About this Course
The Holocaust: The Destruction of European Jewry is an adaptation of an on-campus course that has been co-taught by Murray Baumgarten, Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature (Literature Department), and Peter Kenez, Professor Emeritus (History Department), for over 20 years at UC Santa Cruz. In this course, you will explore the Holocaust from the overlapping perspectives of literature and history—through memoirs, historical documents, poetry, documentary footage, filmic representations, and novels. You will expand your knowledge of the literature of the Holocaust, Eastern and Western European Jewish communities, the origins and development of antisemitism, the establishment of labor and extermination camps, resistance movements, and the Holocaust as a problem for world history. There is more than one way to take this course: You can complete all of the activities (and earn a Verified Certificate) or only the activities that are most interesting to you. Whatever you choose to do, we encourage you to find a havruta (a study partner) in your community or in the Coursera community so that you can experience the course in a more interactive and meaningful way.

100% online course

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.

Approx. 34 hours to complete

Suggested: 4 hours/week
Comment Dots


Subtitles: English

100% online course

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.

Approx. 34 hours to complete

Suggested: 4 hours/week
Comment Dots


Subtitles: English

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course


4 hours to complete

Who were the Jews?

This module is an introduction to the study of the Holocaust and a prehistory of the Holocaust. Profs. Baumgarten and Kenez discuss the roots of modern antisemitism, the culture of European Jews in the 19th century, Nehama Tec’s Dry Tears, and the various genres of Holocaust literature. The module also contains general information about the course....
13 videos (Total 161 min), 7 readings
Video13 videos
1.1.2 Who were the Jews?7m
1.1.3 Why do we study the Holocaust?12m
1.1.4 Poetry and perspectives16m
1.2.1 Western European Jewry in the 19th century9m
1.2.2 Jewish success and European antisemitism14m
1.2.3 Jews in French society14m
1.2.4 Roots of modern antisemitism6m
1.2.5 Theodor Herzl11m
1.3.1 Expectations of reality13m
1.3.2 Hier ist kein warum11m
1.3.3 Yiddish culture13m
1.3.4 On Account of a Hat18m
Reading7 readings
Books and films10m
Writing assignments10m
1.0.1 Topics, readings, and films10m
1.1.5 Written in Pencil in the Sealed Railway-Car (English translation)10m
1.3.5 On Account of a Hat (English translation)10m


4 hours to complete

Prelude to the Holocaust

In this module Profs. Baumgarten and Kenez discuss the changing demographics and political landscape of early 20th century Eastern Europe, Jewish identity, the Bildungsroman, Silvano Arieti’s The Parnas, Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz, Aharon Appelfeld’s Badenheim 1939, and Elie Wiesel’s Night. ...
19 videos (Total 231 min), 1 reading
Video19 videos
2.1.2 Poland, part 110m
2.1.3 Poland, part 27m
2.1.4 Hungary, part 110m
2.1.5 Hungary, part 212m
2.1.6 Fear and hatred5m
2.2.1 Liberal European culture9m
2.2.2 Night, part 111m
2.2.3 Night, part 214m
2.2.4 Life in the Arbeitslager14m
2.3.1 Jewry of the Russian Empire18m
2.3.2 The Russian state16m
2.3.3 Changing demographics9m
2.3.4 Pogroms in the Russian Empire and the USSR13m
2.3.5 Jewish identity7m
2.4.1 The Bildungsroman, part 17m
2.4.2 The Bildungsroman, part 218m
2.4.3 The Bildungsroman, part 320m
2.4.4 The Bildungsroman, part 412m
Reading1 readings
2.0.1 Topics, readings, and films10m


4 hours to complete

Rise of the Nazis

In this module Profs. Baumgarten and Kenez discuss the political and social environment of 1930s Germany, the Jewish question, and the treatment of evil in poetry. ...
14 videos (Total 173 min), 7 readings
Video14 videos
3.1.2 Hitler and the Jews14m
3.1.3 Germans and the Jews13m
3.1.4 The rise of the Nazis11m
3.1.5 Nazism in German culture5m
3.2.1 Poetry and evil, part 113m
3.2.2 Poetry and evil, part 215m
3.2.3 Poetry and evil, part 37m
3.2.4 Todesfugue (Death Fugue)16m
3.3.1 Intentionalism and functionalism20m
3.3.2 What do we do with the Jews?15m
3.3.3 Why didn't they leave?13m
3.3.4 The Anschluß and German pogroms5m
3.3.5 Passing and not passing8m
Reading7 readings
3.0.1 Topics, readings, and films10m
3.2.5 Kaddish10m
3.2.6 Nightsong (English translation)10m
3.2.7 Death Fugue (English translation)10m
3.2.8 Todesfuge (German)10m
3.2.9 Memento Mori (English translation)10m
3.2.10 Memento Mori (Yiddish)10m


5 hours to complete

Beginnings of war

In this module Profs. Baumgarten and Kenez discuss the conditions that were necessary for the Holocaust to occur, the early events of World War II, Thomas Kenneally’s Schindlers List, Andres Schwartz-Bart’s The Last of the Just, and questions of guilt and responsibility. ...
15 videos (Total 188 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
Video15 videos
4.1.2 Direct acts of violence14m
4.1.3 Fight for what?13m
4.1.4 Eroticization of violence13m
4.1.5 Resistance and agency5m
4.2.1 Beginnings of war9m
4.2.2 German war aims10m
4.2.3 Ghettoes16m
4.2.4 Jewish leadership14m
4.2.5 What did the neighbors say?12m
4.3.1 Language of trauma15m
4.3.2 Banality of evil15m
4.3.3 Schindler's List, part 110m
4.3.4 Schindler's List, part 216m
4.3.5 Guilt and responsibility4m
Reading1 readings
4.0.1 Topics, readings, and films10m


3 hours to complete

Witness to trauma

In this module Profs. Baumgarten and Kenez discuss the invasion of the Soviet Union, Thomas Kenneally’s Schindler’s List, and questions of witnessing. Guest speaker Dora Sorell shares her own experience of the Holocaust. ...
16 videos (Total 185 min), 1 reading
Video16 videos
5.1.2 Einsatzgruppen, part 113m
5.1.3 Einsatzgruppen, part 214m
5.1.4 Pogroms in the east7m
5.1.5 Forms of resistance17m
5.2.1 Witness to trauma, part 113m
5.2.2 Witness to trauma, part 214m
5.2.3 Witness to trauma, part 317m
5.2.4 Witness to trauma, part 411m
5.3.1 Dora Sorell, part 19m
5.3.2 Dora Sorell, part 27m
5.3.3 Dora Sorell, part 38m
5.3.4 Dora Sorell, part 48m
5.3.5 Dora Sorell, part 59m
5.3.6 Dora Sorell, part 613m
5.3.7 Dora Sorell, part 711m
Reading1 readings
5.0.1 Topics, readings, and films10m


4 hours to complete

Establishment of the camps

In this module Profs. Baumgarten and Kenez discuss the establishment of labor and extermination camps, memorialization, Tadeusz Borowski’s This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, and Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men. ...
11 videos (Total 121 min), 1 reading, 1 quiz
Video11 videos
6.1.2 From labor to extermination13m
6.1.3 Bełżec, Sobibór and Treblinka11m
6.1.4 The task of killing6m
6.1.5 Auschwitz11m
6.1.6 Who knew about the murders?8m
6.2.1 This Way for the Gas, part 112m
6.2.2 This Way for the Gas, part 26m
6.2.3 This Way for the Gas, part 320m
6.2.4 This Way for the Gas, part 411m
6.2.5 Memorials and understanding7m
Reading1 readings
6.0.1 Topics, readings, and films10m


4 hours to complete

Deportation and extermination

In this module Profs. Baumgarten and Kenez discuss the Holocaust in Western Europe, the complex history of Hungary, Imre Kertész’s Fatelessness, and Ida Fink’s A Scrap of Time. ...
20 videos (Total 233 min), 3 readings
Video20 videos
7.1.2 Denmark and Norway17m
7.1.3 Belgium and Holland8m
7.1.4 France and Italy16m
7.1.5 Nazi looting8m
7.2.1 Fatelessness, part 17m
7.2.2 Fatelessness, part 26m
7.2.3 Fatelessness, part 313m
7.2.4 Fatelessness, part 413m
7.2.5 Fatelessness, part 56m
7.3.1 Deportation and extermination16m
7.3.2 Antisemitic laws7m
7.3.3 Germany and Hungary19m
7.3.4 Separate peace11m
7.3.5 Ambiguities7m
7.4.1 A Scrap of Time, part 18m
7.4.2 A Scrap of Time, part 215m
7.4.3 A Scrap of Time, part 310m
7.4.4 A Scrap of Time, part 410m
7.4.5 A Scrap of Time, part 510m
Reading3 readings
7.0.1 Topics, readings, and films10m
7.2.6 Never Say/Partisan Song (English translation)10m
7.2.7 Zog Nit Keyn Mol/Partizaner Lid (Yiddish)10m


4 hours to complete

The perpetrators, the neighbors, and the outside world

In this module Profs. Baumgarten and Kenez discuss the unique case of Romania, the culpability of the outside world, and the end of World War II. The text of Adolf Hitler’s last testament is provided. ...
11 videos (Total 107 min), 2 readings, 1 quiz
Video11 videos
8.1.2 Romania, part 28m
8.1.3 Romania, part 310m
8.1.4 Romania, part 413m
8.1.5 A gigantic biological and social experiment7m
8.2.1 The perpetrators8m
8.2.2 Other types of madness7m
8.2.3 The surrounding population7m
8.2.4 The outside world5m
8.2.5 Isolation12m
8.2.6 Last testament10m
Reading2 readings
8.0.1 Topics, readings, and films10m
8.2.7 My Political Testament10m

Top Reviews

By RKNov 9th 2015

I want to say how much I especially enjoyed Dr Kenez and his very clear and concise lectures on the historical aspects of the subject matter. Thank you very much. Richard Kilgore

By ESSep 29th 2015

i have took before courses about the holocaut but this was remarkably different and so very interesting!\n\nprofessors are both incredible and i loved how they expose the subject



Murray Baumgarten

Distinguished Professor of English & Comparative Literature

Peter Kenez

Professor Emeritus

About University of California, Santa Cruz

UC Santa Cruz is an outstanding public research university with a deep commitment to undergraduate education. It’s a place that connects people and programs in unexpected ways while providing unparalleled opportunities for students to learn through hands-on experience....

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