The Holocaust was an unprecedented crime against humanity. It proved the practical and intellectual incapacity of European cultures to ensure that society does not lapse into exclusive prejudice and apocalyptic ideology, that a state maintains a truly democratic politics, that culture promotes an ethics of tolerance and human rights.
To study the Holocaust is to confront issues of society, politics, and knowledge that threaten the foundations of ordinary human existence because, negating one of the key foundations of Western reality, Judaic monotheism, they coalesce around barbarity and nihilism.
The Holocaust, more than any other genocide, has deeply affected modern consciousness, becoming ‘the axial event’, and allowing us to learn universal lessons. It encourages reflection on civil rights and ethical duties as well as on the uses and abuses of human knowledge and rationality. It warns us that any society, however modern, where these standards slip and disappear, can become criminal. It proves that racism and anti-Semitism can lead to atrocities on an unimaginable scale. It reminds us that each individual has choices and is responsible for his or her own conscience and action.
The concerns of the Holocaust thus underpin general social interests and the educational institutions that are meant to foster them.
The Stanley Burton Centre therefore sets out
- To conduct research into the Holocaust, its implications and subjects closely related to it, including Jewish history, inter-faith relations, anti-Semitism and racism, fascism and extreme right-wing political movements, crimes against humanity and genocides.
- To foster the study of the Holocaust and these related subjects at an undergraduate and postgraduate level, to develop and disseminate advanced knowledge and reflection on the issues and values they raise.
- To promote an understanding of the Holocaust and these related subjects amongst the general public, to inform and encourage a wider social reflection on the issues and values they raise.
- To expand the production of scholarly publications in these areas to bring the particular contribution of the Stanley Burton Centre in order to current debates on the Holocaust and its related issues.
- To create and develop links with other institutions and individuals sharing the aims and objectives of the Centre.
- To provide a physical location within the University of Leicester to centralise, co-ordinate and develop these activities.
The Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust Studies was founded in 1990, and re-founded under its present name in 1993 under the auspices of the Burton Trusts. The name was extended to 'Genocide Studies' in 2011.
The Centre does not directly employ any staff. Its income, derived from the original capital grant from the Burton Trusts, is used exclusively for the purposes outlined above.