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date: 22 October 2020


Abstract and Keywords

This introductory article begins with a brief discussion of the development of Holocaust studies. It then describes how the present book differs from related books in at least three respects. First, it primarily features articles by the second and third generations of Holocaust scholars, rather than direct contributions by the pioneers in the field. Second, the book bridges a perhaps widening gap between various disciplinary approaches to the study of the Holocaust. Third, a substantial portion of the book is devoted to the Holocaust's aftermath, engaging issues that the historically-oriented titles mention but do not emphasize.

Keywords: Holocaust studies, Holocaust scholars, aftermath

Every book begins before its first page. This volume's immediate origins lie in a message that John Roth received from Lucy Qureshi on 5 September 2005. Then the commissioning editor for religion and theology at Oxford University Press, Qureshi wanted to know about the feasibility of an Oxford Handbook of Holocaust Studies. Primarily focused on Nazi Germany's genocidal assault against the Jews, such a work, she indicated, would be a tall order, for it would need to be an authoritative, up‐to‐date guide to both the state of the interpretive art and the salient issues and debates that have driven research about the Holocaust to date and are likely to do so in the future. Discussion between Qureshi and Roth soon included Peter Hayes. In mid‐November 2005, Hayes and Roth submitted a proposal to Qureshi, who obtained a number of very helpful readers' reports that prompted the editors to think boldly about the proposed structure of the work. Then contributors were invited; chapters written, critiqued, and redone; kind agreement was obtained from Ava Schieber, a Holocaust survivor, to let us use her art for the book's cover; and under the direction of the editorial team at Oxford University Press—Tom Perridge, Elizabeth Robottom, Jenny Wagstaffe, Tessa Eaton, and the copyeditor Malcolm Todd—publication of The Oxford Handbook of Holocaust Studies followed.

Because the subject at hand is a historical one, however, its beginnings obviously antedate 2005. Without earlier developments, no Handbook of Holocaust Studies could exist. Even the name is a historical product. In Israel and some European countries, the preferred umbrella term for the events treated here is the Hebrew (p. 2) word Shoah, signifying catastrophic destruction. Many scholars favor this term because Holocaust derives from an ancient Greek word used to denote offerings made by fire unto God and thus carries religious and/or sanctifying connotations. Nonetheless, since its introduction in the 1950s, Holocaust has become the most prevalent and widely recognized descriptor and been adopted as such by many languages. Rather like the term “Renaissance,” which many specialists think has misleading implications, Holocaust has taken root nonetheless both in English and elsewhere. Although the editors of this volume believe that neither name—Holocaust or Shoah—takes the measure of the onslaught perpetrated by Nazi Germany, they also think that Holocaust studies has become and is likely to remain the most commonly understood heading for work in the area and therefore the appropriate title rubric.

Terminology aside, the origins of Holocaust studies are coeval with the events they treat. As numerous contemporary documents and diaries demonstrate, recording and reflecting upon the destruction unleashed by Adolf Hitler (1889–1945), his followers, and their collaborators began while it raged. Subsequent efforts by survivors and scholars, artists and filmmakers, research centers and museums, teachers and students have extracted and expanded the meaning of these records and produced the field of Holocaust studies, its focus scholarly but not confined to universities and colleges, its scope international, and its vitality robust. Although memory, memories, and remembering have been watchwords of this development and given it powerful and positive impetus, they also played catastrophic roles in bringing on the Holocaust itself. That circumstance represents another respect in which the origins and nature of the field remain entwined and subjects of constant reflection.

In recent decades, few scholarly fields have developed more rapidly and vigorously than this one. Building on formidable, often underestimated beginnings during the Holocaust and in the early postwar decades, scholarship about the persecution and murder of the European Jews and its aftereffects has generated an enormous literature in multiple academic disciplines. Indeed, the Holocaust has become a touchstone of public and intellectual discourse—political, ethical, and religious—in the early twenty‐first century. As the importance of the field has grown, so has the recognition that, if the Holocaust was the quintessential genocide—defined as the intended destruction, in whole or in part, of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group—it was neither the first nor the last. How the field of Holocaust studies and the more recently emerging field of genocide studies should relate to one another is work in progress, not least because the issue raises complicated, sometimes charged issues of comparing and contrasting. Arguably even more demanding is the challenge of making the ethical “lessons” of the Holocaust, if they exist, credible and compelling in a world from which genocide and other inflictions of mass violence show too few signs of disappearing. (p. 3)

Taking stock of a field that both crosses and respects the traditional boundaries of academic disciplines, the forty‐seven essays in this book summarize the state of knowledge and debate about their respective topics and interpret the issues at hand and the challenges for research that lie ahead. The volume differs from related books in at least three respects. First, by primarily featuring chapters by the second and third generations of Holocaust scholars, rather than direct contributions by the pioneers in the field—for example, Yehuda Bauer (b. 1926), Henry Friedlander (b. 1930), Saul Friedländer (b. 1932), Raul Hilberg (1926–2007), and Gerhard Weinberg (b. 1928)—or by other significant senior figures who have retired from teaching (works by some of these senior scholars figure prominently in many of the essays), the book seeks to represent the field at a key juncture in its own evolution.

Second, the book bridges a perhaps widening gap between various disciplinary approaches to the study of the Holocaust. In particular, the preoccupations of Holocaust historians frequently differ greatly from those of colleagues whose interests arise out of somewhat more theoretical or artistic fields. Indeed, the principal books that might be likened to this one fall decisively on one side or another of this divide. Michael Marrus, The Holocaust in History (1987), Michael Berenbaum and Abraham J. Peck (eds.), The Holocaust and History (1998), Dan Stone (ed.), The Historiography of the Holocaust (2004), Donald Bloxham and Tony Kushner, The Holocaust: Critical Historical Approaches (2005), and Dan Stone, Histories of the Holocaust (2010) all focus mainly on historical issues and historians' concerns. Neil Levi and Michael Rothberg (eds.), The Holocaust: Theoretical Readings (2003) and R. Clifton Spargo and Robert M. Ehrenreich (eds.), After Representation? The Holocaust, Literature, and Culture (2010) are representative examples of similar sorts of work focused on literary or cultural studies. Michael L. Morgan (ed.), A Holocaust Reader: Responses to the Nazi Extermination (2001), Eve Garrard and Geoffrey Scarre (eds.), Moral Philosophy and the Holocaust (2003), David Patterson and John K. Roth (eds.), After‐Words: Post‐Holocaust Struggles with Forgiveness, Reconciliation, Justice (2004), and David Patterson and John K. Roth (eds.), Fire in the Ashes: God, Evil, and the Holocaust (2005) explore philosophical and religious reflections on the Holocaust, but none of these volumes does the bridgework found here, which encourages readers to rethink and extend what they “know” about the Holocaust and its aftereffects. Third, a substantial portion of the book is devoted to the Holocaust's aftermath, engaging issues that the historically‐oriented titles just mentioned do not emphasize. Thus, the Handbook addresses those interested in the Holocaust's implications for postwar political, philosophical, judicial, ethical, and religious developments.

Conventional treatments of the Holocaust often emphasize a three‐dimensional analysis that concentrates on perpetrators, victims, and bystanders. Gestures are made to the pre‐1933 context and to some of the post‐Holocaust implications and reverberations of the Nazi genocide, but typically the latter topics are not discussed in much detail. Without abandoning insights from the perpetrator–victim–bystander (p. 4) rubric, the organization and content of The Oxford Handbook of Holocaust Studies call for reevaluation, stress new historical findings, encourage exploration of heretofore unraised questions, advance interdisciplinary perspectives and integrative approaches, and expand the contextual horizons—before and after the Holocaust—in order to increase understanding of the genocide and its implications.


Part I of the book consists of six chapters that concentrate on enablers, the broad and necessary contextual conditions for the Holocaust, and stresses the ways in which attitudes or experiences associated with each of the title terms were linked by particular actors to the occurrence of the Holocaust. These chapters, like all good historical analysis of causation, seek to strike the appropriate interpretive balance between individual agency and the force of influential currents of opinion at a given time and place. A governing theme throughout the book, supported by and influencing research, is that specific conditions, decisions, and actions were necessary for the Holocaust to happen, but it was neither fated nor determined. The Holocaust happened because humans made certain choices and rejected others, often abetted by intellectual environments that narrowed their horizons and disposed them in cruel directions. Thus, human agency, accountability, and responsibility loom large in the chapters that follow, including those on the enablers of the Holocaust.

Antisemitism, science, nationalism, colonialism, fascism, and the world wars were all contributors to the occurrence of the Holocaust, but issues remain and debates swirl regarding exactly how so. Richard Levy's opening chapter addresses the phenomenon of organized antisemitism in the sixty years preceding the “Final Solution,” primarily in Germany but with comparisons to contemporaneous developments elsewhere in Europe. The author assesses theories that attempt to account for the appearance of political movements aimed at disempowering Jews, profiles the creators and proponents of antisemitic ideology, identifies the social groups they sought to mobilize, and notes the widespread failure of these movements to achieve their goals prior to 1933. Levy finds that decades of organized antisemitism prepared the way for the Holocaust chiefly by eroding popular willingness to defend, indeed to care about, the rights and fates of Jews.

Patricia Heberer's chapter shows how science and medicine, as practiced by influential researchers and physicians in Nazi Germany, were also among the enablers of the Holocaust. The discussion explores a disturbing paradox that remains at the center of research in this area of Holocaust studies: National (p. 5) Socialism's aim to destroy Jews and other “inferior” groups was legitimated and promoted by respected members of one of the world's preeminent scientific communities. This reality raises a vexing question: Was there such a thing as Nazi science, and, if so, what were its defining features? Investigation of those issues reveals how Nazi authorities harnessed the efforts of scientists and physicians, not only to fuel Germany's war machine and to advance its prestige abroad, but also to achieve the regime's ideological goals and to implement many of its most radical racialist policies.

National Socialism sought a radical restructuring of the European population. The drive to assert German domination over the continent entailed not only territorial conquest and political dictatorship but also demographic engineering, in which the annihilation of the Jews was the core aspiration. Eric Weitz shows that a program of this sort was one possible outcome of nationalism, since that idea and race thinking are closely linked. Both forms of understanding human diversity and defining community developed from the fifteenth and especially the eighteenth century onward in the western world. National Socialism provided particularly intertwined and vicious definitions of nation and race that reveal in stark terms how nationalism, which always carries an exclusionary component, was a necessary enabling condition for the Holocaust.

A long tradition of scholarship has posited colonialism and “racial imperialism” as an enabler of the genocide against European Jewry, though often in imprecise ways. In response, critics of this view have insisted that antisemitism and World War I were the salient enablers, and Germany's colonial experience was too ephemeral to have had serious causal importance. Dirk Moses's chapter changes the terms of debate by presenting the murderous National Socialist program as a colonial and imperial project executed in Europe to compensate for the loss of Germany's empire abroad and in central Europe in 1919. He argues that the style of occupation and warfare Germany conducted in realizing this project was colonial in nature and inspiration, and the Holocaust of European Jewry can be understood in terms of colonial logics as well. At least in part, the Holocaust was, for the Nazis, the attempt of an indigenous people—the Germans—to cast off the perceived exploitative rule of a foreign people: Jews.

Nazism is often distinguished from other European fascist movements, especially Italian fascism, on the grounds that racist antisemitism distinctively defined Nazi ideology and policy. While taking the importance of antisemitism to Nazism as a given, Philip Morgan maintains that racism and antisemitism were implicit in all fascist ideology, although articulated in different forms and ways by individual fascist movements. His analysis emphasizes the common population policies of the fascist regimes in Italy and Germany and evaluates recent scholarship that has changed our understanding of Italian fascist antisemitism and the role of fascism in making the Holocaust possible. (p. 6)

Doris Bergen brings Part I to a close by tracing the complex relationships between the two world wars and the Holocaust, as seen by contemporaries and as understood in hindsight. Jewish diarists knew their fates were linked to the war's outcome; some also noted that atrocity propaganda during the previous world war predisposed the Allies to dismiss evidence of the destruction of Jews. Hitler and other Nazis believed in the stab‐in‐the‐back myth as an explanation of Germany's defeat in World War I and prepared for and fought their own war accordingly, using massive plunder and slave labor to keep the home front happy and coming to insist on the total annihilation of all Jews everywhere as the only way to prevent another defeat. War enabled mass killing of disabled people and brought an ever‐widening circle of victims into German hands: Poles, black French soldiers, Soviet POWs, and millions of Jews, although the effects of specific military developments on the fate of Jews were often neither intended nor foreseeable.


Part II, which concentrates on the principal protagonists in the Holocaust, reflects this book's effort to disaggregate the conventional interpretive categories of perpetrator, victim, and bystander. The section explores not only the agency of Nazi leaders and the killers who showed initiative even as they executed orders from above, but also the efforts of Jews, including children and women, to resist and survive the onslaught against them, even as this assault struck them in distinct ways. The chapters under this heading also examine the motives and actions of institutions, such as the Christian churches and Allied and neutral governments, whose behavior affected the course of the Holocaust and its aftereffects. Taking the time‐worn term bystander to be too general and vague, this section suggests that the term on‐lookers may do better justice to the internal diversity of the category and includes a chapter on a subgroup that hardly fits under the usual tripartite division, namely those who risked their lives to rescue Jews.

Any credible account of the Holocaust's protagonists must begin with Hitler and Heinrich Himmler (1900–1945), the subjects of Alan Steinweis's chapter. Although research has shown that Nazi anti‐Jewish policy was propelled by a complex interaction between the “center” and the “periphery,” Hitler remained the decisive figure on key questions. When he did not issue specific instructions, he set the direction and goals of policy, permitting his subordinates to “work toward the Führer.” At pivotal moments, such as the launchings of the November pogrom of 1938 and the “Final Solution” in 1941, Hitler acted decisively to move anti‐Jewish measures to a higher level of brutality. Although Himmler did not play a key role in (p. 7) Nazi anti‐Jewish policy before World War II, he eventually came to be instrumental in translating Hitler's will into action. Himmler received this role because he had molded the SS into a cadre of hardened, dependable ideological soldiers who possessed the wherewithal and the motivation to undertake the difficult task of mass murder.

Looking beyond Hitler and the most prominent Nazi leaders, Christopher Browning demonstrates how lesser‐known “problem solvers” were essential Holocaust protagonists during four phases of Nazi Jewish policy: 1933–1939, when the regime disemancipated, isolated, and impoverished the Jews of Greater Germany and drove over half of them abroad; 1939–1940, when the regime sought to clear its expanding empire of Jews through schemes of massive ethnic cleansing; 1941, when the definition of a “Final Solution” to the self‐imposed Jewish Question became systematic and total mass murder; and 1942–1945, when the Third Reich tried to achieve this goal. At every turn, the regime encountered myriad problems. In a political culture encouraging activism and initiative, cadres of middle‐echelon experts, functionaries, and technocrats “working toward the Führer” made many of the decisions and devised many of the measures that drove this lethal radicalization.

These problem solvers included the killers who are the subject of Edward Westermann's chapter. The victims of the Holocaust died not only by the thousands in gas chambers and in mass shootings, but also daily in small groups or alone during cold‐blooded reprisals or at the whim of soldiers, policemen, and Nazi administrators. The executioners included the various forces of Himmler's SS and police empire, ethnic German and indigenous auxiliaries, and units of the German armed forces. Westermann lays bare the complex dispositional and situational factors that made these organizations so devastating to the regime's putative political, social, and racial enemies.

Absent “bystanders,” the perpetrators of the Holocaust could not have inflicted such harm on their victims. Yet that claim, which has been a chief ingredient of the conventional tripartite classification of actors in the genocide, obscures as much as it reveals. A key reason is that the “bystander” category embraces a larger and more heterogeneous population than its counterparts. Just as the category's boundaries are imprecise and fluctuating, so are the theoretical and methodological discussions about bystanders, all the more so because their passivity seems to arouse especially intense moral outrage in retrospect. Paul Levine explores how a different concept, “on‐lookers,” may deepen scholarly analysis by directing attention to protagonists who “viewed” the Holocaust in various ways, at different times, and in diverse political and social contexts, and then acted accordingly. Exploring how these on‐lookers, whether citizens of democracies or authoritarian states, faced similar dilemmas when formulating their responses to mass murder sheds light not only on key aspects of Holocaust history but also on the important role of effective teaching about this subject in education to prevent genocide. (p. 8)

Some witnesses to the plight of Jews under the swastika decided to intervene by becoming rescuers. Debórah Dwork shows that their actions evolved as the Nazi persecution radicalized: whereas “rescue” in the prewar years meant helping “refugees,” it meant hiding Jews and assisting their flight once Nazism expanded. Common to both periods, however, was the fact that rescuers—male and female, urban and rural, gentile and Jewish, of all ages, social classes, and degrees of religious observance—stepped forward individually and collectively, despite all odds, to save lives. The rescuers did not derail the Holocaust, but without them the number of Jewish deaths would have been larger and the genocide's aftereffects more devastating.

Identifying Jews solely as victims of the Holocaust, a classification long employed in Holocaust studies, begs more questions than it answers because this approach tends to underplay the active and even proactive stance of Jews who at every turn did what they could to defend and preserve their lives. At times paralleling Dwork's findings but also extending them, Dan Michman surveys the multiple ways in which Jews confronted the Holocaust. Following background discussion about Judaism and modern Jewish history, he examines how Jews in the 1930s and 1940s comprehended and reacted to the Nazi onslaught, examining Jewish leadership within and outside of Europe, ways of perseverance and resistance, and modes of documenting the Jewish experience. His chapter concludes with an account of Jewish losses and the Holocaust's impact on Jewish culture and peoplehood.

Holocaust studies recognized only haltingly the impact of gender differences on the roles of Jews as protagonists during the genocide, and correcting this shortcoming remains a work in progress. Lenore Weitzman advances that work by concentrating on the experiences of Jewish women during the Holocaust and comparing their predicaments with those of Jewish men. She highlights three topics: the initial responses of Jewish men and women to Nazi persecution, which reflected the traditional roles women played before World War II and therefore prioritized women's responsibilities as mothers, wives, and daughters; the Nazi policies and rules that treated men and women differently and created distinctive constraints and options for women; and the effect of specific problems in the ghettos and camps on women's coping strategies. Her analysis gives special attention to the fraught topic of the incidence of rape of Jewish women during the Holocaust.

That the Holocaust took an immense toll on children is a fact both well‐known and under‐researched in Holocaust studies. Typically overlooking how children took action rather than were acted upon, the popular depiction of children in the Holocaust tends toward the sentimental, with murdered innocence at its center. Nicholas Stargardt explores how historians, at least since the late 1980s, have subjected the experience of children to more searching analysis, without making their fate any less shocking. Nazism had a special interest in children, both in shaping the next generation of German children and in eliminating the offspring of (p. 9) Jews, Sinti, Roma, and other so‐called degenerates. At every stage of persecution, children were targeted in specific ways, from “Jew benches” in schools, through the medical killing of children in psychiatric asylums, to selection in the death camps. Children, however, were anything but passive victims. New research has revealed much about their experience of ghettoization, in particular their adeptness at smuggling, hiding, and adopting new identities, languages, and religious beliefs. Investigating children's relationships and roles helps delineate the forms and limits of youthful adaptation in extremity.

Catholic and Protestant churches were on‐lookers and sometimes worse, as their responses to persecution included forms of inaction that spilled over into complicity. Beginning with an examination of the corrupting influence of Catholic antisemitism on European Christians through the centuries and the role of religious prejudice in advancing racial antisemitism, Kevin Spicer explores the controversial choices and modulated actions of the Catholic Church. He devotes particular attention to German Catholicism's response to the question, “who is my neighbor?” and assesses the reaction and attitude of the Church hierarchy, especially Pope Pius XII (1876–1958), to Nazi acts of persecution.

Robert Ericksen takes up the so‐called Kirchenkampf (Church Struggle) waged by German Protestants in the Third Reich and finds that it hardly represented forthright opposition to the Nazi state, as claimed by some of its veterans after World War II. According to Ericksen, most Protestants were more supportive than resistant to the Nazi regime. Even the Confessing Church, once considered a resistance movement, showed considerable support for Hitler and little concern for the Jewish victims of his policies. The other side in the church struggle, the Deutsche Christen, sought to prove their Nazi credentials by separating Christianity from its Jewish roots, even suggesting an “Aryan Jesus.” Some Protestant individuals, such as Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945), did oppose Nazi policies at risk to their lives. More typical, however, was Gerhard Kittel (1888–1948), a renowned theologian who joined the Nazi Party in 1933, claimed a natural affinity between Christianity and Nazism, and engaged in polemics against Jews.

The Big Three Allies—Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union—ultimately brought vast military power to bear against the Third Reich, thus obtaining its unconditional surrender. But as Nazi pressure on Jews turned into the “Final Solution,” the Allies' actions usually did not assign priority to defending or rescuing the victims. Shlomo Aronson explains this pattern with reference to the Allies' prewar immigration and refugee policies, political and military objectives during World War II, and concerns about domestic public opinion. He finds that the Jewish fate was determined largely by the continuous interplay between Nazi Germany's antisemitic propaganda and the Allies' desire to avoid the impression that they were fighting to benefit the Jews. (p. 10)

Other groups—for example, Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, and Slavs—were swept up in the maelstrom of the Holocaust, but not for the same reasons as Jews and not with the same consequences. John Connelly shows that despite the absence of guidelines in the ideological writings of the top Nazi leadership, the Nazi regime raised popular German resentments and prejudices toward these groups to the level of policy, thus denying millions of human beings their elemental rights, often even their lives. In none of these cases, however, was the target group considered dangerous or coherent enough to warrant complete or immediate extirpation. This circumstance constitutes a significant difference from policies pursued toward the Jews, a difference that helps to clarify and define the Holocaust itself.


Because the actions of the Holocaust's protagonists and the forms the persecution took literally were grounded in particular places, sites, and physical circumstances, Part III concentrates on key Holocaust settings. Wolf Gruner begins by surveying the concept and reality of “Greater Germany.” After World War I, the idea of bringing all European Germans together in a single political entity was shared by many people, including Hitler. This “folkish” project entailed the expulsion of the Jews, but detailed directives from above for anti‐Jewish policy were lacking when the Nazis first came to power in 1933, so central, regional, and local administrations enjoyed enormous freedom of action. Many mayors and city officials, both National Socialists and non‐Party members among them, introduced measures excluding Jews from public facilities. Often extending beyond the few new national anti‐Jewish laws, such actions, coordinated by the German Council of Municipalities, were tolerated by the Nazi government. This controlled decentralization of anti‐Jewish policy dominated until 1938, when the annexation of Austria prompted a centralization of persecution and the increasing likelihood of war fostered radical new ideas, such as ghettoization and forced labor. Municipalities carried out the former, and the ministerial bureaucracy the latter, as well as the deportations of 1941–1943 that allowed Hitler and his government to realize, if only briefly, their Pan‐German dream.

That dream envisioned an expansion of “living space,” which oriented Hitler's regime eastward. Wendy Lower assesses Nazi intentions for eastern Europe, which were colonial by design, and discusses how Nazi leaders sought to restructure Germanized “living space” economically and racially. While underscoring the importance of the imperial context in which the Holocaust occurred, Lower also cautions that causally linking the campaigns of genocide and ethnic German (p. 11) resettlement can be misleading. She shows that the two processes were synchronized in wartime Poland, but far less so in Belorussia, Ukraine, and the Baltic states. Although settler colonialism and antisemitism were European traditions that the Nazis forged into one genocidal ideology, these two policy tracks often diverged in practice because of regional peculiarities, the changing conditions of the war, and the behavior of local collaborators.

Radu Ioanid's chapter on “Occupied and Satellite States” also underlines the many paradoxes that accompanied the destruction of European Jewry during World War II. Aside from Germany, no country was so directly involved in killing Jews as Romania, yet half of that country's Jewish population, the third largest in Europe, survived the Holocaust. Hungary participated in murdering most of its Jewish community near the end of the war, even after Germany's defeat and the likelihood of retribution for genocide had become clear. Bulgaria, another German ally, destroyed “only” the Jews from its newly acquired territories. In spite of prevalent and intense antisemitism, Croatia massacred more Serbs then Jews. The Netherlands, a country with relatively weak antisemitic traditions, lost a much larger share of its Jews than France, the home of the Dreyfus Affair, and Italy, although a German ally, was disinclined to let Jews under its jurisdiction be killed. In a chapter that helps to map the vastness of the Holocaust, Ioanid reveals how contemporary Holocaust scholarship interprets the origins and unfolding of these counterintuitive variations in behavior.

Every analysis of the Holocaust must deal with places such as ghettos, labor sites, and camps, but what are the most current findings and issues about them? Narratives about the ghettos in Warsaw and Łódź have dominated the depiction of Jewish ghettoization during the Holocaust, but Martin Dean shows that these two cases diverged considerably and were hardly representative. The Germans created more than 140 ghettos in the Polish territories incorporated into the Reich, approximately 380 in the General Government, and more than 600 in other occupied territories. Dean explores the similarities and differences that characterized this ghastly and still incompletely researched aspect of the Holocaust. Meanwhile, recent studies show that forced labor sites were far more numerous than previously thought. While maintaining that the term “slave labor” understates the condition of Jewish workers during the Nazi era, Mark Spoerer provides a taxonomy of the Nazi regime's use of forced, especially Jewish, labor from 1938 to 1945 and outlines the circumstances that made such labor lethal to greater or lesser degrees in particular times and places. Concluding Part III, Karin Orth shifts the focus on Holocaust settings to the evolution of the Nazi concentration camp system. She discusses how this system evolved from a relatively small network of installations dedicated to punishing “unreliable” Germans prior to World War II into an empire under the control of the Inspectorate of Concentration Camps (IKL) and the Economic Administration Main Office (WVHA) of the SS. Eventually, this system encompassed more than twenty main camps, some 900 satellite (p. 12) installations, and a prisoner population that peaked in 1944 at over 700,000. Six of these camps became devoted to the mass murder of the European Jews in ways and numbers that Orth summarizes.


The Holocaust's magnitude and devastation are known from documents and diaries, testimonies and trials, and artifacts and places, and because literature, film, art, music, memorials, museums, and other acts of remembering keep directing attention toward those realities. At every turn, however, questions remain about how the Holocaust can and should be grasped—detailed, described, depicted—for the event's vastness and particularity, its horrors and implications seem to confound articulation and comprehension. In response to those challenges, Holocaust studies rely on historical analysis, interpretation of texts, artistic creation and criticism, and philosophical and religious reflection to find the most adequate, if always fallible and limited, ways to state what happened and what the meaning of the event(s) or lack of meaning may be. Part IV turns to such issues by considering representations of the Holocaust.

Without documentation provided by German sources, understanding of the Holocaust would be severely hampered. Peter Fritzsche amplifies this point by showing that German government offices and private diarists and correspondents kept widely scattered but extensive records of the unfolding of the “Final Solution.” Anti‐Jewish legislation ensured that the paper trails of persecution ran to the far corners of the German bureaucracy. Moreover, the perpetrators of anti‐Jewish actions at the local and national level commemorated their deeds, in effect preparing initial drafts for a victorious history of the destruction of Jewish life. Private diaries and letters not only confirm the widespread knowledge that Germans came to share about the “Final Solution,” but also the process by which many of them came to endorse cruelty toward Jews.

Without documentation provided by Jewish sources, understanding of the Holocaust would be equally impaired. Arguably diary and memoir writing by Jews was the most significant and typical literary phenomenon of the Holocaust period. Amos Goldberg shows that Jews from almost all ages and cultural backgrounds wrote such documents in nearly all locations of persecution, including Auschwitz. Treating the “Holocaust diary” as a linguistic‐cultural phenomenon, this chapter offers a typology: the “documentary diary” focuses on recording events and raises the question of cultural continuity; the “synecdochical diary” concentrates on the writer's individual experience and its relation to history; the “ (p. 13) reflective diary” explores existential and semi‐philosophical issues. Goldberg concludes by examining the reception of diaries and commenting on whether these texts bear witness to the persistence of the human spirit or precisely the opposite.

Jews who fled or hid from the Nazis, endured the ghettos and camps, and survived shooting squadrons have provided eyewitness testimony that is invaluable for glimpsing what the Holocaust was and how it happened. But, as Henry Greenspan's chapter emphasizes, hearing or reading survivor testimony, really hearing or reading it, requires careful attention to detail, nuance, and even silence. Greenspan traces the history of survivors' recounting, from the testimony‐gathering projects immediately after liberation to the emergence of survivors in the public role of “witness” in recent decades. Throughout, the survivors' audiences (readers and listeners) have played a central, sometimes inhibiting, and sometimes facilitating role in retelling. Greenspan maintains that the core task of recounting is, as one survivor put it, to “make a story of what is ‘not a story.’” He reviews the use of survivors' narratives in historiography but rejects the proposition that recounting is simply “oral history.” Containing a wide range of personal responses to the destruction, survivor accounts equally include informative reflection on the processes of remembering and retelling.

Compared to accounts and documents from the Holocaust years or later testimony from survivors, most forms of Holocaust‐related literature, film, art, and music involve perspectives and sensibilities that stand at various levels of distance from the Holocaust itself. Sara Horowitz's chapter discusses the development of literature of the Holocaust since World War II and endorses a broad definition of Holocaust literature that embraces a range of genres, subject positions, and literary traditions. Horowitz argues that such works both resist and embrace integration into the continuum of Jewish and western thought and expression. Holocaust literature mediates life and death, survival and memory, during and after the war, through indirection, fragmentary narratives, and other literary strategies. Self‐reflexively ambivalent about literary representation, works of Holocaust literature negotiate the inherent contradictions between historical and imaginative discourses, paradoxically insisting on the need to narrate the events and inner experiences of the Nazi genocide and the impossibility of doing so adequately. As Holocaust imagery increasingly permeates western culture, literature offers not only an ethical discourse of mourning and commemoration but also metaphors for psychological states, social and political issues, and contemporary evil.

In the cinematic world, Lawrence Baron observes, the representation of the Holocaust began with the Third Reich's propaganda films and the footage taken by the Allies at liberated concentration camps. In the early postwar period, European filmmakers exaggerated resistance against Nazi Germany's policies and obscured the specificity of Jewish victimization, while Hollywood avoided the (p. 14) topic, allegedly because it was too depressing and parochial. The NBC miniseries Holocaust (1978) and Claude Lanzmann's documentary Shoah (1985) shattered these patterns, and Schindler's List (1993) and Life Is Beautiful (1997) stimulated a second round of Holocaust‐related cinema and scholarship on it, along with considerable controversy. Baron's analysis shows that studies of Holocaust films made in particular nations have been a staple of research in the field, but that scholarship has shifted since 2000 toward analysis of the cinematic qualities of Holocaust‐related film, the impact of globalization, comparisons with portrayals of other genocides, and the use of film in Holocaust education.

Dora Apel's chapter on Holocaust‐related art connects with Baron's study of film because she argues that Theodor Adorno's (1903–1969) postwar rejection of aesthetics led to indirect, allusive, and elegiac forms of Holocaust representation until the 1980s and 1990s, when artists born after World War II began to rebel against this paradigm and to address the Holocaust as they encountered it through media representation. Incorporating irony and satire, their new strategies of representation focus on contemporary uses of Holocaust meaning, such as the continuing presence of fascist aesthetics in advertising or the exploitation of memory in contemporary political policies. Apel's discussion draws on the controversy surrounding the 2002 exhibition Mirroring Evil at the Jewish Museum in New York to analyze the continuing debate between those who believe that Auschwitz is owned by its victims and those who believe that an ossified and sacralized pedagogy of the Holocaust does not engage newly constituted global contexts.

Few artistic expressions stir human feeling more than music. Not surprisingly, therefore, music played key parts in the Holocaust. Richard Wagner's (1813–1883) operas deeply affected Hitler. The Nazis suppressed music by Jewish composers and dismissed Jewish professional musicians. In Theresienstadt and other ghettos, concerts were given, operas staged, and musical works were written by Jewish musicians. As the “Partisans' Song” illustrates, music encouraged Jewish resistance as well. Music continues to be important in relation to the Holocaust, posing and responding to challenges and prospects for representing that event. Bret Werb surveys the repertoire of Holocaust‐related music—a category encompassing commemorative music, musical settings of relevant texts, and works dramatizing events in Holocaust history—in classical and popular genres, and places these works in the context of stylistic trends and cultural‐political developments. He also identifies the repertoire's most frequently employed subjects and texts—the Warsaw ghetto, Auschwitz, Anne Frank (1929–1945), children's poetry from Theresienstadt—and discusses Holocaust representation in folk song, topical song, rock and roll, jazz, and rap.

Holocaust memorials and museums depend on all the forms of representation noted above, but as James Young indicates, they become places and provide occasions that represent the Holocaust in their own distinctive ways. Public memorialization of the Holocaust era began early, with every affected group (p. 15) remembering its own fate. The more events of World War II and the Holocaust recede in time, the more prominent museums and memorials about them become. As survivors have struggled to bequeath memory of their experiences to the next generations and governments have sought to unify disparate polities with “common” national narratives, a veritable “Holocaust memorial and museums boom” has occurred. Since 1990, hundreds of museums and institutions have been established worldwide to remember and tell the history of Nazi Germany's destruction of the European Jews. Young emphasizes that depending on who builds these memorials and museums and where, they recollect this past according to particular national myths, ideals, and political needs. At a more specific level, these museums also reflect the temper of the memory‐artists' time, their architects' schools of design, and their physical locations in national memorial landscapes.


Interpretation of documents and diaries, survivor testimony, literature and film, art and music, memorials and museums—all are part of the Holocaust's reverberations. Part V, focused on aftereffects, explores the Holocaust's impact on politics and ethics, education and religion, national identities and international relations, the prospects for genocide prevention, and the defense of human rights. The Holocaust has shattered cherished assumptions about human goodness and optimistic hopes about progress. For that reason, the Holocaust's aftereffects contain immense challenges. Reflection about them, informed by multiple disciplines and approaches, rightly has become an increasingly important aspect of Holocaust studies.

Some of the Holocaust's aftereffects came soon, others later, but whenever they were felt, they have lingered and often intensified. An immediate aftereffect was the liberation and dispersal of Holocaust survivors, the topic of Arieh Kochavi's chapter. When World War II ended, Germany contained fewer than 28,000 German Jews and 60,000 Jewish survivors from other countries. By the end of 1947, approximately 250,000 Jews constituted some 25 percent of all the Displaced Persons (DPs) in the British, French, and American occupation zones of Germany. Most of this influx of refugees came from Soviet bloc countries with Moscow's knowledge and consent, and the overwhelming majority concentrated in American‐occupied territory, where they received preferential treatment. In contrast, Britain's restrained policy toward the Jewish DPs stemmed first and foremost from its efforts to keep them from entering Palestine. For their part, the Jewish DPs created self‐governing Jewish camps and started their long process of mental (p. 16) and physical rehabilitation with the aid of refugee organizations. Many had to stay in Germany and Austria for years, at least until the establishment of the State of Israel, because the western democracies were ambivalent about admitting them.

While Jewish DPs acted on the available options, the victorious Allies launched what became a series of postwar judicial proceedings against accused war criminals that continues more than sixty years after World War II ended. Rebecca Wittmann's chapter points out, however, that the most famous postwar trials seldom centered on the Holocaust. Although the indictments of Nazi leaders, followers, bureaucrats, camp guards, lawyers, doctors, and businessmen prompt most people nowadays to think primarily of the “Final Solution,” virtually all postwar prosecutions categorized the offenses at issue as war crimes, crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, or ordinary murder and manslaughter. The importance of these trials remains, as does that of the sometimes appropriate but often mild punishments meted out. However, recognition of the significance and distinctiveness of the Holocaust mainly came about in other ways.

Massive theft, a key aspect of the Holocaust itself, was among the most widespread offenses committed by Hitler's regime and its collaborators, and ever since World War II ended, international negotiations and legal proceedings have generated a halting and incomplete process of compensating or restituting the losses of successive categories of Holocaust victims. Peter Hayes surveys the methods and extent of the Nazi plunder from Jews and the reasons why recovering it or obtaining recompense has been so drawn out and, in the end, only partially successful. He concludes that the quest for “justice” in this sphere was flawed in a number of respects, but as necessary as it was impossible.

As restitution cases indicate, some aftereffects have brought increased attention and visibility to the Holocaust, but Deborah Lipstadt's chapter examines efforts by those who would do the opposite by denying that the genocide took place. Holocaust denial pivots around and is defined by the claim that the Jews invented the story of the Holocaust to win sympathy from the world, money from Germany, and land in the Middle East. Deniers contend that the Nazis sought to uproot the Jewish community, not to kill it, that the gas chambers did not exist, that the number of Jews killed by Nazis was substantially smaller than six million, and that those who did die perished because they were partisans, criminals, or spies, not because they were Jews. Historians who have traced deniers' claims back to their supposed proofs have found repeated distortions, inventions, and fabrications, and in a celebrated British legal case involving Lipstadt and David Irving (b. 1938), the British judge ruled that denial is based on a “distortion and manipulation of historical evidence.” Unfortunately, Holocaust denial continues to be persistent and pernicious, courtroom proceedings against deniers notwithstanding, as it morphs into current forms that include fueling hostility toward Israel in ongoing Middle East conflicts. (p. 17)

Nowhere have the Holocaust's impacts been more decisive and long‐lasting than in the State of Israel, Jewish culture, and Judaism. Taking up the first of those topics, Boaz Cohen shows how Zionists wanted to make Eretz‐Israel a haven for Jews, a need exacerbated by the Holocaust. Israel's establishment in 1948 both moved in that direction and intensified debate about how the Holocaust should be remembered. Underscoring the survivors' contributions to Israeli commemoration of the Holocaust, Cohen assesses the dynamics of Holocaust memorialization in Israel, showing how memory of the Holocaust remains decisive in Israeli identity and policy.

Expanding the horizon beyond contested Israeli borders, Jeffrey Shandler maintains that the Holocaust not only has become a mainstay of Jewish culture but also has engendered an array of cultural practices across the spectrum of Jewish ideological and geographical diversity. At the same time, the subject has prompted debates over the nature—or even the possibility—of “proper” Holocaust remembrance. Jewish culture is engaged in forging new, definitional narratives of Jewish experience that respond to the Holocaust and in establishing new cultural practices of Holocaust remembrance. Some of these rest on precedents for Jewish responses to calamity and others on the influence of new authorities, notably Holocaust survivors. Implicated in this discovery process are new forms of engagement between Jews and other religious and national groups, especially as Jews consider the implications of the wide embrace of Holocaust remembrance beyond their own communities, where it often figures as a master moral paradigm.

Relationships between Jewish culture and Judaism have been immensely complicated by the Holocaust. The two are intertwined but not identical. If the Holocaust continues to inform and challenge what being Jewish can and should mean, those issues embed themselves deeply in ongoing reflection about the implications of the Holocaust for Judaism. Michael Berenbaum contends that the impact of the Holocaust on Judaism and particularly on Jewish theological reflection did not reach full force until the 1960s. Since that time, attention to the Shoah's implications for Jewish religious thought and practice has been intense and widespread. Emphasizing the post‐Holocaust reflection of David Weiss Halivni (b. 1927), this chapter explores key currents and debates in post‐Holocaust Judaism as it wrestles with questions about God and Jewish life. The role of Holocaust survivors looms large in these issues. Their example enlarges senses of conscience and responsibility, decency and dignity, suggesting that if the Holocaust itself was devoid of God, that absence need not characterize the Shoah's aftermath.

Absent Christianity and its centuries‐long hostility toward Jews and Judaism, the Holocaust scarcely would have been possible. What difference has that recognition made to Christian traditions, institutions, and Christians themselves? Stephen Haynes addresses these aftereffects of the Holocaust, underscoring how reflection on Christianity and the Holocaust has produced challenging questions, fierce debates, and a voluminous literature. As with Holocaust studies generally, (p. 18) perspectives have evolved steadily in the decades since the end of World War II, with new developments catalyzed by important publications. Haynes tracks what he takes to be the three salient issues in Christianity's unsettling and unfinished encounter with the Holocaust: the relationship between Christian belief and antisemitism, the role of Christian people and institutions during the Nazi era, and the post‐Holocaust need to change Christian understandings of Jews and Judaism.

The Holocaust emerged out of Christendom, and Germany has been a key part of that cultural, political, and religious reality. But what of the Holocaust's impact on postwar German politics, identity, and international conduct? Tracking such issues, Jeffrey Herf shows that a distinctive form of memory of the Holocaust arose in Germany following World War II as a byproduct of total military defeat, Allied occupation, and the restoration of previously suppressed German political traditions. In East Germany, the memory of the suffering and triumph of the Soviet Union loomed far larger in “anti‐fascist” political culture than the fate of Europe's Jews. The limits of justice and memory in the two Germanys after 1945 are striking in view of the enormity of the crime of the Holocaust. However, compared with the amnesia and paucity of justice that often have followed other criminal dictatorships, the West German and then unified German confrontation with the crimes of the Nazi era have yielded a distinctive mixture of some truth telling, some judicial reckoning, some excellent historical scholarship, and some compassion for the survivors of the Holocaust.

Not only Germany but virtually all of Europe was implicated if not complicit in the Holocaust. Jan‐Werner Müller examines the Holocaust's aftereffects on European sensibilities. Noting that the National Socialists frequently invoked a value‐laden, antisemitic, and anti‐Bolshevik conception of “Europe” to justify their creation of a “New Order” that subjugated nations and exterminated races, he observes that this European dimension of the Holocaust was often forgotten after World War II. The construction of the European Community from the 1950s onwards was presented as a means to prevent the recurrence of war between European nation‐states; references to the Holocaust were notable for their absence. That situation began to change with the end of the Cold War and the supposed legitimacy crisis of what had by 1992 become the European Union (EU), which tried to link its value to remembrance of the Holocaust and specific moral and political lessons derived from the genocide. This project found its clearest practical expression in the sanctions against Austria when Jörg Haider's nationalist Freedom Party (FPÖ) entered government in 2000. Müller argues that any European politics of memory centered on the Holocaust should be approached very carefully and counsels against treating the Holocaust as a kind of “founding myth” for the EU.

The Holocaust's aftereffects have spread far and wide, influencing, for example, academic fields in the social sciences and humanities and the theory and practice of Holocaust‐related education. James Waller's chapter assesses where the field of Holocaust studies has been and is going with respect to sociology, psychology, (p. 19) anthropology, political science, and economics. Following an analysis of social scientific approaches, methods, and issues that have been engaged in understanding perpetrator behavior, Waller examines relationships between Holocaust studies and the broader field of comparative genocide studies. His account discusses the emergence of social scientists as scholar‐activists in Holocaust and genocide studies and outlines challenges that await current and future social scientific approaches to Holocaust studies.

Turning to the humanities, Berel Lang's chapter begins by emphasizing that the concepts of truth, fact, and verifiability—mainstays in the modern history of the humanities as well as of science—came under the increasing pressure of skepticism in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This trend was exemplified in such otherwise different perspectives as those of existentialism, analytic philosophy, historicism, pragmatism, post‐structuralism, and postmodernism as those outlooks shaped literary studies, historiography, philosophy, and the humanities in general. The Holocaust poses a distinctive, if not unique, testing point for these fields, since they all, whether in writing about the Holocaust or not, face (at times explicitly, but always tacitly) the challenge of Holocaust‐denial: the “either/or” question of the epistemic status of the Holocaust that asks whether it did occur or not, with no available third option. How one responds to this question has important consequences for every area of the humanities and the principles of interpretation and explanation on which they depend. The occurrence of the Holocaust has become a line of demarcation for all reflection in the humanities that comes after it.

Simone Schweber scrutinizes Holocaust education, which now takes place across continents and grade‐levels and through diverse programs and pedagogies. She argues that research about these efforts and their effects has been underdeveloped, partly because the approaches, objectives, and challenges of Holocaust education necessarily reflect cultural and national differences. While taking these into account, her chapter explores recurrent themes and practices in Holocaust pedagogy, identifying what is underscored and underplayed. Her discussion stresses that the currently predominant context for Holocaust education is the repeated threat of genocidal violence, and she therefore examines how Holocaust education and research about it can foster a sense of global citizenship.

As one looks forward, arguably no aspect of the Holocaust's impact is more important than its influence on reflection, education, and action concerning human rights and ethics. Addressing what David Jones calls the “promise of Nuremberg,” which began in 1945 with the Charter of the International Military Tribunal, his chapter argues that the Charter, partly as a response to the evil of the Holocaust, broke dramatically with traditional international law by mandating “individual responsibility” for crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity (including extermination) committed by the leaders of the Axis Powers. The Nuremberg Principles were codified into international law by the United (p. 20) Nations General Assembly in 1946; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide followed in 1948. However, the promise of Nuremberg remains largely unfulfilled. None of these post‐World War II documents included mechanisms for executive or judicial enforcement, the UN Security Council was stymied by the power of the veto held by its permanent members, and the UN became a community of bystander states that has allowed numerous genocides and mass killings to occur. Jones contends that among the possibilities for making the world safer for human rights are reform of the Security Council, creation of an international Rapid Response Force, the spread of democracy, and a reduction of poverty in the underdeveloped world.

Echoing a variety of aftereffect themes stressed in Part V, John Roth's concluding chapter argues that absent the overriding of moral sensibilities, if not the collapse or collaboration of ethical traditions, the Holocaust could not have happened. Although the Shoah did not pronounce the death of ethics, it showed that ethics is vulnerable, subject to misuse and perversion, and that no simple reaffirmation of pre‐Holocaust ethics, as if nothing disastrous had happened, will do any longer. Exploring those realities and focusing on some of the most important issues they contain, Roth stresses that the Holocaust did not have to happen. It emerged from human choices and decisions. Those facts mean that nothing human, natural, or divine guarantees respect for the ethical values and commitments that are most needed in contemporary human existence, but nothing is more important than our commitment to defend them, for they remain as fundamental as they are fragile, as precious as they are endangered. Ethics may not be enough, but failures notwithstanding, it still provides our best post‐Holocaust compass.

Each and all, the contributors have tried to fulfill the tall order that Oxford University Press placed when it commissioned The Oxford Handbook of Holocaust Studies as an authoritative, up‐to‐date guide to the most important issues and salient debates that inform research—currently and yet to come—about the Holocaust. The book's readers will decide how well the following pages meet the challenges of that assignment.