The History, Memory, and Representation of the Holocaust

A First-Year Ampersand Program

History, Memory, and Representation

The Diary of Anne Frank, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Schindler’s List—these well-known books and films about the Holocaust are part of nearly every teenager’s education. But as powerfully affective as they are, such popular treatments of the Holocaust represent (and often even misrepresent) just a narrow piece of its complex history. This rigorous full-year program goes deeper into the subject of the Holocaust by engaging intensively with the history and memory of the Nazi genocide of the European Jews and other groups between 1933 and 1945. In addition, it examines representations of this experience in literature and film and at memorial sites and museums.

Students gain a more thorough understanding of better-known histories and narratives of the Holocaust and explore aspects of the Holocaust that are underrepresented in contemporary American culture or that have otherwise been marginalized. They additionally learn about some of the important scholarly methodologies for approaching the study of the Holocaust and its legacy.  The highlight of the program is an educational trip in late May and early June to locations in Germany, Poland, and Lithuania. Students visit sites important to the history and memory of the Holocaust, such as the Warsaw and Vilna ghettos, the Auschwitz and Treblinka death camps, the mass graves at Ponary, and museums, memorials and historical sites in Berlin and environs.

What Students Have to Say:

Noah Kontur, Class of 2021

“The course is challenging and rewarding. If you truly let yourself sink your teeth into the class, you will find yourself immersed in a whole world of new--albeit sobering--knowledge. Moreover, the trends and realities found when studying the Holocaust can certainly be applied and analogized to other phenomena. All in all, the class is very enlightening.”

Melanie De Lisa, Class of 2021

“The class is a great opportunity to learn about a subject that isn't necessarily within your major. Because of the way it's structured, it is more comprehensive than just taking one class on something, but it is not as big of a commitment as a major or minor.”

Abby Rodler, Class of 2021

"From a Holocaust-centered perspective, I gained a deeper understanding of what genocide survivors face on an individual and group basis. As a student also interested in psychology, this experience encouraged me to broaden my studies to sociology and the study of trauma."

Noah Perlmutter, Class of 2019

“I think it was immensely valuable to have the same group of people throughout the semester. Once we got to know each other somewhat, we could grow together as students and as people in general (as corny as that sounds). The trip was, in my mind, a culmination of that growth and it would be hard to replicate that kind of impact without having a cohort structure.”

How to Apply

The application process for first-year programs and seminars opens on Tuesday, May 14, at noon (CT) and closes on Friday, May 17, at noon (CT). You will need your WUSTL Key to apply, so please be sure to sign up for your WUSTL Key by Monday, May 13 to give it 24 hours to activate. For this program you will need to complete an additional application component. In an essay of about 500 words, please describe your academic interests and intellectual goals for enrolling in the year-long program on the history, memory, and representation of the Holocaust. Please include a description of your previous exposure (if any) to studying the Holocaust or other genocides.

First-Year Program Homepage

Student Voices

Many students enter Washington University thinking they know what they want to study and how they want to spend their four years here. However, few students are fully aware of the breadth and depth of intellectual and academic experiences available to them here. This program aims to make the challenges and rewards of humanistic thinking more visible to first-year students by demonstrating to them the ways in which the disciplines of history and literary criticism approach a topic that continues to be of fundamental importance.

Deep Dive into the Study of the Holocaust

Reflections from first-year students enrolled in the 2015-2016 Ampersand program “The History, Memory, and Representation of the Holocaust."

FAQ

What courses are offered as part of this program?

The fall semester course, “The Holocaust: A European Experience,” will give students a necessary overview of the complex historical breadth and geographic reach of the pan-European events of the Nazi genocide, an event that affected women and men, children and the elderly, Jews, Roma, Slavs, and social groups that the Nazis considered unworthy of life.

In the spring semester course, “Representations of the Holocaust in Literature and Film,” students will use their understanding of the development and implementation of the Holocaust to examine important literary and filmic representations of the Holocaust with a critical eye, focusing in particular on depictions of the Holocaust that fall outside popular narratives and examining theoretical frameworks for analyzing such texts.

Will there be activities outside of the classroom?

Classroom engagements will be supplemented by visits to the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center and other projects.

The highlight of this program is an educational trip in May to locations in Germany, Poland, and Lithuania. The trip will include visits to sites important to the history and memory of the Holocaust, such as the Warsaw and Vilna ghettos, the Auschwitz and Treblinka death camps, the mass graves at Ponary, and museums, memorials, and important historical sites in Berlin and environs.

What is different about this program from other opportunities in this major/field?  

The Ampersand Program on the Holocaust is a unique opportunity for students to study the complex dynamics and legacy of one of the most well-known transnational historical events from an interdisciplinary perspective. Students are trained in different disciplinary approaches to fundamental questions of humanistic scholarship: What role does ideology play in how humans make decisions and act? Why does violence against particular groups occur? How do individuals and communities live with the aftermath of systematic violence? How do artists and survivors try to make legible to others concrete experiences of violence, whether from the perspective of the victim or from that of the perpetrator?  How do people make sense of their own and other people’s pasts? Why do literature, film, and historical scholarship continue to turn to the events of the Holocaust in order to explain the dangers of propaganda and ideological indoctrination, or the dynamics of violence? 

Is there any additional cost for this program?

Yes. The travel component of this course, a trip to Germany, Lithuania and Poland, costs approximately $3,500. Need based financial support available.