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2008 - 2009 Student Essays Northampton University

2008 - 2009 Student Essays Northampton University

Essays & Editorials

The Department of History, University of Northampton & The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team


2008- 2009

Like previous undergraduate student essays made available online through collaboration with the HEART team, selected 2007/8 papers cover a range of themes deriving from the first year module offered by the School of Social Science at the University of Northampton, The Holocaust and Its Histories.

But unlike recent years, the five submissions included here also cover a range of marks, from a lower 2:1 ( to a clear first (A, or distinction). Collectively, the essays presented here testify to the wide range of important debates and questions continuing to be raised by both scholars and students of the Holocaust.

Essay 1:

By Oli Fordham, the first essay in this collection analyses the historiographical debate surrounding the decision to systematically murder all of Europe’s Jews, what the Third Reich termed the ‘Final Solution of the Jewish Question’. Fordham moves from the lack of a written ‘Führer Order’ to the possibility that more than one ‘decision’ may have been taken over the critical months of Summer and Autumn 1941, and finds it was most likely issued verbally before the infamous Wannsee Conference of 20 January 1942. In reaching the conclusion that two orders were most likely given by Hitler to initiate the Final Solution, Fordham brilliantly synthesizes an assessment of historians’ various arguments on the one hand with, on the other, a solid reliance on documented evidence regarding the increasing scope of the Nazis’ murder in the East over the second half of 1941.

Essay 2:

Similarly emphasizing historical interpretations of Nazism as critical to understanding the evolution of the Holocaust, Hannah O’Dell’s essay questions whether or not there was a “Nazi conscience” operant under the Third Reich. As O’Dell makes clear at the outset, the definition of conscience does not extend to either endorsement or contemporary moral judgments, but is instead an ‘internal sense of right and wrong’ that may be said to condition the behavior of historical actors. By departing from important arguments advanced in Claudia Koonz’s The Nazi Conscience, O’Dell forcefully argues that key features of Nazi ideology – from ‘racial hygiene’ and virulent anti-Semitism to notions of ‘Aryan’ superiority and fascism’s operant political religion – comprise what may be conceived as a ‘conscience’ in the Third Reich. In doing so, O’Dell employs a theory-based approach to her essay on the Holocaust with particularly fruitful results.

Essay 3:

The third submission for 2008 identifies three distinct yet overlapping phases of the Holocaust between 1939 and 1941: ghettoisation, mass murder (largely through shooting) and finally, the systematic gassing of Jewish victims. Joseph Bench’s essay moves from the initial period of war and brutalization following the Polish campaign in September 1939 to the rapid establishment of Jewish ghettos, progressively sealed off from the outside world by the Nazi occupation and deprived of most basic necessities – arguably through an initial intention to kill Polish Jews by overwork and starvation. Bench then considers the pivotal actions of the notorious Einsatzgruppen, shooting their way across the Soviet Union in the wake of the German Army advance Summer 1941, confident of victory. Here, his account finds that the search for a more effective and less psychologically and physically damaging solution – for the perpetrators, not the victims – led the Third Reich toward the adoption of carbon monoxide gas (and at Auschwitz-Birkenau, industrial use of Zyklon , as increasingly systematic shooting gave way to genocide in purpose-built extermination centers, even before the infamous Wannsee Conference of 20 January 1942.

Essay 4:

The fourth essay in this year’s collection, by another current undergraduate at the University of Northampton, Spencer Worley, explores an important area in contemporary studies of Holocaust; namely, Jewish resistance. Recently the subject of a major motion picture featuring Daniel Craig, Defiance, Worley’s particular focus turns to the Bielski Partisans, demonstrating that some Jewish groups continued to actively resist Nazi occupation. By moving from a general overview of different forms and places in which Jewish resistance to the Holocaust took place – from extermination camps to the Warsaw Uprising – to a case study of one group, Worley usefully contextualizes the range of armed resistance, before effectively considering the actions of one group, ultimately comprising more than a 1,000 people, resisting Nazi occupation in Belorussia until the end of the World War Two in Europe.

Essay 5:

Hannah Bigham's essay on Holocaust Denial rounds out this collection of essays from The Holocaust and Its Histories, in this case; by charting the postwar rise of this form of so-called ‘revisionism’, and the motivations of influential Holocaust Deniers like David Irving. The latter is given particular attention, extending to analysis of a cartoon image of the latter following his defeated libel action against Deborah Lippstadt, who successfully alleged that Irving was both an active Holocaust Denier and a ‘falsifier of history’ in 2000. By linking the landmark “Irving Case” to wider Holocaust ‘revisionism’ texts like those published by Willis Carto’s Institute for Historical Review (IHR), Bigham is able to impressively survey the (usually neo-fascist and/or anti-Semitic) motivations for Holocaust Denial in light of established historical fats regarding the Final Solution.

Dissertation 1 & 2:

1.) The last two assessments from the 2008 academic year included here are dissertations – the final piece of coursework submitted as a History undergraduates at the University of Northampton. Albeit for very different reasons, both of these 10,000 word dissertations received first class honors. The first of these, Tamsin Silver’s study, “Medical Experimentation During the Holocaust”, synthesizes a range of Anglophone sources in order to offer a nuanced perspective on the role played by Nazi vivisection of innocent victims in the wider constellation ‘racial science’ in the Third Reich.

In turn, the biomedical perversions critically contributing to Nazi eugenics, and thereby, racial policy more generally, are subjected to a comparative analysis with other dictatorial regimes during World War II, notably the Japanese and Soviet regimes. By employing both an analytical and comparative perspective in her dissertation, Silver is able to originally address a question of ever-greater importance to both historians of medicine and of the Third Reich today: was there such a thing as an idiosyncratically ‘Nazi Science’, or were the Nazis, instead, practitioners of medicine in a manner largely similar to other European and American doctors and physicians of the time?

2.) Different questions are asked by the second dissertation and final assessment forming this year’s collection of student essays, Harriet Notley’s first-class dissertation, entitled “To what extent can the British Union of Fascists be considered a political religion’? While not directly related to the wartime Holocaust in continental Europe, the BUF represented a revolutionary fascist movement in interwar Britain as well as a political religion, or secular faith, comparable to Nazism in Germany (although the BUF never took over state power like the Nazis did on 30 January 1933). As advanced by a number of groundbreaking theorists and historians of late, the concept of ‘political religion’ – essentially the idea of a man-made paradise on earth rather than a supernatural as offered by monotheistic religions – facilitated Notley’s re-reading of BUF archives and newspaper publications during the 1930s.

The sophisticated use of unpublished manuscripts by Notley, alongside a fresh reading of these primary sources in light of recent historiography, helps to highlight the relevant themes a similar interwar fascist movement can throw upon the dynamics of National Socialism. Finally, Notley’s dissertation also builds upon her previous success in analyzing themes related to the Holocaust, as evidenced by her earlier essay published on this website, which explores the role of Holocaust museums and exhibits in the commemoration of the Final Solution. Like the 7 texts from this year, previous essays and dissertations remaining on this excellent website are helpful for current students – both at Northampton and elsewhere – and the wider public alike, not least given the long and frightening shadow of the Holocaust continuing to fall across the landscape of contemporary politics and society.

April 2009
-Matthew Feldman

Senior Lecturer in History
History Undergraduate Admissions Tutor

Read the full list of Essays here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/essays&editorials/0607narrative.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto 2009 H.E.A.R.T

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