2017-2018 Academic Catalog 
    
    Dec 07, 2019  
2017-2018 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

HIST 352 - The Holocaust Through Letters and Diaries


The aim of this course is to engage in a bifocal understanding of history: from the perspective of those who experienced events as they unfolded, and from our vantage point today. Our goal is to recognize anew the potentiality of an unfolding present when many options are available, and to analyze the factors that conduced to the decisions and choices we now know were taken. What did people know, and when did they know it? What role did denial and silence play? What, if any, patterns of daily life choices emerge? Do specific human traits or values loom large when life is lived in extremis? To explore these questions we will read a range of diaries and letter collections. These may include Hidden Letters by the seventeen-year-old (in 1940) Flip Slier from a forced labor camp in the Netherlands and Letters to Sala, a girl of about the same age in a forced labor camp in Poland written by her sister in the Sosnowiec ghetto. We shall look too at the letters passed between family members separated by an ocean, one side caught in the Nazi trap, the other side safe in America. (Inter alia: Every Day lasts a Year; One Family’s Letters from Prague) Diaries provide a different lens. We will scrutinize the perspectives they offer, each from its own place and time: Mihail Sebastian (Diaries, 1935-1944) at home in Bucharest; Lena Jedwab (Girl With Two Landscapes), a Polish girl who found refuge in the Soviet Union; Etty Hillesum (An Interrupted Life) about the same age, living in Amsterdam and sent to the Westerbork transit camp; and Abraham Lewin (A Cup of Tears), a husband and father in Warsaw ghetto.

Anticipated Terms Offered: Offered periodically