HSTAA 337 A: The Holocaust and American Life

Spring 2023
TTh 12:30pm - 2:20pm / MOR 230
Section Type:
Joint Sections:
JEW ST 337 A
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):


The Holocaust and American Life

Spring 2023, HIST AA337A/ JSIS 337A

Meets Tuesdays and Thursdays 12:30-2:20 pm

Professor Susan Glenn

Office: 218-B Smith Hall, in the corridor.

Office Hours: Thursdays 3:00-4:00 pm and by appointment.

glenns@uw.edu (she/her)


~ “No person with a sense of the dignity of mankind can condone the persecution of the Jewish race in Germany. But no person of honesty and vision can look on their pro-war policy here today without seeing the dangers involved in such a policy both for us and for them. Instead of agitating for war, the Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way for they will be among the first to feel its consequences.” ~Charles Lindbergh, Speech delivered at a rally for “America First Committee” in Des Moines, Iowa, September 11, 1941. 

~ “We had it in our power to rescue this doomed people and we did not lift a hand to do it—or perhaps it would be fairer to say that we lifted just one cautious hand, encased in a tight-fitting glove of quotas and visas and affidavits and a thick layer of prejudice.” ~Freda Kirchwey, “While the Jews Die,” The Nation, March 13, 1943. 

“Today the people who would in their turn discredit denazification and its allied ‘negative’ measures have conveniently forgotten the nauseatingly sweet smell of the dead Jews, gypsies, and foreign slave labor in Germany.” ~Joseph F. Napoli, “Denazification from an American’s Viewpoint,” (1959).

“He remembered perfectly well that he would have a bad conscience only if he had not done what he had been ordered to do—to ship millions of men, women, and children to their death with great zeal and the most meticulous care.” ~Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963) 

“Obedience, as a determinant of behavior, is of particular relevance to our time. It has" been reliably established that from 1933-45 millions of innocent persons were systematically slaughtered on command…. These inhumane policies may have originated in the mind of a single person, but they could only be carried out on a massive scale if a very large number of persons obeyed orders.” ~Stanley Milgram, “Behavioral Study of Obedience,” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology (1963)  

~ “For some,” the US Holocaust Memorial Museum “reinforces American identity by graphically revealing what America is not. For others, more willing to recall genocidal impulses in this nation’s history, the museum may serve as a warning beacon, a contemporary commentary on the ever-present dangers of racism and anti-Semitism.” ~Edward Linenthal, Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America’s Holocaust Museum (1995).

~"Look at how many books have already been written about the Holocaust. What's the point? People haven't changed. . . Maybe they need a newer, bigger Holocaust." ~Art Spiegelman, Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began (1991).

Course Description: In most accounts, “the Holocaust” is told as a European story.  But as these statements suggest, it was also a transatlantic story. This course examines both U.S. responses to the Holocaust and the impact of the Holocaust on American society and culture from the wartime period to the present. We will examine film, literature, journalism, social scientific writing, diaries, and other primary sources to analyze how events in Europe affected and were affected by developments in U.S. history. We will begin the course by reading documents from the period from 1933 to 1945 to gain an understanding of how Americans depicted and understood the persecution of European Jews in the pre-war, wartime, and immediate post-war period. We will then move to the postwar decades to examine the impact of the Holocaust on debates about the moral responsibility of individuals and nations, concepts of evil, concepts of race and racism, and controversies in the U.S. regarding the preservation and ownership of Holocaust “memory.”  

This course counts toward (I&S), (DIV), and (W) requirements. There are no prerequisites for this course.  

Learning ObjectivesThis is a lecture/discussion/writing course. Students will learn how to work with primary sources, develop competence in the close reading of texts (including films), learn to analyze questions from multiple perspectives, and become attuned to “silences” in the sources by paying attention to what is and is not explicitly stated in a text.   

Most of the reading for this class consists of what historians call Primary Sources—documents, novels, letters, newspaper and magazine articles, films, and other material created during the time that events were taking place or in the immediate aftermath. We are also reading some Secondary Sources--works by historians and others with no direct connection to the events.  Students should approach the reading (including films) with the following questions in mind and be prepared to address them in class discussions and in written work. When was the document or book written (or when was the film produced)? Who is writing? What do we know (or can we infer from context) about them? To whom are they trying to appeal and why? What does the write assume about the beliefs and attitudes of the audience? Is the author speaking to like-minded people or trying to convince skeptics, or both?  What are the author’s main arguments? What is the “tone” of the piece—impassioned, angry, measured, philosophical, sarcastic, light-hearted, somber, skeptical, or what? 

Course Organization: Canvas Modules.

The Weekly Canvas “Modules” put everything in reach. Each Canvas Module contains  links to required readings and films for a given week. You can find the Modules tab on the left panel of the Canvas home page. 

  • Books to purchase.   Copies have been ordered by the University Bookstore.
  • Edward Linenthal, Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America’s Holocaust Museum(1995). 
  • Art Spiegelman, Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began (1991).
  •  All of the other required readings and the required films can be found in the Weekly Canvas modules. 
  • Also recommended for students seeking background reading is Doris L. Bergen, War and Genocide: A Concise History, 3rdedition (2016). The UW Library has a free e-book.

Course Requirements:

Attendance at lectures and participation in weekly Canvas Discussion Boards is mandatory.  

Discussion Board posts will always be due by 11:30 am on Thursdays.  Please note that  the Discussion Board questions will always be posted under the "Discussions" tab in Canvas (as opposed to the Assignments tab, which is where you will find the formal paper assignments). Students should make sure that they have set up their Canvas to receive notifications.

Formal Papers. This is a “W” (Writing) course. Students will write three formal papers (6-7 pages) each. Directions will always appear under the "Assignments" tab in Canvas. The papers will be based on lectures, readings, and films.  Failure to turn in all written work will result in a failing grade for the course. Instructions for the papers will be posted on Canvas (Assignments) at least two weeks in advance of the due date. Grading Rubrics for Papers can be found at the end of this syllabus. 

Due Dates for papers:

First Paper due by 11:59 pm on April 23

Second Paper due by 11:59 pm on May 21

Final Paper due by 11:59 pm on June 9

Policy on late assignments. Work must be turned in on time on the date that it is due. No late work will be accepted unless there is a true emergency (defined as illness, crisis, hospitalization, or death in your immediate family). If you are having trouble completing the assignments, contact me immediately so I can figure out how to help you succeed in the course. Do not wait. glenns@uw.edu

Warning on Plagiarism! Plagiarism means lifting or closely paraphrasing entire sentences and/or original ideas from a source—published or unpublished, print, or electronic-- without giving proper attribution. This also includes cutting and pasting from “Wikipedia” and recycling the work of other students and re-writing other people’s work to make it seem like your own. Plagiarism is intellectual theft. It is a serious violation of academic standards and is subject to disciplinary measures at this university. Please be advised that we use the “TURN-IT-IN” app to detect plagiarism. The system checks all the papers you upload to Canvas against work submitted by other UW students this quarter (and in past quarters) as well as plagiarism from internet sources and available through article databases. We also check for papers written by A-I. This counts as plagiarism. 


 Required readings and films should be completed prior to Thursday's class meeting. 

From time to time, the instructor may be making changes in the syllabus. Please pay attention to Canvas announcements.



Read: (Canvas Module).  Discussion Board Posts Due by 11:30 am on Thursday. 

  • Otto D. Tolischus, "Bands Rove in Cities," New York Times, November 11, 1938.
  • Otto D. Tolischus, "Ask `Jim Crow' Law for Jews in Reich," New York Times, December 28, 1938.
  • “Negroes, Nazis, and Jews,” The Crisis, December 1938. [Publication of the NAACP].
  • "Goebbels Spurs Abuse for Jews, New York Times, November 14, 1941.
  • Recommended for background: Doris L. Bergen, "From Revolution to Routine," from Bergen, War and Genocide (2016).



Read and watch: (Canvas Module)

  • “22,000 Nazis Hold Rally in [Madison Square] Garden,” New York Times, February 21, 1939.
  • “F.D.R. Creating War Incidents, Lindbergh Says,” Chicago Daily Tribune, September 11, 1941. 
  • “Lindbergh’s Nazi Pattern,” New Republic, September 22, 1941. 
  • “The Forbidden Theme,” Christian Century, September 24, 1941. 
  • Louis Lyons, “Speech of Lindbergh Upheld Here,” Daily Boston Globe, September 16, 1941.
  • "The Spirit of the KKK and Col. Lindbergh," Chicago Defender, October 4, 1941.
  • Dorothy Thompson, "Mr. Lindbergh and the Facts," Daily Boston Globe, September 17, 1941.
  • Watch: The Mortal Storm(1940). Directed by Frank Borzage.



Read: (Canvas Module). 

  • Varian Fry, “The Massacre of the Jews,” New Republic, December 21, 1942.
  • Freda Kirchwey, “While the Jews Die,” Nation, March 13, 1943.
  • Freda Kirchwey, "A Program of Inaction," Nation, June 5, 1943.
  • Arthur Koestler, “The Nightmare that is Reality,” New York Times, January 9, 1944.
  • Fred Eastman, “A Reply to Screamers,” Christian Century, February 16, 1944.



Read and Watch: (Canvas Module).

  •  W.H. Lawrence, “Nazi Mass Killing Laid Bare in Camp,” New York Times, August 30, 1944.
  • Richard Lauterbach, “Murder, Inc.,” Time, September 11, 1944.
  • Edward R. Murrow, "Broadcast from Buchenwald," April 15, 1945 (Listen to the Audio recording. A transcript is also available).
  • William Frye, "Thousands Tortured to Death in Camp at Belsen," Daily Boston Globe, April 21, 1945
  • Martha Gellhorn, “We were Never Nazis.” Colliers, May 26, 1945.
  • Martha Gellhorn, “Dachau Experimental Murder,” Colliers, June 23, 1945.
  • Watch: Nazi Concentration Camps, United States Army Signal Corps Documentary (1945).



Read and Watch: (Canvas Module). We will discuss this material in class on Thursday.

  • Robert H. Jackson, “Opening Address for the United States,” International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, Germany, November 21, 1945.  
  • Joseph F. Napoli, “Denazification from an American’s Viewpoint,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 264 (July 1949).
  • Telford Taylor, "The Nazis Go Free," The Nation, Feb. 4, 1951.
  • Watch: Judgement at Nuremberg(1959). CBS Playhouse 90 teleplay written by Abby Mann.
  • Recommended:  Office of Military Government for Germany (US), "Indictment" 1947, Trial 6, IG Farben Case. See especially pp. 1-8, 44-51. 



Read: (Canvas Module). 

  • NAACP, Appeal to the World! (1947). Read chapters 1, 3, and 5.
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights(1948) United Nations.
  • Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of
    Genocide(1948) United Nations.
  • We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief from a Crime of the United States Government Against the Negro People(The Civil Rights Congress, New York, 1951), pp. 1-28 
  • “Racism!” UNESCO Courier, October 1960, pp. 4-12.  
  • Watch, "Mississippi: Is this America? (1962-1964)" Episode 5, Eyes on the Prize (1986)



Read and Watch:  (Canvas Module)

  • Adolph Eichmann, “I Transported Them to the Butcher,” Life Magazine, November 28, 1960.
  • Adolph Eichmann, “To Sum it all up, I Regret Nothing,” Life Magazine, December 5, 1960.
  • Watch: Verdict for Tomorrow(1961), Directed by Leo Hurwitz, Capitol Cities Broadcasting. (28-minute documentary).
  •  Stanley Milgram, “Behavioral Study of Obedience,” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology(1963)



Read and Watch: Note that Linenthal's book is print only. Copies are available at the UW bookstore.

  • Edward Linenthal, Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America’s Holocaust Museum(1995).  Focus on pp. 1-72.  (Print book, must be purchased).
  • Watch: Sophie's Choice(1982). Directed by Alan J. Pakula and based on the novel by William Styron. (Canvas Module)



Read and watch: Note that Spiegelman's book is print only. Copies are available at the UW bookstore.

Read: Art Spiegelman, Maus: A Survivor's Tale, vol. II, And Here My Troubles Began  (1991). Print.

Watch: The Pawnbroker (1965), directed by Sidney Lumet



Read: (Canvas Module)

  • “What Charlottesville Changed," Politico Magazine, August 12, 2018.
  • Timothy Snyder, "The American Abyss," New York Times Magazine, January 9, 2021
  • Edward Linenthal, Preserving Memory, pp. 167-272
  • Sherman Alexie, “Inside Dachau” from, Alexie, In the Summer of Black Widows (1996). (Canvas Module)

Grading Rubric for History Papers: 

 An “A” range paper 

Presents a solid argument and a clear and well-organized structure that never leaves the reader to figure out the direction of the argument; and demonstrates an appropriate use of primary and secondary evidence that is integrated into the argument and properly cited and contextualized.

A high-A paper demonstrates these characteristics, as well as some unique intelligence or creativity indicating the author put extraordinary thought into preparing the argument. It uses strong topic sentences and clear transitions between paragraphs. Each paragraph follows logically from the previous one. It is specific about who, what, where, when, and why.

B” range papers contain a strong and carefully considered argument, but is somewhat weaker on overall organization, the clarity of its argument, and the use of evidence; or contain enough writing errors to distract the reader from the course of the argument.

The difference between a low “B” paper and a high “B” paper can often be attributed to the amount and type of evidence used, and the level to which it is contextualized and integrated into the argument.  

C” range papers address the assignment and may contain an argument and some evidence. Such a paper often summarizes material without analyzing it or forming an argument about it. The degree to which a paper argues a claim and mentions relevant evidence can determine where in the C-range it will be graded.  

“D” papers discuss some of the material for the assignment, but they fail to answer the question. 

Grading Rubric for History Class Discussion:

“A” range students are both highly engaged and very insightful in class discussion. They complete all reading in advance of the class meeting and come to class fully prepared to discuss key questions in the syllabus and to raise others. They actively participate in every class discussion. They offer important insights into the readings and films, refer to specific passages or scenes to back up their assertions, ask thoughtful and insightful questions, respond in respectful ways to points made by other students, demonstrate an excellent grasp of the issues, make connections between readings from week to week, and generally help elevate the level of discussion.  They always show up for class on time, bring reading materials with them so they can refer to specific passages and follow along when the instructor or another student refers to a passage, and stay for the duration of every class.  

B” range students complete all the reading in advance of the seminar and come to class prepared to discuss them. They raise their hands and respond when called upon by the instructor. They frequently make significant points, share ideas, and respond to points made by other students, ask insightful questions, and make good observations, demonstrate a good grasp of the issues, and sometimes attempt to make connections between the readings/films for different weeks in the quarter, but the level and quality of their participation is uneven.  The difference between a B+ grade and a B- has to do with the level, quality, and consistency of student involvement in class discussion. 

“C” range students complete some of the reading in advance of the seminar, or complete all reading for some of the meetings, but little of it for others. In general, their lack of preparation does not allow them to actively participate or to back up their assertions when they do. They occasionally raise their hands, but they rarely try to fully engage with the material or with other students, rarely ask questions, and if they do, they tend to wander from the issues at hand or make irrelevant points when called upon to participate.  Their comments, when offered, show a lack of understanding of the material. They typically forget to bring the reading material, arrive late and/or leave early and have unexplained absences.  

“D” range students rarely try to do the reading, rarely, if ever participate, show up late and leave early, never bring the reading material, seem generally disengaged, and have many absences. “D” students also behave in a disrespectful manner toward other students. 



The History Department recognizes the emotional and financial strain on  students who are coping with job losses, food insecurity, and mental health issues. Here is a link to some useful economic resources. Also included in this link are resources for students dealing with the traumas of racism and racial violence.  https://history.washington.edu/student-resources-times-need



Religious Accommodations:  Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy. (https://registrar.washington.edu/staffandfaculty/religious-accommodations-policy/). Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (https://registrar.washington.edu/students/religious-accommodations-request/).

DRS Accommodations:  If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course. If you have not yet established services through DRS but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or uwdrs@uw.edu or disability.uw.edu. DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s), and DRS. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.



Catalog Description:
In most accounts, "the Holocaust" is told as a European story, but it was also transatlantic. Incorporates film, literature, journalism, social scientific writing, diaries, court cases, and other primary sources to examine how events in Europe affected and were affected by developments in United States history. Offered: jointly with JEW ST 337.
GE Requirements Met:
Diversity (DIV)
Social Sciences (SSc)
Last updated:
April 14, 2024 - 7:22 am