/9
Science, Medicine, and Technology
Proctor, "The Destruction of Lives Not Worth Living" from Racial Hygiene
Benedict, "Caring While Killing" from Women & Expression
M 11/14
Science, Medicine, and Technology II
Mistenlich, "The Euthanasia Program," "Seven Were Hanged," and "The Meaning of Guilt" from Doctors of Infamy
Hilberg, "Medical Experiments" from The Destruction of European Jews
W 11/16
Obedience Within Organizations
Arendt, "The Accused," "An Expert on the Jewish Question," "Duties of a Law-Abiding Citizen," and "Judgment, Appeal, and Execution," from Eichmann in Jerusalem
Milgram, "Some Conditions of Obedience and Disobedience to Authority," from Human Relations
M 11/21
Obedience and Morality
Todorov, "Neither Monsters nor Bests" in Facing the Extreme
Fourth Essay Due: Science and Technology
W 11/23
Moral Life in Extreme Conditions
Todorov, "Prologue" and "Neither Heroes nor Saints" in Facing the Extreme
M 11/28
Moral Life and Resistance
Todorov, "Facing Evil" and "Epilogue" in Facing the Extreme
W 11/30
Cooperation vs. Resistance
Glass, "Two Models of Political Organization," American Behavioral Scientist 43:2
Linn, "Between History and Memory" from Escaping Auschwitz
M 12/5
Resistance and Solidarity
Tec, "Jewish Resistance in Belorussian Forests" from Resisting the Holocaust
Neiberger, "An Uncommon Bond of Friendship" from Resisting the Holocaust
W 12/7
Current Challenges I
Newspaper articles TBA
Begin reading Night
M 12/12
Current Challenges II
Newspaper articles TBA
Complete reading Night
W 12/14
Course Review and Summary
Final Essay Due: Night and the Moral World
Final Examination
[back to top]

Copyright 2005 Mikaila Mariel Lemonik Arthur.