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Probing the Limits of Categorization: The Bystander in Holocaust History

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Volume 27

War and Genocide

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Probing the Limits of Categorization

The Bystander in Holocaust History

Edited by Christina Morina and Krijn Thijs

382 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78920-093-5 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (November 2018)

ISBN  978-1-78920-811-5 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Not Yet Published (December 2020)

eISBN 978-1-78920-094-2 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $29.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“Scholars interested in the conceptual and research methodological approaches to bystanders will find great sources of research inspiration in a number of chapters… This rich, multidimensional book makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the limits and difficulties of categorising bystanders. It advances the field and, crucially, provides a roadmap for future research into this complex, unsettling figure, not just during the Holocaust, but also beyond.” • BMGN Low Countries Historical Review

“This collection stands as an extraordinary and incisive contribution to understanding the processes of extreme violence. Probing the Limits of Categorization is an important book that promises to provoke fruitful discussion.” • Peter Fritzsche, University of Illinois and author of An Iron Wind: Europe under Hitler

“With its disciplinarily diverse contributions, this book offers a captivating and discerning overview of the ‘bystander’ in recent Holocaust studies, rethinking questions that have intrigued historians of the Holocaust for decades. This volume is a thought-provoking and important contribution to the field.” • Caroline Mezger, Center for Holocaust Studies, Institute for Contemporary History


Of the three categories that Raul Hilberg developed in his analysis of the Holocaust—perpetrators, victims, and bystanders—it is the last that is the broadest and most difficult to pinpoint. Described by Hilberg as those who were “once a part of this history,” bystanders present unique challenges for those seeking to understand the decisions, attitudes, and self-understanding of historical actors who were neither obviously the instigators nor the targets of Nazi crimes. Combining historiographical, conceptual, and empirical perspectives on the bystander, the case studies in this book provide powerful insights into the complex social processes that accompany state-sponsored genocidal violence.

Christina Morina is Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Bielefeld. From 2015 to 2019, she was DAAD Visiting Assistant Professor at the Duitsland Instituut Amsterdam. She has also worked as lecturer at the University of Jena and was a research fellow at the Jena Center 20th Century History. Her dissertation Legacies of Stalingrad: Remembering the Eastern Front War in Germany since 1945 appeared in 2011. Since then, she has published a number of books and articles on modern German and European political-intellectual history and memory culture, among them Die Erfindung des Marxismus. Wie eine Idee die Welt eroberte (2017, forthcoming in English in 2022), and Zur rechten Zeit. Wider die Rückkehr des Nationalismus (2019, with N. Frei, F. Maubach and M. Tändler).

Krijn Thijs is senior researcher at the German Studies Institute Amsterdam and lecturer at Amsterdam University. He has published on political history, memory cultures and historiography in Germany and the Netherlands. In 2006, he received his PhD from Amsterdam Free University. The dissertation about Berlin master narratives in the 20th century was published by Böhlau Verlag as Drei Geschichten, eine Stadt. Die Berliner Stadtjubiläen 1937 und 1987 (2008). Currently, he is working on a book synthesis about professional and biographical upheavals in East German Historiography after 1989. Thijs also publishes on the experiences of Wehrmacht soldiers in the occupied Netherlands and on controversies in Dutch historiography. He is co-founder of the Dutch-German History Workshop.

Subject: Genocide History Jewish Studies History: 20th Century to Present
Area: Europe


List of Illustrations

Introduction: Probing the Limits of Categorization
Christina Morina and Krijn Thijs


Chapter 1. Bystanders: Catchall Concept, Alluring Alibi or Crucial Clue?
Mary Fulbrook

Chapter 2. Raul Hilberg and His “Discovery” of the Bystander
René Schlott

Chapter 3. Bystanders as Visual Subjects: Onlookers, Spectators, Observers, and Gawkers in Occupied Poland
Roma Sendyka

Chapter 4. “I Am Not, What I Am.”: A Typological Approach to Individual (In)Action in the Holocaust
Timothy Williams

Chapter 5. The Many Shades of Bystanding: On Social Dilemmas and Passive Participation
Froukje Demant

Chapter 6. The Dutch Bystander as Non-Jew and Implicated Subject
Remco Ensel and Evelien Gans


Chapter 7. Photographing Bystanders
Christoph Kreutzmüller

Chapter 8. The Imperative to Act: Jews, Neighbors, and the Dynamics of Persecution in Nazi Germany, 1933–1945
Christina Morina

Chapter 9. Martin Heidegger’s Nazi Conscience
Adam Knowles

Chapter 10. Natura Abhorret Vacuum: Polish “Bystanders” and the Implementation of the “Final Solution”          
Jan Grabowski

Chapter 11. Defiant Danes and Indifferent Dutch?: Popular Convictions and Deportation Rates in the Netherlands and Denmark, 1940–1945          
Bart van der Boom

Chapter 12. The Notion of Social Reactivity: The French Case, 1942–1944
Jacques Semelin


Chapter 13. Ordinary, Ignorant and Noninvolved?: The Figure of the Bystander in Dutch Research and Controversy
Krijn Thijs

Chapter 14. Hidden in Plain View: Remembering and Forgetting the Bystanders of the Holocaust on (West) German Television
Wulf Kansteiner

Chapter 15. Stand by Your Man: (Self-)Representations of SS Wives after 1945
Susanne C. Knittel

Chapter 16. “Bystanders” in Exhibitions at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Susan Bachrach

Epilogue I: A Brief Plea for the Historicization of the Bystander
Norbert Frei

Epilogue II: Saving the Bystander
Ido de Haan


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