Pre-College Programs
Summer@Brown Courses

« Return to Course Catalog

Debates on the Holocaust

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

Course Description

There is hardly an event in recent history as prominent in the cultural imagination or as publicly remembered as the Holocaust. And yet for all this attention there is scarcely another topic in history about which even fundamental explanations elude scholarly consensus. This course “Debates on the Holocaust” will engage in-depth with the five most crucial, prominent and challenging of the debates that still occupy historians on this subject matter.

The focus on the course is the emergence of a series of debates among historians about fundamental questions of causality, chronology, motivation and context regarding the complex of historical events now known as the Holocaust. Topics to be covered include, the "functionalist" vs. "intentionalist" debate, the question of an "order" or starting point for the Nazi genocide, whether it served an instrumental function or severely hampered Germany's war effort, and finally the role of Jewish organizations and possible Allied intervention. In each instance these issues or problems are linked with a specific question of method in the discipline of history, such as periodization, causality, motivation, as well as the issue of boundaries between historical sub-disciplines such as social and intellectual history. Therefore this course presents a unique and engaging way to first gain exposure and assimilate foundation historical categories and methods, and can also serve as an ideal vehicle to provide the foundation for further study in a variety of fields of the humanities.

Students will have a basic grasp of key elements of the history and historiography of the study of genocide in general and that of the Holocaust in particular, including the major texts and the fundamental ideas of historians on this topic. In addition to receiving familiarity with basic methods and concepts of the discipline of history, students will be able to critical formulate their ideas through oral and written forms and be able to refine their skill in the formulation of analytic questions.

As the focus of this course is on specific debates between historians, students will know first hand the importance and role of creativity and productive debate in the historical profession and the humanities in general.

The most crucial prerequisite is a high level of interest in the material and motivation to improve critical reading and writing skills. While they are no specific expectations of previous training students oriented towards the humanities would be best served by this course.