Remembering the Holocaust

A reexamination of history and how we remember it

April 20, 2022

The Holocaust is a dark chapter of our history. For some, it may be impossible to grasp the magnitude of the horror; for others, it’s a heartbreaking aspect of their family history. The importance of our collective remembrance of such an event can’t be overstated. We, as a society, have unfortunately already forgotten some aspects of the Holocaust story — but why?

German Studies 270 (GRM 270) studies the ways the Holocaust is remembered through works of literature, film, memorials, and personal testimony, both privately and collectively.

One important approach used in this course is to study the ways that the past has been memorialized. Our past is a reflection of the present, and important events in our history often influence the way we live our lives today.

GRM 270 explores what has been remembered over time and how various means of remembrance also lead to certain types of forgetting. It also asks the question, is there a “right” way to remember a historical event?

As part of your Grinnell liberal arts education, GRM 270 is an interdisciplinary course that draws on literary studies, history, art history, religious studies, anthropology, and even tourism studies, says Dan Reynolds, a professor in the Department of German Studies. Reynolds, who is also the Seth Richards Professor in Modern Languages, says that this course is part of an effort to develop a Jewish Studies curriculum.

Students who have taken GRM 270 have expressed surprise at the inconsistencies in our collective memory. What is written in our history books can be seen as a collection of pervasive biases, depending on our knowledge and emotional reactions to an event. This course allows for exploration and open-minded discussion about how we can maintain an awareness of past events while finding a deeper understanding within them.

After taking GRM 270, students have embraced the critical thinking skills that they developed and have gone on to apply them in many interesting ways. Some students have pursued faculty-advised individual projects; some have applied their knowledge to study abroad opportunities. 

Learn more about German Studies

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