Saturday, August 10, 2013

Reflections on the Holocaust I: Pre-Reflections

I am taking a fascinating free online course with Coursera on The Holocaust. This is the first of several posts in which I will share some of my reflections on what I am learning about the Holocaust. I have sub-titled this first post “Pre-Reflections” because here I will simply introduce the Holocaust, Coursera, and The Holocaust course.

THE HOLOCAUST. Just in case someone may read this who is unfamiliar with the term Holocaust, I will begin with a definition. The Holocaust refers to the extermination of millions of Jewish people by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime. This was done largely in gas chambers, but Jews were also shot, hanged, beaten, starved, and worked to death in concentration camps. The Nazis’ extermination campaign was aimed at Jews, but other undesirables were eliminated as well, including the physically disabled, the mentally ill, homosexuals, Gypsies, and political dissidents.

COURSERA. Coursera is a wonderful entity that offers free online courses taught by respected university professors. It is very easy to sign up for a free Coursera course at this web address.

THE HOLOCAUST COURSERA COURSE. My present Coursera course, The Holocaust, is team-taught by two professors from the University of California at Santa Cruz: Peter Kenez, Professor Emeritus of History, and Murray Baumgarten, Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature. The course lasts for 10 weeks; thus, there are 10 modules. Each of the 10 weekly modules includes these elements:

  • Online lectures by the professors
  • Supplementary readings: historical accounts, memoirs, novels, short stories, poems
  • Supplementary films: documentaries, films based on a true story, fictional films
  • Three papers to write, which are peer evaluated
  • Online forums in which to engage in discussion with classmates

I am finding The Holocaust Coursera course to be excellent! I appreciate the scope of the lectures, the wide range and richness of the material, the in-depth thought required by the papers, and the opportunity to interact online with classmates from all over the globe. I also love the way the Holocaust is approached both from a historical perspective and from the perspective of its literature. Not only are we reading historical accounts of the Holocaust, but we are also reading memoirs, novels, short stories, and poems. I hadn’t realized that there is Holocaust poetry, but there is.

This completes my pre-reflections. My next several posts will reflect on what I am learning about the Holocaust.


  1. I and others have studied the holocaust for over 15 years and have come to a different conclusion, this one from a Jewish source:

    “most of the memoirs and reports [of 'Holocaust survivors'] are full of preposterous verbosity, graphomanic exaggeration, dramatic effects, overestimated self-inflation, dilettante philosophizing, would-be lyricism, unchecked rumors, bias, partisan attacks…”
    –Samuel Gringauz, “Jewish Social Studies” (New York), January 1950,
    Vol. 12, p. 65

    In this post of comments I noted this comment:

    By Patrick Cloutier.....comments:

    This conversation goes on here if your interested:
    Add to it if you want.

    Cloutier comments:

    "I met two Jews who had been in concentration camps in World War 2, and they told me, much to my surprise, that the Germans treated them just fine. What they don't teach you in school, is that the Nuremburg Trials really were show trials, just like the Soviet variety. Rules of evidence were not observed. That means proof was not required of the prosecution - which means that no one had to provide evidence for 6 million Jewish deaths. It was once claimed that 2 million Jews were killed at Auschwitz. Even if bodies are burned in a crematoria, they leave ashes and bone, so 2 million makes for a big pile of ashes and bone.

    It was claimed that 200 people were exterminated per hour - but the camp only had 8 crematoria ovens. Human bodies do not burn like paper - it takes an hour to cremate one body. 200 deaths per hour versus 8 bodies cremated per hour: clearly, the disposal capacity of the camp would have created a bottleneck in any extermination attempt.

    Why were the ovens there? By law, victims of typhus had to be cremated, in order to prevent the spread of the disease. Why were the people in the camps dying of typhus? Because the Anglo-American air forces had bombed Germany's rail and road network into ruin. Food could not be delivered to the camps in the last months of the war, those within grew weak from hunger and vulnerable to sicknesses, like typhus.

    The Holocaust narrative was produced by Zionist Jews, once it became clear that Germany was going to lose the war. The Zionists saw the Nazis as their best partners in realizing their goal of bringing the Jewish people back to Palestine. Almost no Jew in Europe wanted to emigrate to Palestine: the wealth of the world was in Europe, not some arid and undeveloped patch of real estate inhabited by Arabs. The Nazis were going to resettle the Jews outside of Europe, and this fit perfectly with the Zionist objective to settle Jews in Palestine. If they would not go willingly, resettlement policy would make the decision for them...


    The Holocaust narrative was so essential to maintaining the post-war order, that questioning it became illegal. Thus, so-called 'Holocaust denial' is an offense punishable by prison in most European countries. Even the attorneys of such defendants risk going to prison, for defending their clients. In America, so-called 'hate speech' regulations substitute for Holocaust denial statutes, and the threat of losing one's teaching career for academically challenging the Holocaust narrative also squelches discussion of it - today, many schools across America have an annual, siren-wailing Holocaust Remembrance Day, at the instigation of local Jewish organizations, partly for the purpose of indoctrinating youth in this sham, and partly for the purpose of excusing Israeli atrocities against Palestinians. But no educator dares to challenge this, for fear of losing his or her teaching job."

    Joe Rizoli

    1. Dear Joe,

      Thank you for your comments. I know that there are those, like yourself, who believe that the Holocaust did not happen or is grossly exaggerated. I myself do believe the accounts of such survivors of the concentration camps as Primo Levi, Elie Wiesel, Corrie Ten Boom, Filip Muller, Abraham Bomba, and others.

      However, the accounts are so horrendous that they do seem incredible. It's difficult to believe that such a thing could have happened. And you appear to have evidence that convinces you that such a thing did not happen.

      I myself remain convinced that it did.