The Holocaust, Religion, and the Politics of Collective Memory
The program of extermination Nazis called the Final Solution took the lives of approximately six million Jews, amounting to roughly 60 percent of European Jewry and a third of the world’s Jewish population. Studying the Holocaust from a sociological perspective, Ronald J. Berger explains why the Final Solution happened to a particular people for particular reasons; why the Jews were, for the Nazis, the central enemy. Taking a unique approach in its examination of the devastating event, The Holocaust, Religion, and the Politics of Collective Memory fuses history and sociology in its study of the Holocaust.
Berger’s book illuminates the Holocaust as a social construction. As historical scholarship on the Holocaust has proliferated, perhaps no other tragedy or event has been as thoroughly documented. Yet sociologists have paid less attention to the Holocaust than historians and have been slower to fully integrate the genocide into their corpus of disciplinary knowledge and realize that this monumental tragedy affords opportunities to examine issues that are central to main themes of sociological inquiry.
Berger’s aim is to counter sociologists who argue that the genocide should be maintained as an area of study unto itself, as a topic that should be segregated from conventional sociology courses and general concerns of sociological inquiry. The author argues that the issues raised by the Holocaust are central to social science as well as historical studies.
“[Berger] aims to integrate the study of the Holocaust into the wider sociological study of genocide, and the way such events are handled and remembered. He does this largely though a distillation of some of the principal contributions (mostly by historians) to the study of the Holocaust. The author is particularly interested in the question of why the Jews were singled out by the Nazis. This then becomes the basis for tracing the impact of the Holocaust on historical memory not just among Jews in Israel, but also among others, such as non-Jewish Poles, Germans, and Americans… [A] compact, useful study… Recommended.”
—K. Kumar, Choice
"In a work of careful synthetic scholarship that can be read at the same time as a profound meditation on the Holocaust and the politics of memory, Ronald Berger provides a characteristically insightful and compelling account. The book’s wide-ranging agenda moves deftly from exploring the deep history of anti-Semitism and the more contingent elements of twentieth-century Germany to subsequent attempts to make sense of the competing explanations for this traumatic historical experience. As such, he is committed to a project his disciplinary peers have generally been hesitant to develop: a sociology of evil. Moving past the event, Berger traces the emergence of the varied expressions of collective remembrance once the social amnesia characteristic of the immediate postwar period had passed. Without ever forgetting the uniqueness of the Jewish encounter with evil, Berger is intent on encouraging readers to seek out the universal significance of this particular trauma by linking it to more recent genocides—and in so doing, attempting to encourage the creation of bonds of solidarity with all those who suffer at the hands of oppressors."
—Peter Kivisto, Augustana College and University of Turku
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Table of Contents
1 Sociology and the Holocaust
2 Why the Jews?
3 The Rise of Nazism and the Evolution of Anti-Jewish Policy
4 The Social Structure of the Genocidal Regime
5 Jewish Responses to the Holocaust
6 Bystanders and Third-Party Resistance
7 European Collective Memories: Germany and Poland
8 Jewish Collective Memories: Israel and the United States
9 Genocide, Religion, and Social Solidarity