Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton

HIST1091 Responses to the Holocaust

Module Overview

In this module we will explore contemporary responses to and post-war representations of the genocide, through media such as testimonies, literature, film, and music.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• to introduce you to some of the critical questions surrounding the study of the Holocaust, through a detailed engagement with primary sources such as diaries, songs, literature, and film • to help you develop a broader understanding of Holocaust history, and the ways in which it continues to feature in today’s world

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The history of the Holocaust, particularly the experiences of its victims and the ways in which they responded to the events at the time
  • The ways in which the Holocaust has been represented and understood in the postwar world, as well as the politics of Holocaust memory and commemoration
  • How history is constructed through arts and popular media; how media such as films, books, and music help to shape the public’s understanding of past events
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Present a coherent critical argument in writing
  • Participate in oral discussion of complex and contentious issues
  • Analyze and critically evaluate primary historical source material
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Critically approach and engage with primary sources
  • Evaluate the ways in which past events are represented constructed in popular media as well as historiography
  • Recognize the political implications of representing past events in particular ways and in particular contexts


More than 60 years after the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of the Holocaust—the systematic mass murder of six million European Jews, as well as homosexuals, communists, Roma, and other victims during the Second World War—the subject still generates extensive discussion and controversy, in intellectual circles as well as in the wider political world. In this course we will explore contemporary responses to and post-war representations of the genocide, through media such as testimonies, literature, film, and music. Through these sources, we will tackle some of the questions that still challenge our understanding of the Holocaust today, such as: Was the Holocaust unique? Are there limits to how such catastrophic events can be represented? Why have some recent writers drawn attention to the ‘Holocaust Industry’ and the ‘exploitation of suffering’? What are the politics of memory and commemoration? We will take a chronological approach, beginning by looking at how victims understood and responded to the Holocaust at the time and afterwards. In considering their responses, we will explore both how they interpreted and recorded what they were experiencing, and what those records—diaries, songs, artworks, memoirs—tell us about the events they describe. In the second part of the course, we will shift our focus to consider how the Holocaust has featured in the post-war world, from comics and film to museums and memorials. Our focus is largely on public responses to the genocide—rather than theological, political, or scholarly responses—and one of the course’s overarching themes is the question of how history is constructed through arts and popular media. How, in other words, do films, books, and music help to shape the public’s understanding of past events? What do museums and memorials tell us about how we have chosen to remember those events?

Special Features

Knowledge and understanding of the subject will be developed through your attendance at lectures, as well as through your independent reading and study, not only of required texts but also of a wider range of resources. The essay is an opportunity to conceptualize and articulate a clear critical argument in writing, and your active participation in seminar discussion will help you to develop an understanding of a topic by asking critical questions and analysing complex issues.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures • Seminars Learning activities include • Individual study and reading • Preparing individual oral responses to weekly reading, on the basis of specific focusing questions • Working with small groups of fellow students in seminars to analyze written texts, and providing oral feedback in class • Writing an essay exploring the use and value of primary sources • Accessing online resources

Completion of assessment task50
Preparation for scheduled sessions50
Follow-up work8
Wider reading or practice20
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Doris L. Bergen (2003). War and Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust. 

Art Spiegelman. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale (I: My Father Bleeds History & II: And Here My Troubles Began). 

Shirli Gilbert, (2005). Music in the Holocaust: Confronting Life in the Nazi Ghettos and Camps. 

Primo Levi. If This is a Man. 

Omer Bartov. Murder in our Midst: The Holocaust, Industrial Killing, and Representation. 

Donald Bloxham and Tony Kushner, eds (2005). The Holocaust: Critical Historical Approaches. 

Saul Friedländer, ed (1992). Probing the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the 'Final Solution'. 

Simone Gigliotti and Berel Lang, eds (2005). The Holocaust: A Reader. 

Lawrence L. Langer (1995). Art from the Ashes: A Holocaust Anthology. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Commentary exercise  (1000 words) 20%
Essay  (2000 words) 40%
Examination  (1 hours) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Share this module Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.