Anna Sommer Schneider

Associate Director and Adjunct Professor

Anna Sommer Schneider received her Ph.D. from the Department of Jewish Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland. She is the author of She’erit Hapletah: Surviving Remnant. The Activities of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Poland, 1945-1989 (published in Poland in 2014) and Rescue, Relief and Renewal: 100 Years of the Joint in Poland, published in the fall of 2014. She is also the author of numerous scholarly and critical articles on Holocaust memory and the history of the Jews in post-World War II Poland, published both in Polish and English. Her most recent writings include, The Catholic Church, Radio Maria and the Question of Antisemitsm in Poland which appeared in the volume, Resurgent Antisemitism: Global Perspectives in spring, 2013.  She served as a Research Assistant at the Institute for the Study of Modern Israel at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and has lectured frequently in Poland and America. She also has been serving as a guide and educator at the State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oświęcim for over 16 years.


INAF 165 Holocaust: The Destruction of European Jews

Almost 70 years after the War, the Holocaust remains one of the most researched chapters in human history. Both, for scholars, teachers, students and the tens of thousands of people living outside of Europe who had no personal connections to World War II and its events; the Holocaust remains a haunting and troubling question. Despite all the books written on this subject matter, there is still no clear and satisfactory answer about how this crime was possible, given the fact that the Holocaust was carried out by one of the most sophisticated, developed, cultured and civilized European nations. Almost 6 million Jews, mostly unarmed civilians, were murdered by well-educated German leaders who found killing the Jews as their most important task. 
The main objective of this class is to examine several key issues including: the factors leading up to the Holocaust, the planning and implementation of extermination, and the response of nation-states. We will also examine important questions including; was German and European anti-Semitism a driving force that lead to this genocide? What was the role of modernity in this process and finally, we will discuss complicity and vicarious liability of European nations. This course will be divided into three major components including: the origins and development of anti-Semitism and its impact on anti-Jewish Nazi policy, preparations for and implementation of systematic and bureaucratized mass killing of Jews and other ethnic groups, and finally the response of the world during and after the Holocaust. 

All these questions will be addressed and accessed through the reading of primary and secondary sources and film. We’ll be reading survivors testimonies and memoirs, as well as the testimonies of witnesses which often evoke painful and emotional reactions. We will also focus special attention on the moral questions faced by the victims, perpetrators, bystanders and rescuers.