Course Syllabus

Holocaust and Genocide

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Semester & Location:

Spring 2024 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Core Course - 3 credits

Mandatory Study Tours:

Hamburg, Germany


Major Disciplines:

Anthropology, History, Sociology




Torben Jørgensen,  current students contact through Canvas Inbox

Time & Place:

Mondays & Thursdays 11:40 -13:00 in F24-306 


Description of the 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.


You are required to have background knowledge of general history and/or political science and/or sociology.

Torben Jørgensen

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).

Learning objectives of the course

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.


  • 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.

Exams, assignments and grading

Attendance in all classes, the field study, and the study tour are mandatory. The final grade will be based on the following evaluation:

Participation: 40%

Thesis statement: 10%

Paper: 50%

The instructor will give a detailed description of what is expected of students in order to earn a high grade in participation. Guidelines and expectations for the final research paper will be given in class.

All work must be turned in in order to receive a grade for the class. Late papers or assignments will not be accepted.

Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on: 


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Course Summary:

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