'Those Were the Days' - Perpetrators, Profiteers and Bystanders of the Holocaust

Module code: HS7026

Module co-ordinator: Dr Olaf Jensen 

Module Outline

The Holocaust is probably the most horrific and challenging phenomenon of the 20th Century. Approximately 6 million European Jews were murdered by Germans and their collaborators, more than a million by face to face shootings. Moreover, approximately 14 million unarmed people were killed by the Germans in Eastern Europe. The main question that still arises is how this mass killing could have taken place and how the perpetrators were able to carry out such deeds. Were they forced to do it or were they ‘willing executioners’? Were they ‘evil monsters’ or ‘ordinary people’? This seminar will examine these questions in the light of Christopher Browning’s path-breaking Ordinary Men (1992) and Daniel J. Goldhagen’s, Willing Executioners (1997) as well as subsequent research from historical and social psychological perspectives. It will examine primary sources like testimonies or autobiographical material as well as historical and psychological studies about perpetrators. The guiding question will be how ‘ordinary people’ did become part of the genocidal process, benefited from it or were directly involved in the ‘final solution.’ 


Guided readings; primary source critiques; individual student text presentations; open discussions.


  • 1 x 5,000 word essay