Category Archives: Lecture discussions

Why banning David Irving books from university libraries would achieve little

[From The Guardian]

The effort to get the University of Manchester to remove David Irving’s books from open display, now backed by Rowan Williams, reminded me of my own experiences browsing through library stacks as an undergraduate. While I never encountered Holocaust denial, I did stumble upon the complete works of Kim Il-sung, a pamphlet praising the Khmer Rouge and a book arguing that the Armenian genocide never occurred.

Libraries are, ideally, fundamentally amoral places. The presence of works on their shelves is not an endorsement of their views. As someone who runs an online research repository archive, I can testify to having happily uploaded some lousy works of scholarship to its holdings.

But of course, that’s not the end of the story. Just as free speech inevitably needs to be limited in certain instances, so does the free access to library materials. To take an obvious example, while it’s important that pro-paedophilia texts are preserved for future scholarly and law enforcement study, they should only be accessible under restrictive conditions.

In the case of books by Irving and others of his ilk, no one denies that they should be part of library collections, the question is whether the danger that such works represent is sufficient to justify restricting access to them.

And there certainly is a potential danger. Read interviews with prominent neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers and miscellaneous antisemites, and an encounter with Irving’s work invariably seems a part of their political journey. Books such as Hitler’s War read like serious, well-sourced, reliable history. The deceptions are subtle and not always apparent to non-experts. After all, it took Prof Richard Evans and two assistants over a year of preparation, as part of the defence team in the court case Irving brought against Deborah Lipstadt, to unpick the ways he twisted the facts.

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Lecture 2, semester 1

In this lecture, we read together the introduction to Bauman’s landmark work, Modernity and the Holocaust. Bauman’s work raises some of the key topics we will be looking at in this module: is the Holocaust an outgrowth of European civilization (what Bauman terms ‘modernity’) or is it a dreadful aberration? To what extent is it possible to trace and account for the origins of antisemitism in European culture? And how does that antisemitism relate to the Holocaust? What are the limits of what we can know about the Holocaust? How should we respond to it as scholars? Bauman does not give us easy answers to these questions, but examines them in detail and gives us some interesting ways of approaching them. In particular, we looked at what Bauman’s ideas might have to say to us about music history.

Here are the sources I mentioned during the lecture, following Welch’s five ‘tendencies’ in Holocaust Studies (download Welch’s article here)

1. Intentionalism

Yehuda Bauer, A History of the Holocaust (New York: F. Watts, 1982);

Gerald Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984);

Deborah E. Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: the growing assault on truth and memory (New York and Toronto: Free Press, 1993)

Lucy S. Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945, 10th anniversary ed. (New York: Seth Press; Distributed by Free Press, 1986);

Eberhard Jäckel and Jürgen Rohwer, eds., Der Mord an den Juden im Zweiten Weltkrieg. Entschlußbildung und Verwirklichung (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1985).

2. Functionalism/Structuralism

Hans Mommsen, “Cumulative Radicalisation and Progressive Self-Destruction as Structural Determinants of the Nazi Dictatorship,” in Stalinism and Nazism: dictatorships in comparison, ed. Ian Kershaw and Moshe Lewin (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 75-87.

Martin Broszat, “Hitler and the Genesis of the ‘Final Solution’: An Assessment of David Irving’s Theses,” in Aspects of the Third Reich, ed. H.W. Koch (London: Macmillan, 1985), 390-429;

Hans Mommsen, “The Realization of the Unthinkable: The ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Question’ in the Third Reich,” in The Policies of Genocide.  Jews and Soviet Prisoners of War in Nazi Germany, ed. Gerhard Hirschfeld (London: Allen and Unwin, 1986), 93-144;

Uwe Dietrich Adam, Judenpolitik im Dritten Reich (Düsseldorf: Droste Verlag, 1972).

3. “Moderate” Functionalism

Dieter Pohl, Von der “Judenpolitik” zum Judenmord: der Distrikt Lublin des Generalgouvernements, 1939-1944 (Frankfurt am Main; New York: P. Lang, 1993);

Dieter Pohl, “Hans Krüger and the Murder of the Jews in the Stanislawow Region (Galcia),” Yad Vashem Studies 26 (1998): 239-64;

Thomas Sandkühler, “Endlösung” in Galizien: der Judenmord in Ostpolen und die Rettungsinitiativen von Berthold Beitz, 1941-1944 (Bonn: Dietz, 1996); Gerlach, “The Wannsee Conference, the Fate of the German Jews”;

Ulrich Herbert, ed., Nationalsozialistische Vernichtungspolitik 1939-1945: Neue Forschungen und Kontroversen (Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1998), English translation under the title National-Socialist Extermination Policies: Contemporary German Perspectives and Controversies (New York: Berghahn Books, 2000).

4. Genocide Studies

Omer Bartov, “Defining Enemies, Making Victims: Germans, Jews, and the Holocaust,” American Historical Review 103 (1998): 771-816.

Israel W. Charny, ed., Genocide: a critical bibliographic review, 3 vols. (London: Mansell, 1988-94);

Mark Levene, “Is the Holocaust Simply Another Example of Genocide?,” Patterns of Prejudice 28 (1994): 3-26;

Henry R. Huttenbach, “Locating the Holocaust on the Genocide Spectrum: Towards a Methodology of Definition and Categorization,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 3 (1988): 289-303.

5. Holocaust in/as Modernity

Michael Prinz and Rainer Zitelmann, eds., Nationalsozialismus und Modernisierung (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1991);

Uwe Backes, Eckhard Jesse, and Rainer Zitelmann, eds., Die Schatten der Vergangenheit: Impulse zur Historisierung des Nationalsozialismus (Berlin: Propylaen, 1990).


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First lecture of the module: What is/was the Holocaust?

In this lecture, we will look at some of the key questions that we will try to answer in this module: where does the name “Holocaust” come from? What other names are there for the Holocaust? What challenges does the Holocaust pose for trying to understand what Alain Badiou called the ‘accursed century’? In particular, how does thinking about the Holocaust affect the way we think about music? We also take a short tour through the structure of the module, talk about how it will be structured, how it will be assessed and the kinds of things we expect of you on this module. We also talk about the languages of the Holocaust: what languages did the victims speak? Who were they? Finally, this session gives a very brief overview of the kinds of music-making that victims undertook during the Holocaust.
During the lecture, we’ll listen to the following music:
  • S’brent” 1938 Words and music by Mordechai Gebirtig; Written in response to a 1936 pogrom in the Polish town of Przyty, Performed by Bente Kahan on Farewell Krakow (Victoria, Norway, 1992 )
  • Victor Ullmann: Der Kaiser von Atlantis opera (1944) written in concentration camp Theresienstadt
  • Hans Krása: Brundibár children’s opera (1938, first performed in Theresienstadt)
Also worth looking at are the following:
  • Brave Old World, Song of the Lodz Ghetto (Winter & Winter, CD 910 104-2, 2005) See video about this here.
  • Jewish Life: The Old Country edited by Ruth Rubin (Smithsonian Folkways)
Please feel free to start a discussion, ask any questions or make any comments below.

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