Yehuda Bauer, Historian of the Holocaust (Part 1)
A History of the Holocaust
the last quarter century, the Holocaust has become the
subject of an ever-growing body of research. Holocaust
educational centers have proliferated in the United States
and other parts of the world. Scores of guides for teaching
the Holocaust have been created, and memoirs of Holocaust
survivors continue to appear. For teachers who are just
beginning to become acquainted with this subject, the
subject may seem overwhelming. Also, teachers, who have
worked with Holocaust material in their classrooms for many
years, often feel that the more they know the less they know
of the subject because of the continual appearance of new
research and teaching aides.
Bauer’s A History of the Holocaust, Revised Edition
(2001) is an excellent book for teachers to begin
investigating the subject, with all levels of background in
the subject. Dr. Bauer’s History provides a
comprehensive overview of the Holocaust, 1933-1945, along
with relevant maps and statistical information. In addition
to chronicling the events of the Nazi era, Bauer considers
the origins and legacy of Nazism. As Dr. Bauer explains in
[W]e have to start with the
history, and the history has to be placed in the proper
context. Therefore, we must first look backward to the
history of the Jewish people and their relationship to the
non-Jewish world, and to antisemitism in ancient, medieval,
and modern times. The period of the Holocaust itself is
understood in this book to be essentially the period of 1933
to 1945. However, because the immediate after-effects of
the Holocaust—the events of 1945 to 1948 and the
establishment of the State of Israel—are equally pertinent;
the immediate political, demographic, and sociological
consequences are also included and, in this edition,
next two issues of Dimensions Online highlight the
life of Dr. Yehuda Bauer and his work over the last four
decades. His research and methodology are incorporated in
A History of the Holocaust, Revised Edition. Also found
in his History are ideas for the themes, documents
and maps that are essential for teaching about the
Before studying the contents of
Dr. Bauer’s History, study the cover to the book.
What do you see in the photograph? Why was this image
selected for a book dealing with the entire era of the
Holocaust? What image or images would you select to
encapsulate the meaning of the Holocaust? What is missing in
the cover image?
A review of
the Table of Contents for Yehuda Bauer’s A History
of the Holocaust (2001) reveals the comprehensive nature
of his text and the focus the author has placed in the
history of the Jews, their fate during the Holocaust, and
their post-Holocaust experience.
Tables and Charts
Who Are the
Christianity and the Developing Jewish Civilization
Reactions Until Modern Times
Mysticism and Messianism
Social and Economic Life in the Diaspora
Emancipation, and Antisemitism
Political Developments in Eastern Europe
Ideological and Organizational Structure of Nineteenth
Century Jewish Society
Anti-Zionist and Other Reactions
World War I
and Its Aftermath
Background: 1914-1918, Genocide of the Armenians
Antisemitism in Britain and France
Jewish Center in the United States
Hitler and the Nazi Party
Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, 1933-1938
Jewry in the Prewar Era, 1933-1938
Christianity and the Nazis
The Jews in
The Jews in
Plan for Jewish Containment
The Minsk Judenrat
Life in the
Will to Survive
Education and Cultural Activity
Ghettoes in the USSR
of Unarmed Resistance
Concentration and Death Camps
European Jewry, 1940-1944
Southern Vichy Zone
Jews under Vichy Rule
Italian Occupied Zone of France
Attitude Toward Resistance in the Ghetto
Problems of Armed Resistance
Bialystok Ghetto Rebellion
Resistance in Vilna
in Other Ghettos
in Eastern Europe
in Western Europe
Jewish-Gentile Relations in Eastern Europe
of the Righteous
of Bulgarian Jews
Operations in Western Europe
Attitudes of Major Powers
The USSR, 1939-1942
United States, 1939-1942
Information about the Holocaust, 1942-1944
Years of the Holocaust, 1943-1945
by Negotiation Possible?
What “Caused” the Holocaust?
Holocaust and Genocide—Is There a Difference?
Theodicy—Where Was God? Where Was Man?
Consequences of the Holocaust
||Reading a Table of
Contents can tell you a lot about a book. Reviewing the
Table of Contents of A History of the Holocaust
(revised edition), what themes receive the greatest
attention on Bauer’s survey of the Holocaust? Study another
general survey of the Holocaust and compare its contents
with those in Bauer’s History. Go on line at
ushmm.com to find other histories of the Holocaust.
What similarities and differences do you find between two of
these general surveys?
||Why do you think
Dr. Bauer opens with a discussion on “Who Are the Jews?”
||Dr. Bauer is
careful to document the rescue attempts by Jews in the final
years of the war. Most general textbooks on the Holocaust
omit such detail on these rescue efforts. Why do you think
Dr. Bauer has incorporated these efforts in his textbook?
topic of the Jewish Councils (Judenrate receives special
attention in Bauer’s History. How can one fairly assess the responsibility of the Jewish councils during the Nazi regime?
Some historians view the
Judenrat as not only an obedient tool of the Nazis but an
essential element in the Nazi destruction of the Jews (e.g.
Raul Hilberg). According to this viewpoint, even “good”
Judenrat leaders, that is, those who tried by various
subterfuges to protect the Jews, were, in fact, aiding in
the process of destruction because they simply kept more
Jews alive to supply temporary labor for the Nazis. That
is, in keeping the Jews under control, the Judenrat were an
instrument of the German bureaucracy. Other historians
(e.g. Israel Gutman and myself) consider not only the end
results (the murder of the Jewish communities) but the
intentions of the Judenrat members as well. But even when
only the actions of the Judenrate are considered, they range
from complete submission to rebellion, with many variations
in between. The Judenrate were victims of the Nazi
onslaught—more victims perhaps, than others, faced, as they
were, with life and death decisions in circumstances that no
leaders of communities in recent times had been faced with.
However one views the Judenrate, the ultimate responsibility
lies, of course, with the Nazis, not with those who were, at
worst, but tools.
Yehuda Bauer. A History of
the Holocaust (Revised Edition). New York: Franklin Watts, 2001. 172.
||In dealing with
the ghettoes Dr. Bauer looks at ghettoes in Poland and
ghettoes in the USSR. Why does Dr. Bauer need to make such
distinctions in a general textbook? Why doesn’t he
include a general discussion about ghetto life without the
textbook, especially in chapters dealing with the occupation
of Poland and the “Final Solution,” Dr. Bauer includes
quotes from Nazi leaders such as Reinhard Heydrich and
Heinrich Himmler and from Jewish victims. Why do you think
Dr. Bauer includes the voices of perpetrators and victims in
a general textbook?
Dr. Bauer sums up
his discussion of the years of the “Final
Solution” with the following observation:
essential to realize that we live in an era in which
Holocausts are possible, though not inevitable. The
Holocaust was produced by factors that still exist in the
world, factors such as deep hatreds, bureaucracies capable
and willing to do the bidding of their superiors, modern
technology devoid of moral directions, brutal dictatorships,
and wars. If this is so, who can say which peoples
could be the future victims, who the perpetrators? Who
might the Jews be the next time?
Given the events
in the twentieth-first century (Bosnia, Sudan),
how would you respond to Dr. Bauer’s question?
One of the
fundamental and depressing aspects of the
Holocaust is the relatively small role played by
rescuers, Jewish and non-Jewish.
Nevertheless, Dr. Bauer believes that the
rescuers did leave an important legacy that can
inspire actions in the twenty first century:
its margins, the acts of the rescuers show us that human
beings can choose between evil and good. Most people
at that time chose evil, or turned away so as not to see it.
But some chose good, and thus provide us with a hope for the
future: we are capable of being rescuers, just as we
are capable of being evil-doers.
People very seldom learn from history; sometimes, however,
they do. Can our generation be such an exception? What
shall we choose?
Have you witnessed
in your community or school individuals who have
chosen “good”? Provide specific examples
and discuss what might have motivated this
individual to take the risk of caring?
Look in the newspaper or on television for these
examples, if you don’t know any.