Before the Holocaust:  Historical Background

Wednesdays: Sept. 14, Oct. 5, Oct. 26, Nov. 16, Dec. 7

The Holocaust is a consequence of a complex of precipitating factors—political, social, ideological, cultural, economic—some of which go back for centuries.  This semester’s presentations will provide an overview of key aspects of this historical background, focusing on how they relate to the events of the Holocaust itself.


Presentations by guest scholars to include the following topics:

  • Jewish-Christian Relations through the Ages: Relations between Jews and Europe’s majority Christian population entail a wide-ranging religious and cultural dynamic.  This session surveys the length and breadth of this relationship and considers how it relates to the modern anti-Semitism of the Nazi era.
    Professor Paola Tartakoff, Rutgers University
  • European Political History, from 1789 to 1918:  The “long nineteenth century” that stretches from the French Revolution through World War I formed the political landscape in which Nazis come to power in the 1920s and ’30s.  This session focuses on key events and ideas in Europe’s political history of the era, especially the rise of modern nationalism.
    Sally Charnow, Hofstra University
  • Jewish Life in Prewar Europe:  Jews have been a presence in Europe since Roman times, and they evolved an extensive and diverse way of life on the continent by the twentieth century.  This session provides an overview of the internal diversity of Europe’s Jews, focusing on those aspects of European Jewish life that are central to understanding the Holocaust era.
    Nancy Sinkoff, Rutgers University
  • The Ideological Origins of Fascism:  The Nazi belief system evolved from a complex of intellectual and ideological concepts that had come to the fore in early twentieth-century Europe.  This session considers the intellectual background of Fascism, which took root during this period in Spain and Italy as well as Germany.
    Eric D. Weitz, University of Minnesota
  • The Political Rise of Nazism and Nazi Germany in the Pre-World War II Years:  The Nazi Party grew from a small, fringe movement to the ruling party in Germany with extraordinary swiftness.  This session reviews the course of the Nazi Party from its origins, through its coming to power in 1933, up to the eve of its initiation of World War II.
    Paul Hanebrink, Rutgers University