Lessons (Not) Learned from the Holocaust Lecture Series

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In 35-minute online lectures followed by Q&A sessions, University of Washington faculty from a wide range of disciplines discuss the history and context surrounding the Holocaust, and the factors that made — and continue to make — atrocities of this magnitude possible.

Video & Podcast Lectures  ||   Lessons (Not) Learned from the Holocaust

1. The History of Jewish Difference and Anti-Judaism as Ideology

With Mika Ahuvia, Assistant Professor, Jewish Studies, Comparative Religion, International Studies

Who are the Jewish people? How did they come to loom so large as the Other in the cultural imagination? Recent surveys shows that increasing numbers of people in the United States believe Jews caused the Holocaust. This misconception needs to be addressed head on. This introductory lecture will briefly survey the origins of the Jews, Judaism, and anti-Judaism.

• View a webpage version of this talk with visuals

• View a list of recommended books for further reading related to this talk

2. Keynote | The Difficulty of Confronting the Holocaust: Mass Murder in Jedwabne, Poland

With Jan Gross, Emeritus Professor of History, Princeton University

Join Jan Gross, emeritus professor of history at Princeton University and author of the groundbreaking books “Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz” and “Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland” for a keynote lecture introducing the series.

• Audio-only version: “The Difficulty of Confronting the Holocaust”

3. Racism, Anti-Semitism, and the Lines of Solidarity

With Nicolaas P. Barr, Lecturer, Comparative History of Ideas

How was Nazi anti-Semitism related to other forms of racism, and how does this relationship bear on racial justice movements today? This lecture will explore the insights of Black intellectuals who reflected upon anti-Semitism in the aftermath of the Holocaust in theorizing their own experiences of racism.

• Audio-only version: “Racism, Anti-Semitism, and the Lines of Solidarity”

4. Ideologies of Racial Superiority and Purity: Why Did Germany and Japan Engage in Such Extreme Mass Murder During World War II?

With Daniel Chirot, Professor, International Studies

Though there were differences between Germany’s effort to wipe out Jews (and others) and Japan’s massacres, there was a common ideological basis for these outrages. What lay behind Nazi ideology and Japan’s aggressive militarism, and why were they so vicious? A comparison helps put what happened in perspective and shows why we cannot exclude the possibility that something like this could happen again.

• Audio-only version: “Ideologies of Racial Superiority and Purity”

5. Jewish Dogs and the Nazi Beast: Animal Studies and Holocaust Literature

With Naomi Sokoloff, Professor, Near Eastern Languages and Civilization

Nazis viewed Jews as subhuman and often referred to them as dogs, apes, and vermin. How have Jews experienced and responded to such dehumanization? To address that question, this talk focuses on narratives of hidden children and on ways that animal studies and Holocaust studies can contribute to one another.

• Audio-only version: “Jewish Dogs and the Nazi Beast”

6. “A Reply to Screamers”: How Americans Responded to the Holocaust

With Susan A. Glenn, Professor, History

*Note: This talk features several photographs depicting dead bodies in concentration camps. Because of these images, it has been age-restricted by YouTube.*

In most accounts, “the Holocaust” is told as a European story, but as this lecture suggests, it was also an American story. Focusing on the period from the 1920s to the 1960s, the lecture explores how events and ideas in Europe both affected and were affected by developments in U.S. history.

• View a recommended reading list of materials related to this lecture

7. From the Ottoman Empire to Auschwitz and Beyond: Is the Holocaust a “European” Event?

With Devin E. Naar, Associate Professor, History & International Studies

Although usually understood as a “European” event, the Holocaust also resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Jews born in the predominantly Muslim world of the Ottoman Empire (e. g., today’s Greece). Grappling with the particularities of their experiences compels us to expand the scope of the Holocaust into the Mediterranean world and to recognize the global factors in dialogue with Hitler’s empire, whether the eugenics movement in the United States or the Armenian genocide.

• Audio-only version: “Is the Holocaust a ‘European’ Event?”

• View a recommended reading list of materials related to this lecture

8. In the Bloodlands: History and Memory of the Holocaust in the U.S.S.R.

With Sasha Senderovich, Assistant Professor, Slavic Languages and Literatures

As many as half of all the Jewish victims of the Holocaust died in 1941-1942, in the killing fields of Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia — the territories of the Soviet Union. In its turn, the USSR suppressed much of this history because it raised uncomfortable questions about the complicity of various groups of Soviet citizens in the killing of Jews. This talk will delve into the thorny issues of this contested history by looking at its manifestations in literature and cinema.

• View a recommended reading list of materials related to this lecture

9. Genocide in Myanmar: The Case Before the International Court of Justice

With Frederick Michael Lorenz, Senior Lecturer, International Studies

Myanmar is facing charges that its military committed genocide against the Rohingya people, beginning with a series of violent attacks in 2017. In January 2020, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a preliminary ruling granting “provisional measures” to protect the Rohingya — with no immediate effects on the ground. This presentation will review the legal proceedings against Myanmar, and the prospects for justice at the international level.

• Audio-only version: “Genocide in Myanmar: The Case Before the International Court of Justice

• View a recommended reading list of materials related to this lecture

10. Roundtable: U.S. Foreign Policy, Medical Ethics, and Far-Right Politics in Germany

“How the Holocaust Shaped U.S. Foreign Policy”

Daniel Bessner, Associate Professor, International Studies

“From the Nuremberg Trials to the Birth of Modern Bioethics”

Hadar Khazzam-Horovitz, Assistant Teaching Professor, Near Eastern Languages & Civilization

“Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial in the New Right-Wing Party Alternative for Germany”

Niko Switek, Assistant Professor, Political Science

• Audio-only version: “Concluding Roundtable

About Mika Ahuvia, Course Facilitator

Portrait of Mika Ahuvia, smiling, in glassesMika Ahuvia researches the formative history of Jewish and Christian communities in the ancient Mediterranean world. Specializing in Late Antique Jewish history, she works with rabbinic sources, liturgical poetry, magical texts, early mystical literature, and archaeological evidence. Her forthcoming book investigates conceptions of angels in foundational Jewish texts and ritual sources. She uncovers how angels made their way into the practices and worldview of ancient Jews and makes sense of why angels continue to play such an important role within and outside of institutional religious settings. She teaches courses in Jewish Studies, comparative religion, and global studies in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and is also the Stroum Center’s Undergraduate Program Coordinator.

This course and lecture series was made possible through the generosity of Steven Baral.