Who were the perpetrators of the Holocaust, and how did they see themselves?
Survivors’ narratives and eyewitness testimonies have long played a key role in histories of the Holocaust, as well as in education and commemoration. These first-hand accounts have not only enriched people’s understanding of the Nazi-led persecution of the Jews, but have also ensured that tales of resistance, support, and survival have been conveyed to younger generations.
However, for many people the picture of just who was responsible for the Holocaust remains unclear. Research has shown that an understanding of who were Holocaust perpetrators remains a key gap in the public’s knowledge of the subject.
Many think of Holocaust perpetrators as those who gave the orders, staffed the camps and pulled the triggers, not fully recognising that the Holocaust was a process in which millions of people took part, including many who were not necessarily avowed Nazis, nor German. Within classrooms and museums, some are uncertain of how to represent the ordinary people whose involvement in processes of discrimination, segregation, and administration was a precondition for mass murder.
In this presentation, Professor Mary Fulbrook, Professor Stephanie Bird, Dr Stefanie Rauch, and Dr Bastiaan Willems from UCL will discuss issues raised by using the self-representations of perpetrators in understanding the Holocaust, and will examine how accounts by perpetrators and those who were complicit can be publicly presented in a way which encourages critical engagement with a complex story. The presentation relates to a digital and physical exhibition about Holocaust perpetration and complicity, funded by the AHRC and the Pears Foundation as part of a research project on ‘Compromised Identities? Reflections on Perpetration and Complicity under Nazism’.
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