We discussed anxieties some authors like Alvin Rosenfeld express about a worried “end to the Holocaust,” a sense that the more we talk and write about it, the more we actually get away from it and the less we understand it in its specificity and moral gravity. We discussed standards and criteria by which to assess Holocaust memoirs and novels, exploring truth and veracity, authenticity, literary quality, and more, with Ruth Franklin as our guide.
We explored whether it is possible, in terms of new directions in history, as Timothy Snyder does in Bloodlands, to go more macro, more comparative, without at the same time flattening the distinctiveness of the events that we call the Holocaust. Finally, we explored. in terms of new directions in history, reading Christopher Browning’s Remembering Survival, going more micro, more bottom-up, drawing on survivors’ testimonies and interviews, and studying the Holocaust in particular places and camps.
All of this led to other insights about doing or writing history, confronting genocide, coping with ongoing issues of justice and responsibility, and wrestling with memory. UM Flint faculty and staff explored the many ways confrontation with aspects of the Holocaust is also germane and relevant to studying topics and raising questions beyond the Holocaust on which they work or in which they’re interested and on exploring methods of approaching these. What a great group — the seminar leader learned at least as much as seminar participants!