FSEM 100H3 | Holocaust in German and American Culture

This seminar explores how and why we remember the Holocaust the way we do: How does Holocaust memory in the U.S. compare to Holocaust memory in Germany? How does this memory change over generations, and why? And how do certain media shape our memories in different ways? We will study a wide range of forms that contribute to the memory of the Holocaust, including a graphic novel, a play, films, and memorials as we examine the ways in which two nations – Germany, the perpetrator nation, and the United States – struggle to come to terms with the violent past. We will analyze the categories of perpetrator, bystander, and victim, and we will discuss concepts of guilt, responsibility, complicity, and atonement. This seminar includes a trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

Photo of Marcel Rotter, Associate Professor of German

Marcel Rotter, Associate Professor of German

Ever since growing up in communist East Germany, I was interested in the workings of propaganda, visual communication, and public opinion forming. I have been teaching German since 1985, first in high school later at universities in Germany and the U.S. At UMW, I proposed this FSEM to explore with the students the culturally different approaches to commemorating the Holocaust in Germany and the United States. The comparison between memorials, museums, films, and books in the two respective countries - one having been the perpetrator, the other being home to a significant number of victims and their descendants – makes for fascinating insights into how memory of traumatic events is formed. In addition to teaching this Freshman Seminar, I am travelling with our students to Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Poland to visit the sights of the Holocaust during Spring Break.