Skip to main content


Undergraduate Module Descriptor

PHL3046A: The Holocaust, Genocide and Society

This module descriptor refers to the 2023/4 academic year.

Module Content

Syllabus Plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • What was the Holocaust and what can be learned from studying it? 
  • The concept and practice of genocide 
  • Is the Holocaust a unique historical event? Theoretical,  conceptual and political questions 
  • The Dialectic of Enlightenment, civilisation and progress 
  • The Modernity thesis: is the Holocaust an essentially modern phenomenon? 
  • The nature of evil: Radical or Banal? 
  • Social psychology: situationist explanation and the fundamental attributional error 
  • Explaining direct perpetrators' actions: Browning's situationist explanation, Goldhagen's cognitive explanation and non-rational modes of explanation
  • Structure and agency in the Holocaust: ‘Intentionalist’ versus ‘functionalist’ conceptions 
  • Rescue and resistance: supererogation, ordinary goodness and the social conditions of altruism 
  • The Bystander effect and its significance in modern society 
  • Normalisation of the Holocaust? Comparison & analogy with other genocides and examples of institutionalised wrong- and evil-doing 
  • Holocaust denial 
  • Knowledge, ignorance and moral responsibility 
  • Collective responsibility/guilt, and problems of redress 
  • Judgement and understanding: compatible or incompatible? 

Learning and Teaching

This table provides an overview of how your hours of study for this module are allocated:

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

...and this table provides a more detailed breakdown of the hours allocated to various study activities:

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities44 22 x 2 hour 1.5 weekly lecture/seminar (or 1 hour lecture + 1 hour seminar)
Guided independent study136Assigned readings associated with each lecture
Guided independent study 40Preparation for essay 1
Guided independent study 40Preparation for essay 2
Guided Independent study 40Preparation for exam

Online Resources

This module has online resources available via ELE (the Exeter Learning Environment).