Remembering the Holocaust in Today’s Germany

In this SSIR course, we will explore overlapping tensions of Holocaust commemoration in Germany’s past and present, engaging with the central questions: How have German efforts to remember the Holocaust changed over time from 1945 until today? To what extent has German Holocaust commemoration been successful? What is the future of Holocaust memory in Germany?

Inside the Classroom

Over 75 years have passed since the fall of Hitler’s regime and the end of World War II, but today’s Germany remains haunted by the dark shadow of the Holocaust: the systematic mass murder of six million Jews by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. With nearly 2,000 memorial sites and extensive Holocaust education, Germany is often considered a model for how countries should atone for their genocidal pasts. But in recent years, German far-right politicians have publicly downplayed the severity of the Holocaust and have criticized what they consider to be an “excessive” focus on Holocaust commemoration. Germany also faces the challenge of how to teach the history of the Holocaust to diverse audiences in its increasingly multicultural and migratory society, which includes a growing number of Israelis alongside over five million Muslims from places like Turkey, Syria, and Palestine. Finally, invigorated by the Black Lives Matter movement, activists are increasingly demanding that Germany reckon not only with the genocide of Jews, but also with the atrocities of German colonialism in Africa.  This course will allow you to explore these overlapping tensions and engage with the central questions listed above.

Outside the Classroom

In the fall semester, you will get the chance to visit places like the Virginia Holocaust Museum as well as the Emek Sholom Holocaust Memorial.  During this experience you may have the opportunity to speak with local Holocaust survivors who can provide oral testimony about their experiences.  Traveling to Washington D.C. to tour the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is another possibility and will allow you to analyze the experiences of attending two very different museums.  The highlight of the course would be the weeklong experiential learning trip to Berlin during spring break.  Students will get the opportunity to visit memorials, monuments, museums, and the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.

Research and Capstone Project

In the spring semester, students will meet weekly to continue to work on a project related to their fall semester course and group travel.  This project will allow students the chance to continue to gain new knowledge while also reflecting on their SSIR experiences to develop a final project to show what they have learned over the course of the year.  This project will be shared with the campus community through either presentations or displaying their work on campus.