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Holocaust: Ethical, Legal and Political Problems

Learn more about the Holocaust and it's foundational meaning in the European history

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CIVIS focus area
Society, culture, heritage
Open to
  • Bachelor's
  • Master's
Field of studies
  • Social Science and humanities
  • Blended Intensive Programmes (BIP)
Course dates
1 February - 11 April 2024

The Holocaust represents a historical event with a foundational meaning in European history and consciousness. Its significance is difficult to overstate, and it has structured the way in which national identities have been normatively constructed in all European countries, and not only in those most directly affected by the Second World War. It is no exaggeration to say that the memory of the Shoah is a symbolic heritage of the first magnitude in our ideal of what it is to be European today. Hence the importance and the need to disseminate, among the students and from a serious and rigorous academic body such as the university, the basic knowledge of what happened during those ominous years and what they represent for European citizenship today.

The course thus aims to reconstruct the main historical milestones of the estructive process which began with the rise of National Socialism to power in Germany, but which has deep roots in European anti-Semitism from very early times. The analysis undertaken is necessarily interdisciplinary, drawing on knowledge forged in historical science, political theory, cultural and social history, group psychology, legal science, and ethical theory.

Moreover, the course will answer the questions: Why did the Holocaust happen? Why in Germany? Does it have similarities with other genocides? What can we learn? Why remember?

Main topics addressed

During the course participants will collect knowledge about the following topics:

  • Holocaust and Genocides
  • Stages of modern Anti-Semitism
  • Policies of extermination: from pogroms to the Final Solution
  • The National Socialist totalitarian system
  • Collective political responsibility
  • Banal and Radical Evil
  • Holocaust remembrance and the construction of European Civil Society

Learning outcomes

The expected learning outcomes are the following:

  • Knowledge of the ideological, political, social and cultural context of genesis of German anti-Semitism, and the contextual factors, such as the government apparatus, legislative praxis, and group dynamics, that led to the Holocaust
  • Framing of the different theoretical and conceptual options that serve as an explanatory framework for the Holocaust, from intentionalist, functionalist or hybrid positions
  • Knowledge of and familiarity with the basic bibliography on the subject, including material from the period together with some of the most significant recent contributions to the study of the subject
  • Analysis of the narratives of witnesses, survivors and perpetrators of extermination
  • Examination of memories of the Holocaust, and of all those memories that confront a national past traumatised by violence, accounting for the elements that survive in democratic political culture, and the ideological formations and deformations that this memory suffers from today
Dates: 1 February - 11 April 2024 Language: Spanish/English (B2)
Location: Madrid, Spain ECTS: 3*
Format: Blended Workload: 83 hours

*Recognition of ECTS depends on your home university. 

Physical mobility

The physical mobility part will be running from 18 to 22 March 2024 in Madrid, Spain.

Students will attend to a series of lectures and visit museums, memorials, and memory sites. By the end of the week, the students will present their projects and receive feedback from lecturers.

The activities designed for the week of physical mobility offer an attractive approach to some realities linked to the perpetration of mass violence against certain groups, such as the Jews. Thus, we will visit Toledo and learn about the coexistence between Jews, Arabs, and Christians in the 12th century. In Madrid, we will visit the temporary exhibitions of Casa Sefarad, an institution for the dissemination of Jewish culture founded under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the European Union, which has many and varied activities for dissemination and training. We will also count on the presence of members of the Association Amical Mauthausen, dedicated to the Spanish Republican deportees to the extermination camps in Germany. We will visit also one of the few places of memory of the Spanish prisoners imprisoned by the Franco regime in the post-Civil War period in the Sierra Norte of Madrid.

Virtual part

The virtual part will be running from 1 February to 11 April 2024.

Students will attend virtual lectures on a variety of theoretical perspectives about Holocaust. They will have access to a room in the CIVIS Moodle platform, where they can access all material provided by the lecturers to prepare for their online lectures.

  • 1 February:  Introduction and lecture (in spanish), Cristina Sánchez: The singularity of Holocaust
  • 8 February: Lecture (in spanish), Evaristo Prieto: Elements of Antisemitism
  • 15 February: Lecture (in spanish), Evaristo Prieto: Politics of Extermination I: 1933-1939
  • 22 February: Lecture (in spanish), Evaristo Prieto: Politics of Extermination II: Towards the Final Solution
  • 29 February: Online class (in english), Felicia Waldman: Holocaust and Education
  • 7 March: Lecture (in spanish), Miguel Fernández: The uses of language in Totalitarianism
  • 14 March: Lecture (in spanish), Totalitarian system: Characteristics
  • 21 March: Lecture (in spanish), Cristina Sánchez: Not only Hitler: German population and the Holocaust
  • 4 April: Lecture (in spanish), Cristina Sánchez: Collective responsibility and Banal Evil
  • 11 April: Online class (in english), Tanja Schult: How to remember Holocaust? The challenges of memorialization


This course is open to Bachelor's and Master's students at CIVIS member universities enrolled in the following fields of study: Political Theory, Contemporary History, Philosophy, Sociology, or any other fields related. 

  • A sufficient knowledge of Spanish is required (B2) to follow the lectures and read some of the course materials.
  • Sufficient knowledge of English (B2) is also required to follow the lectures of the guest lecturers, which will be given in English, as well as to read a substantial part of the materials that will be available on the CIVIS Moodle platform.
  • Knowledge of the European history of the first half of the 20th century, is also desirable.


NB: Visiting Students - Erasmus Funding Eligibility

To be eligible for your selected CIVIS programme, you must be a fully enrolled student at your CIVIS home university at the time you will be undertaking the programme. Click here to learn more about the eligibility criteria.

Application process

Interested students should apply by filling in the online application form by 7 November 2023. 

Students will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • Letter of intend (interest in the subject of the course)/Motivation letter
  • Languages level (B2)

Apply here


In order to receive the certificate of attendance and the 3 ECTS credits related to the course, students are required to undertake the following mandatory activities:

  • Attend at least 75% of the lessons during the introductory phase
  • Elaborate a research project to be submitted at the end of the virtual phase
  • Attend at least 75% of the lessons during the physical phase
  • Present the results of their research projects at the end of the physical phase

Blended Intensive Programme

This CIVIS course is a Blended Intensive Programme (BIP): a new format of Erasmus+ mobility which combines online teaching with a short trip to another campus to learn alongside students and professors across Europe. Click here to learn more about CIVIS BIPs.

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Evaristo Prieto (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) is Associate professor of Philosophy of Law. He has devoted his research to critical and systemic sociological theory, focusing in particular on the work of Habermas and Luhmann. He is currently working on topics related to collective violence, such as trauma, mourning, exception and enmity.

Cristina Sánchez (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid) is AssociatepProfessor of Philosophy of Law at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, known for being among the first to publish on Hannah Arendt in Spanish. She has worked on the problem of contemporary evil and the Holocaust, and more recently on evil from a gender perspective.

Tanja Schult (Stockholm University), Associate professor at the Department of Culture and Aesthetic. Schult's research focuses on Holocaust memory, on how monuments renegotiate questions of identity and participation. She has published widely on Holocaust memory and the monument genre.

Felicia Waldman (University of Bucharest) Associate professor at the Center for Hebrew Studies, Faculty of Letters, University of Bucharest. She coordinates the Center and the Goldstein Goren MA program in Hebrew Culture and Civilization. She is Deputy Head of the Romanian Delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, member and former Chair of the organization’s Education Working Group and member of its Committee on the Roma Genocide.