Publication Year



Holocaust, Jews, Europe, Goldhagen, history, ideology


European History | Holocaust and Genocide Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences


The fact of the extermination of six million Jews in Europe during World War II undoubtedly remains traumatic to many. From a moral standpoint, the Holocaust seems inexplicable--or simply evil. Historians and scholars are still trying to understand how and why it was able to happen and it is a subject which might seem overwhelming to one first approaching it in serious study. Soon one finds that there are roughly two main paradigms that historians use in their efforts to make sense of Holocaust--paradigms which constitute a fundamental division within the historical profession and are reflected in the contemporary historiiographical debate between the so-called "intentionalists" and :functionalists." The deeper disagreement that underscores this division is the question, on the one hand, of intention and the wight accorded to human agency; and, on the other hand, the role that structural or situational factors played in explaining the events of the Holocaust--or, to put the question somewhat differently, the question of individual versus collective responsibility for Nazi crimes. For instance, should the Holocaust be explained by cultural factors specific to Germany--as in the controversial argument put forth by Daniel J. Goldhagen in his book Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans in the Holocaust, or should one appeal to general processes whereby it is feasible to understand the Holocaust as a general symbol of transgression without, perhaps, any particularly Jewish or German referent?

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status