Holocaust Studies

Since its establishment in 1993, the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies has presented high quality academic programming in Holocaust studies through support from the 1939 Society.

Because of its record of vibrant programming and its ability to bring together an exceptional cluster of faculty that provide expertise for students from many parts of campus, the Center was the natural and beneficial home for a major award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation between 2007 and 2010.  While the UCLA/Mellon Program on the Holocaust in American and World Culture began with a focus on understandings and representations of the Holocaust in American literature and culture, it supported a significantly broader array of activities, including:

  • Comparative literary and cultural approaches to the Holocaust
  • The evolution of knowledge of, and disciplinary approaches to, the Holocaust
  • The near destruction and revival of Yiddish language, literature and historiography
  • The “universalization” of the Holocaust and its relation to other instances of genocide

The Center remains deeply committed to continuing a critical engagement of the manifold dimensions of genocide and Holocaust studies through first-rate research, teaching, programming, library holdings and service learning.

Jewish studies faculty working in Holocaust studies:


Saul P. Friedlander, ‘1939’ Club Chair of Holocaust Studies and Professor of History, is the author of Nazi Germany and the Jews, vol. 2: The Years of Extermination (2007) and Nazi Germany and the Jews, vol. 1: The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939 (1997).

David N. Myers, Professor and Chair of History partnered with Prof. Richard Hovannisian to edit Enlightenment and Diaspora: The Armenian and Jewish Cases (1999).

Todd Presner, Director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies and Professor of Germanic Languages, is author of Mobile Modernity: Germans, Jews, Trains (2007) and A Message in a Bottle: Holocaust Writing on the Edge of Death (in progress). 


Graduate students engaged in Holocaust studies research:

grad_fellows_mellon2 2008-2009 Graduate Fellows in the UCLA/Mellon Program on the Holocaust in American and World Culture

Today, graduate students across the Social Sciences and Humanities Divisions are engaged in researching the Holocaust and genocide in an innovative and interdisciplinary manner, one that is not limited by any singular perspective.

Comparative Literature: Noa Bar is studying the film, Waltz with Bashir, to better understand how “post-memory” or the way memories of trauma suffered during the Holocaust affects the second generation. Sara Simcha Cohen is examining the Yiddish literary production of monsters both pre- and post-Holocaust in order to provide insight into the anxieties of Jewish culture, and the Holocaust’s effects on those anxieties. Kirk Sides is researching the little known story of the detention of Jewish refugees on the island of Mauritius during World War II from the point of view of both Jews and island residents.

English: Kevin Moore is attempting to shed new light on the author, Henry Roth, by reconciling the writer’s biography and work with larger narratives of Jewish history in the twentieth century, particularly with narratives of the Holocaust and its relationship to the tides of American anti-Semitism. Taly Ravid is using a study of the conceptual framework of Philip Roth’s four Zuckerman novels as a means of delving into questions concerning the historical shifts in Jewish American self-definition, self-narratives, and self-identification in relation to the Holocaust as both word and fact.

History: Deborah Brown’s dissertation concerns the National Registration System of Nazi Germany. Rachel Deblinger has been working with the personal papers of American psychologist David P. Boder who, in 1946, travelled to European Displaced Persons Camps to record the experiences of 109 witnesses of the Holocaust.  Jared McBride is studying anti-Jewish violence in the Ukraine in the summer of 1941. Shad Naved is investigating perspectives on the Holocaust in South-Asian writing.

Italian: Andrea Bini researched and published “The Discourse of the Holocaust in the context of the new Berlin and the work of Gunther Demning.”

Slavic Languages & Literatures: Naya Lekht’s dissertation is focused on the contrasting narratives of catastrophic events of Yiddish-speaking and Russian-speaking Jews culminating in the Second World War.

World Arts & Cultures: Alexandra Schilling came to UCLA to develop dance projects related to the Holocaust specifically because of its reputation in Holocaust studies. Yehuda Sharim is researching the practice of racial classification by European Jews in Palestine in the 1940s and the political implications for Jews from Arab lands.


Undergraduate Service Learning

One of the challenges facing Holocaust museums is how to find ways of transmitting the memory of the Holocaust from the generation that witnessed and experienced its events to those born afterwards. Students in Prof. Todd Presner’s 2012 course, German 118SL, Between Memory and History: Interviewing Holocaust Survivors in the Digital Age, developed a novel approach to sharing survivors’ stories. The 20 UCLA undergraduates worked closely with Holocaust survivors in order to create audio tours and digital maps, which integrate the survivor’s life journeys with the overall history of the Holocaust. In essence, the students wanted to personalize history and take responsibility for curating it for a broader public. The class involved a partnership with the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, Jewish Family Service’s Café Europa, the ‘1939’ Club, and Hillel at UCLA.

The course is part of UCLA’s “service learning” initiative. The service component has allowed the students to work with and learn from survivors as well as for students to contribute to the creation of public knowledge of the Holocaust at the museum. As the final class project, students worked in small groups to curate interactive audio tours and create digital maps that tell powerful stories of lives uprooted in Europe and reinvented in the United States. The students’ tours and maps will become part of the museum’s collections.

Four undergraduate students won awards for projects that grew out of Prof. Todd Presner’s 2011 Fiat Lux seminar, Bearing Witness: Interviewing Holocaust Survivors in the Digital Age. The course, German 19, involved a similar partnership.

Patrick Tran and Andy Trang, earned an award from the W.M Keck Digital Cultural Mapping Program, for their project which involved pinpointing the locations of specific events in the lives of survivors they interviewed and combining maps with photographs and text. They used HyperCities.com to carry out the project.

Alison Karol received a Sarah & Eugene Zinn Memorial Scholarship for Holocaust Studies and Social Justice for her efforts to document the life of Holocaust survivor Toby Tambor. Bringing together historical artifacts, photographs, and narrative, Karol is both authoring a book and creating an interactive digital map of Tabor's life journey.

Samantha Solomon’s award winning project is a chronicle of the history of the Transylvanian Jewish experience in the interwar period and during WWII. Her monograph will interweave the stories of four Holocaust survivors, including her grandfather and others she met through the Bearing Witness class.


Recent Holocaust Programming


The Center regularly hosts high-caliber seminars, colloquia, and symposia devoted to the Holocaust.  The impact of these programs is great, as all have been open to students, faculty and the wider Los Angeles community.

Jewish Refugees in Shanghai (1933-1941) (October 2013)

UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, UCLA Hillel, and Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum; cosponsored by UCLA Confucius Institute, UCLA Center for Chinese Studies and Shanghai Foreign Affairs Office of Hongkou District; with the support of the UCLA Departments of History, Germanic Languages and Ethnomusicology; the UCLA Library, Facing History and Ourselves, the Goldrich Family Foundation, the German Consulate General in Los Angeles, the 1939 Society, Stephen O. Lesser and the Natalie Limonick Fund.

FORBIDDEN ART: Camp Art from the Collections of the Auschwitz Memorial  (Jan. 2013)

UCLA Center for Jewish Studies and UCLA Hillel; cosponsored by St. Alban's Episcopal Church; the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland; the German Consulate General in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, the UCLA Department of Germanic Languages and the UCLA Department of History; with the support of The "1939" Club, the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, the Goldrich Family Foundation and Mimi and Werner Wolfen.

Bulgaria and the Holocaust: The Fragility of Goodness (November 2012)

UCLA Center for Jewish Studies and Hillel at UCLA; cosponsored by UCLA Center for European and Eurasian Studies, UCLA Department of History, UCLA Mickey Katz Chair in Jewish Music and the Consulate General of Bulgaria in Los Angeles; with support of the Bulgarian Jewish Heritage Alliance of America and The "1939" Club

History Unlimited: Probing the Ethics of Holocaust Culture (April 2012)
UCLA Center for Jewish Studies and UCLA Department of History  UCLA Department of History with support from the ‘1939’ Club, and UC Humanities Research Institute

Recovered Voices: Staging Suppressed Opera of the Early 20th Century (April 2010)
UCLA Center for Jewish Studies and the OREL Foundation 

Aesthetics after the Holocaust: Exploring the Problem of Aesthetic Reactions to the Holocaust (February 2010)
UCLA Center for Jewish Studies and UCLA/Mellon Program on the Holocaust in American and World Culture

Jews and Judaism in the Work and Biography of Franz Werfel (October 2010)
UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, Department of Germanic Languages and UCLA Center for European and Eurasian Studies

The Myth of Silence: Who Spoke about the Holocaust and When (October 2009)
UCLA Center for Jewish Studies, the ‘1939’ Club, and the UCLA/Mellon Program on the Holocaust in American and World Culture

The Jewish Question in French Philosophy after the Holocaust (December 2008)
UCLA Center for Jewish Studies and the UCLA/Mellon Program on the Holocaust in American and World Culture