Course Syllabus

Holocaust and Genocide

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Semester & Location:

Fall 2020 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Core Course - 3 credits

Long Study Tour:


Major Disciplines:

History, Sociology, Anthropology

Faculty Members:

Torben Jørgensen

Program Coordinator:

Katrine Trolle - 

Time & Place:
Monday and Thursday 11:40 -13:00


Description of Course

Mass killings have occurred at all times in history. The 20th century, however, stands out in intensity, frequency and the means applied to kill great numbers of innocent people. Regretfully, the 21st century looks no different. From the Herero’s in Namibia in 1904 to the current conflict in Darfur, perfectly innocent people have been killed in large numbers due to their ethnicity, social origin, political beliefs, sexual preferences and many other reasons.

The objective of the course is to analyze this sad record of atrocities. What are the typical causes of genocide and what sociological and psychological mechanisms turn people into perpetrators, bystanders, rescuers - and victims? The international responses to genocide, mass killings and ethnic cleansing have varied from turning a blind eye to military intervention. After genocide has taken place, punishment, commemoration and reconciliation can all be important remedies in addressing the aftermath and preventing new outbreaks of violence. Unfortunately, so far neither the modern state nor the international system of states has succeeded in preventing genocide. So what are the chances of preventing future genocides? And can obvious measures, such as punishment, work if the genocide is already in the making?

The course will offer both a theoretical framework and a more practical approach, particularly from the perspective of international relations. Definitions of genocide, methodology and theories of the phenomena of genocide will be discussed. This will include addressing the theoretical and practical implications of terming something a genocide. The possible singularity of the Holocaust (and other genocides) will be addressed. Are there common denominators to genocide such as basic causes or certain stages that all genocides pass though? Furthermore, a number of specific genocides will be analyzed and discussed, as will other cases of mass violence in order to analyze what triggered them, how they unfolded and how they ended.


Learning Objectives

After finishing the course, you should have an overall command of the methods and problems related to studying genocides and the Holocaust. You should, furthermore, possess a solid knowledge of the factors behind the most notable and well studied examples of genocide (Armenia 1915, the Holocaust 1933-1945, Cambodia 1975-1979, Bosnia 1992-1995 and Rwanda 1994) as well as Stalinism 1928-1953 and know the constituent events and interpretative problems related to these events. Finally, it is expected that you are able to discuss and analyze such cross cutting issues as genocide denial, punishment and prevention.



Torben Jørgensen

Phone: +45 26 54 44 04


Cand. mag. in History, U. of Copenhagen; with the Danish Center for Holocaust and genocide research (2000-2003); with the Danish Institute for International Studies (2003-2005); Project Manager at the Danish Jewish Museum (2007-2008).



  • Christopher R. Browning: Ordinary Men. Reserve Police battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. NY 1999.
  • Deborah Harris: Defining genocide: Defining history?
  • Markusen/D. Kopf: The Holocaust and Strategic Bombing, Westview Press 1995.
  • Greg Stanton: The eight stages of genocide + Binder text 3, UN convention on the prevention and punishment of Genocide.
  • Melvern: Rwanda and Darfur: The media and the Security Council.
  • Burleigh/W. Wippermann: The Racial State. Germany 1933-45. Cambridge UP, 1991.
  • Michael Mogensen: “October 1943 – The Rescue of the Danish Jews”, in M. Bastholm et al: Denmark and the Holocaust. Copenhagen 2003
  • Holquist: “State Violence as technique: The Logic of Violence in Soviet totalitarianism”, in D.L. Hoffmann: Stalinism. Blackwell 2003.
  • Phillip Bobbit: The Shield of Archeilleus. The Kitty Genovese Incident and the War in Bosnia.
  • Hovannisian: “The Historical Dimensions of the Armenian Question, 1878-1923”, in R. Hovannisian: The Armenian Genocide in Perspective, New Jersey, 1997.
  • Courtois: The Black Book of Communism, Harvard UP 1999.
  • Powers: “Bystanders to Genocide”, The Atlantic Monthly, Sept. 2001.
  • Longman: “Placing Genocide in Context: Research Priorities for the Rwandan Genocide”, in Journal of Genocide Research, vol. 6, no. 1, 2004.
  • Torben Jørgensen: “Turkey, the US and the Armenian Genocide”, in Steven L.B. Jensen: Genocide. Cases, Comparisons and Contemporary Debates. Copenhagen 2003.
  • Yehuda Bauer: A History of the Holocaust, Franklin Watts, 1982.


Core course week including Short Study Tour

We will start with two seminar days in Copenhagen, then head out for 3 days in Northern Germany, staying in the city of Hamburg, visiting (among other places) the killing site at Bullenhuser Damm, the former concentration camp Neuengamme, and the site of the death of Anne Frank at Bergen-Belsen.


Long Study Tour Destinations

Poland was the core area of the Holocaust. We will visit two of its most central cities, Warszaw and Kraków.

Today's Warszaw presents itself as a city reborn. After the near complete destruction at the hands of the Germans in 1944 and the communist misrule of the next half-century, today the city have risen from the ruins. A new city center with modern high-rises are forever expanding, mostly with the help of EU investments. However, the traces of Warszaw's past are still to be found. Around a third of Warszaw's pre-war population was Jewish, and the city became the site of the largest ghetto in Poland. The second largest was situated in Lodz, to the West of the capital. Here the Nazis first experienced the problems of these large ghettos, where many Jews would become unable to work due to systematic undernourishment, a complete lack of medical help, and the daily violence. This led the Nazis to a new solution: Mass killings in extermination camps. The first camp in history of this nature was set up some 60 km outside Lodz, at Chelmno (German: Kulmhof), in December 1941. Eventually some 180.000 Jews, mainly Polish but also from other European countries, and at least 5000 Polish gypsies were murdered here. The contemporary site will serve as an example of a relatively less museumized and less visited camp site.

Kraków is the former capital of Poland, its royal city. Much smaller than Warszaw and almost completely untouched by the destruction of WWII, it presents itself as a medieval cultural and architectural gem in Europe. Romantic, artsy and intellectual this city has a completely different vibe than rough and bustling Warszaw. It still sports a beautiful and well-preserved former Jewish quarter, Kazimirz - now a hip neighborhood with a vibrant night life and trendy shops for a daytime outing.  But just like the capital, this town has its dark history just under the surface. In the Podgorze neighborhood we will explore the former Jewish ghetto and observe the modern day gentrification of this area. And an hour's drive from the town we find what is arguably the most potent symbol of the Holocaust, the former concentration- and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Around one million Jews and some 300.000 political prisoners from all of Europe (and a few Americans) perished here.


Academic Regulations  

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