Course (example)


The School of Liberal Arts and/or Social Sciences


Course Syllabus


Psychology Course: PSY-541: Social Psychology & the Holocaust

Winter Semester – 2008


Instructor: Dr. Asher Wade         




“Ordinary Men – Reserve Police Battalion 101 & the Final Solution in Poland”; by Christopher Browning; Harper-Perennial Publ.; ISBN#0-06-99506-8; 1998.


Understanding Genocide: The Social Psychology of the Holocaust, ed. by Leonard S. Newman & Ralph Erber; Oxford University Press; ISBN#13 978-0-19-513362-2; 2002.


Selected readings of the following to be provided or placed on reserve in the library:


  1. “The War Against the Jews 1933-1945”, by Lucy S. Davidowicz; Holt, Rinehart & Winston; 1975.
  2. “Eyewitness Auschwitz-Three Years in the Gas Chamber”, by Filip Mueller; Ivan R. Dee; Chicago, 1979.
  3. “Documents on the Holocaust-Selected Sources on the Destruction of the Jews of Germany and Austria, Poland and the Soviet Union”; ed. Abraham Margaliot; Yad VaShem & Pergamon Books; 1993.
  4. Any and all published materials and books by “Martin Gilbert” on the Holocaust.
  5. The Rise & Fall of the Third Reich – A History of Nazi Germany, by William L. Shirer; Simon & Schuster; New York. (Preferably hardcover)
  6. “Obedience to Authority – An Experimental View, by Stanley Milgram; Harper & Row, Publ.; New York.


Course Description:  (3 credits)      


This course attempts to focus on:the integration of  the historical development and process of Nazi Germany from its inception until its defeat in May, 1945 together with various psychological perspectives regarding human nature: actions, responses and consequences. 


The goals are to see the history of the rise and fall of the Third Reich in terms of the psychological choices of the `individual’, the dilemmas facing the individual and the apparent resolutions which individuals, as individuals within differing sub-groupings, made.  This course attempts to understand: how the Holocaust could even take place; the purported reasons and rationales `individuals’ made for the “Final Solution”; the methodology regarding the ways and means `individuals’ successfully accepted the idea of the mass extermination of a genus of the human race; how the human `individual’ carried out the orders; the role of the political opponent; the mind-set of the saboteurs and of those who fled; the psychological effect of propaganda on the `individual’, also propaganda in terms of deceptive language and the differences, if any, with our own political correctness {PCSpeak} of today; the difference cultural, national, political and racial perspectives had on the `individual’ viz.  the Nazi ideology from January, 1933 up to the Nuremberg Laws (1935) and how the individual’s sociological perspectives shifted and changed thereafter; the righteous Gentiles as an `Individual’, the `individual’ – Jewish & non-Jewish – resistance fighter; the lessons of the Holocaust regarding human nature (good-&-bad vs. valid-&-invalid, the foreseeable, the unavoidable, the inevitable and the changeable) and the how and why of revisionist historians.


Student Learning Goals:  Students will show an ability to:


  1. summarize psychological trends within the build-up and functioning of the official Nazi Empire;
  2. apply the (above learned) trends to human nature in general, as well in specific situations confronting present-day dilemmas;
  3. describe ways in which psychology is naturally biased and how psychological theories can be artificially biased;
  4. sketch psychological motivations in human nature within the context of the Nazi Party Policy, Nazi Aryanism, Nazi War Crimes and Nazi Anti-Semitism, as well as Britain’s decision to go to war, America’s decision to go to war, an allied soldier’s mind-set going to war, the judges of the Nuremberg Trails;
  5. summarize the `Games People Play’ in relationship to the difference between the `individual’, the “other” and the `group’;
  6. distinguish similarities and differences between the “individual” and the State; i.e. peer pressure [herd mentality] vs. personal principles; team-work vs. individual egoism; ethnic cohesion vs. the commonwealth.
  7. explain the psychological mind-set regarding “goal-orientation” of the individual regarding political opposition: from the inside and from the outside of government;
  8. explain the personal dilemma of individual choices versa group choices and the ensuing issue of responsibility;
  9. give an account of the moral/Christian view of the Nuremberg Laws; likewise, give an account of the moral/Jewish view of the Nuremberg Laws.
  10. describe various positions regarding “human nature” in relation to acts by righteous Gentiles, Jewish underground fighters, Jewish Ghetto Police, Kapos, Jewish Ghetto Council members, orthodox Jewish heroes, secular Jewish heroes, Jews in underground shuls and underground soup kitchens.
  11.  participate in class discussion in a spirit of academic inquiry and with a respect for differences of opinion;
  12. explain the differing (religious/political) perspectives as to how Jews have traditionally viewed the Holocaust and how Jews of each group could modify their perspective.
  13. explain from a psychological point-of-view how differing ethnic groups of non-Jews have viewed the Holocaust and how they should view it; (also as a postscript, be able to go back and analyze ones own judgment as to how non-Jews should view individual responsibility in regard to the Holocaust);
  14. explain the multi-layered psychological drives of the `individual’ active in the Holocaust viz. human nature’s responsibility to oneself and his or her response (and/or responsibility) toward the many sub-groupings the `individual’ belongs.




It is expected that the students will read the required texts for class discussion and be prepared weekly for quizzes thereon.


Class attendance is mandatory; absences and delinquencies will be handled according to the rules and regulations of Touro College’s main office (see Dr. Sosevsky & Rabbi Fridman); any assigned work must be made-up if missed.


There will be no term or research paper for this course.




Quizzes 30%;

One mid-term exam 25%;

Homework & Essays 10%;

Final exam 35%.