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Holocaust Icons in Monuments, Arts, Film and Literature


Admission requirements

Propedeuse Humanities


Collective memory of the Shoah is produced by testimonies such as Anne Frank’s diary, by documentaries such as Lanzmanns Shoah, by works of literature, by mainstream movies such as Schindler’s List, or in artworks, musea and rituals performed at memorial sites. In the dual context of both memory studies and representation analysis we will look at the different functions and effects that such works had over time in the construction of cultural memory.
In this interactive class, the central topics of Shoah-memory will be discussed: memory and oblivion, truth and narrative, documentation, the archive, sacralisation, irony, autobiography, Shoah-idols, aura and authenticity, and the function of mass-media. Among the cases discussed will be sites like ‘De Hollandsche Schouwburg’ and the Anne Frank House, digital memorials such as the online Jewish monument, work by Abel Herzberg, Carl Friedman, Primo Levi, Georges Perec, Steven Reich, Yael Bartana and Arnon Grunberg.
Representation analysis will demonstrate in which ways the Shoah is represented, and we will study the different ways in which trauma manifests itself and how collective memory is constructed by the different representations. Theoretical texts by Saul Friedländer, Oren Baruch Stier, Hillary Chute, Andreas Huyssen, Ernst van Alphen and Aleida Assmann will be used in our analyses.

Course objectives


  • will acquire knowledge of the different ways in which memory may be produced in art, film and literature,

  • will become aware of cultural and politcal dynamics in the representation and remembrance of historical events. In this course,

  • will also learn to write and present well argumented and theoretically strong analyses and interpretations of such works

  • will be able to recognize and evaluate the icons, idols and clichés of Shoah representation.


See the timetable of Nederlandse taal en cultuur

Mode of instruction

  • Weekly Seminar

  • Excursion to the Hollandse Schouwburg and the Anne Frankhouse in Amsterdam.

Course Load

140 hours:

  • Seminars: 42 hours

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature and preparing the assignments: 42 hours

  • Time for reading the primary literature: 30

  • Time to write a paper (including reading / research): 26 hours

Assessment method

Assessment and grading method (in percentages):.

  • Essay (60%)

  • Weekly assignments (20%)

  • Presentation and research plan (20%)

For each part of the assessment at least a 5.5 should be obtained. The final grade is the weighted average of all grades.

Only the paper has a resit possibility.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • communication and to pass on announcements

  • information about the content of the course

Reading list

  • Primo Levi, If this is a man. Translation Stuart Woolf.

  • Tadeusz Borowski, This way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen.

  • Art Spiegelman, Maus, 2 parts.

  • Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank.

  • Alphen, E. Van. (1997) Caught by history. Holocaust effects in Contemporary Art, Literature and Theory. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

  • Friedländer, S. (ed.). Probing the limits of representation. Nazism and ‘the final solution’. Cambridge, Ma, Harvard University Press. Introduction.

  • Stier, O.B. (2003) Committed to memory. Cultural Mediations of the Holocaust. Amherst and Boston, University of Massachusetts Press.

Further reading will be announced in class.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte


For questions about the content of this course: Prof. dr. Y. van Dijk

For practical matters you may contact the secretarial office of the Opleiding Nederlandse Taal en Cultuur/Neerlandistiek. It is the Onderwijsadministratie P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 101A. Tel. 071 5272 2604. E-mail.


Students with doubts about the level of their English should consider taking an autumn course here. If that is not possible, please contact Yra van Dijk.