Nazi Germany and the Holocaust: Trauma, Memory, History

SS120
Fall 21

“Traumas have no geographical or cultural limitations”: these words by Jeffrey Alexandre shall be the starting point to address the history of the Holocaust and its impact on an increasingly globalized collective memory. Fueled by an unprecedented wave of ideological fanaticism, meticulous bureaucratic planning and appalling brutality, the genocide of the European Jews stands out as one of the major events of our modernity. We will examine how and why the Holocaust has become the founding block of an intercultural memory able to bridge traditional divides of national, ethnic or religious belonging, raising questions relevant to any cultural or geographical latitude. Why the history of the anti-Jewish persecution forces us to reconsider not only human history, but “humanity” as such? Why it has become a primary symbol of the moral obligation to confront, record and transmit the memory of collective catastrophes? How this moral obligation turns into a critical tool and ethical imperative to recognize and remember histories of victimization that affect other cultures and human groups?

We will examine how the Holocaust has become the founding block of our collective memory, studying one of the most troubling periods in recent European history. We will read survivors accounts and historical documents, analyze films and videotestimonies to investigate how the memory of Nazi violence continues to represent a fundamental traumatic event in contemporary conscience, able to question our views and notions about state-sanctioned violence, racism, human rights, ethical agency and historical memory.

Tommaso Pepe

Tommaso Pepe

Tommaso Pepe is a literary scholar working on the intersections that cross literature, memory, trauma and intercultural dialogue.