On Thursday September 14, 2017, CHC member Marc van Berkel will defend his PhD thesis “Plotlines of Victimhood. Holocaust in German and Dutch History Textbooks, 1960-2010” at Erasmus University Rotterdam.
Before the 1960s, most history textbooks in Western Europe hardly contained any information about the ‘Holocaust’. This was partly because contemporary history still was a rudimentary part of the history curriculum. In addition, many teachers and textbook authors did not seem to be willing to discuss the persecutions of the Jews in class. Other (military) aspects of the Second World War gained more attention.
Anno 2017, the situation has changed completely: the Holocaust has become one of the most important historical themes in the national curricula of many (western) countries. In 2010 (the last year of my research period), National Socialism and the Holocaust have become mandatory parts of the secondary education curricula in Germany and the Netherlands.
In his dissertation, Van Berkel studied fifty years of narrating the Holocaust in history textbooks for upper secondary education, published between 1960 and 2010, in North Rhine-Westphalia (one of the federal states of Germany) and the Netherlands. Although the number of Holocaust studies has increased sharply since the 1990s, comparative research into the Holocaust in education and textbooks is scarce.
The central research question in Van Berkel’s dissertation is: Which narrative plotlines of victimhood and agency about the Holocaust are present in German and Dutch history textbooks between 1960 and 2010, and how can possible changes in these plotlines be explained?
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