September 2, 2009
If one were to bring the topic of the Holocaust up in everyday conversation, one would probably be met with confusion or anger. Nazi Germany and the events associated with it (notably the death of six million Jews and five million others) are not exactly light. The events are complex, complicated and have questions that may not have answers.
Yet Goucher College offers a course, taught by the venerable and intelligent Uta Larkey, that focuses on literature and film of the Holocaust. The course's objective is for students to learn the facts about the Holocaust and to then apply what is taught in discussions about literature and film.
According to the syllabus for the course, it's objectives are as follows: "to deepen our understanding of the historical and political context and the events that led to the Holocaust; to reflect upon the process of remembering and commemorating, forgetting and forgiving; to approach the study of the Holocaust through scholarly works, and the narratives of victims and survivors, authors, filmmakers and artists; to analyze literary works and films; to contemplate the legacy of the Holocaust."
The literature read in the course are all unique and different, as each brings something new and interesting to class discussions. Some of the books are scholarly, while others are testimonies written by survivors, and others are works of fiction. The class aims to break down the stereotype that only testimonies from survivor's are quality literature about the Holocaust, and gives films and fictional works a chance. One of the books, Elie Wiesel's Night, is very well-known, and many students enter the class having already read the book. The students also read other survivor accounts, notably Leo Bretholz's Leap into Darkness, Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz and Goldi Kalib's The Last Selection: A Child's Journey Through the Holocaust.
Guest Speakers, usually Holocaust survivors themselves, visit the class. Last year, when the class was offered, Leo Bretholz and Goldie Kalib came to the class to talk about their books. Also, their was a showing of a very stirring and eloquent documentary, Inheritance. Helen Jonas (one of the Schindler Jews) spoke to students at Goucher about her experience meeting Amon Goeth's daughter, and reliving her experience.
Nina Chilbert, a student who took the course, exclaims "I was intrigued by the way we looked at the Holocaust from a different perspective. Instead of straight history, the course largely focused on the stories of those who lived it, both fiction and nonfiction. I was glad that we did take the time to review the history of the Holocaust in between, and while, discussing the readings and films though- it helped me to look beyond the surface of our materials. It was difficult for me to read some of the books due to their relevance to my own family's history, but during class we were able to discuss each one at length and I was able to connect to them on an even deeper level."