JHIS 4937-N Responses to the Holocaust
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Course Description: In this course, we will explore not the mass murder of East European Jews during the Holocaust, but rather the various reactions of Jews living under Nazi rule to the ensuing catastrophe. Specifically, we will examine Jewish reactions in three ghettos: those of Warsaw, Vilna, and Kovno. We will divide Jewish reactions between the following four categories: political, religious, cultural and physical (in terms of resistance. Regarding religious life, we will examine Rabbi Ephraim Oshry’s responsa in the Kovno Ghetto, Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira’s hasidic sermons in the Warsaw Ghetto, and other clandestine religious activities in the ghettos. We also will look at the importance of Yiddish theater, literary clubs, and libraries in the Vilna Ghetto. In addition, we will learn the story of the Vilna Ghetto’s “paper brigade” and will discover Emanuel Ringleblum’s Oyneg Shabes archive in the Warsaw Ghetto. Regarding politics, we will speak about the Judenräte (Jewish Councils) established by the Nazis in the ghetto. We will address the difficult question of the extent to which these councils participated in the Nazis’ Final Solution through their providing of lists and at times even people for deportation. Why did some heads of Judenräte participate in these processes and others not? We also will discuss the difficult question of the Jewish police in the ghettos and their role in either implementing or thwarting Nazi orders. In both the cases of the Judenräte and the ghetto police, we will examine the loaded charge of collaboration. Through a comparison of physical resistance in the Warsaw and Vilna Ghettos, we will address the complicated moral and practical dilemmas of those who desired to fight back against the Nazis. Throughout the course, we will methodologically deal with the question of the extent to which pre-war local conditions determined Jewish religious, cultural, and physical responses and to what extent Nazi policies contributed to these responses.
Karlip, Joshua. (2021, Fall), Syllabus, JHIS 4937-N Responses to the Holocaust, Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University.
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