Raul Hilberg once divided the history of the Holocaust into three categories: perpetrators, victims, and bystanders. The last of these groups has always been the largest, yet it is also the least clearly defined and most controversial.
A morally charged and almost impossible group to delineate, let alone analyse, to what extent should the ‘bystanders’ be seen as part of the process of violence? Do they bear part of the responsibility for it, perhaps even guilt?
The figure of the allegedly ‘average’ and ‘uninvolved’ contemporaries of this violence have incited public controversy not just in The Netherlands, but all over Europe – whether in the guise of the witness, the Mitläufer, onlooker or profiting Volksgenosse.
This role of the ‘bystander’ has gained increasing relevance in academic discourse and research over the past years, without yielding any of its ambivalence or complexity. It is on this subject that the newly published Probing the Limits of Categorization. The Bystander in Holocaust History, edited by Christina Morina and Krijn Thijs, provides deeper insights and new perspectives.
Three experts from various academic disciplines will present reaction to the work, and engage in debate with each other and the audience: Dutch sociologist Abram de Swaan (Amsterdam), German historian Ulrich Herbert (Freiburg), and Dutch historian Geraldien von Frijtag (Utrecht).
Chairs: Christina Morina (Amsterdam) is a historian from Germany, and DAAD Visiting Assistant Professor at the Duitsland Instituut Amsterdam since 2015. Krijn Thijs (Amsterdam) is a historian and researcher at the Duitsland Instituut Amsterdam.