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Unit information: Music and the Holocaust in 2016/17

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Unit name Music and the Holocaust
Unit code MUSI20105
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Scheding
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Music
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The Holocaust remains one of the most atrocious crimes committed in human history. Perhaps disturbingly, music played its part in the Holocaust, and it did so on all sides. It was instrumentalised and institutionalised in the Nazi state, and yet it also accompanied the victims. In the first half of this course, we will explore how music functioned in the Nazi state as a tool for cultural exclusion in institutions such as the Jüdischer Kulturbund; how a variety of musics were branded “degenerate”; and how music was used as torture but also as vocal resistance in ghettos and concentration camps. The second half of the course will shift our focus towards the musico-cultural legacies of the Holocaust. We will begin by discussing the works of Holocaust survivors such as Aleksander Kulisiewicz and György Ligety, and finally turn our attention to memorial works and to what has become known as the “Holocaust Industry”.

This unit aims are:

  • to introduce students to a repertory of 20th -century music embracing both art music and popular styles;
  • to set a repertory of 20th-century music in its artistic and aesthetic contexts;
  • to allow students to engage with critical texts about music and politics;
  • to develop students’ skills in critical listening;
  • to develop students’ skills in the oral and written presentation of their ideas.

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of the unit, a successful student will be able to

1) Have a good knowledge of the political history of music during the Third Reich

2) Be familiar with the various forms, places, and functions of music in the sites of the Holocaust

3) Have a solid knowledge of the archival resources available and scholarly discourses, methodologies, and terminologies of Holocaust Studies.

4) Write critically and perceptively about cultural as well as musical legacies of the Holocaust since 1945

Teaching details

weekly two-hour seminar

Assessment Details

All the assessment is summative:

1 x 2500-word essay (50%)

1 x 2-hour exam (50%)

Both the essay and the exam will demonstrate the intended learning outcomes 1-3, with the essay in particular providing an opportunity for the students to demonstrate ILO 4

Reading and References

  1. Shirli Gilbert, Music in the Holocaust. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
  2. Guido Fackler, ‘Music in Concentration Camps 1933-1945’, Music and Politics 1/1 (2007)
  3. Erik Levi, Music in the Third Reich. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1994.
  4. Philip V. Bohlman, Jewish Music and Modernity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
  5. Tina Frühauf and Lily E. Hirsch, Jewish Music and Germany after the Holocaust. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
  6. Norman G. Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering. 2nd edition. London: Verso, 2003.