Guest Lecturers

Professor Berel Lang on Philosophy and the Holocaust

img_0347This semester our students are taking a course entitled “Research Methods for Holocaust Studies” that aims to prepare them to successfully navigate the field of Holocaust Studies from the many diverse disciplines our multidisciplinary program exposes them too.  Each week different members of our faculty present the different challenges and considerations within their own fields, but today we were honored to welcome Professor Berel Lang to talk about the field of Philosophy and how it addresses the issue of the Holocaust and the challenges the field faces in dealing with historical events like the Holocaust.

Professor Lang received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia University and has written many books, including Act and Idea in the Nazi Genocide (1990), The Anatomy of Philosophical Style (1990), Holocaust Representation: Art within the Limits of History and Ethics (2000), Philosophical Witnessing: The Holocaust as Presence (2009) and his most recent work Primo Levi: The Matter of a Life (Jewish Lives) published this time last year.



When Professor Lang first started his career he noticed the disconnect between the field of philosophy and Holocaust Studies.  He said he found it “harmful to philosophy, and of no benefit to Holocaust Studies,” and after his lecture our students surely agreed with his assessment.  During our short session, Professor Lang reviewed the “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” that was adopted by the UN Generally Assembly in 1948.  Through this document Professor Lang challenged our students to explore intention and how it relates to the Holocaust.


Students questioned how intent can be qualified, and how morality, from a philosophical standpoint, can be applied to different individuals and different actions.  Professor Lang expressed the connection between intention and action and whether one matters more than the other.

The session left our students with new perspectives on how to relate to Holocaust materials and International Law. We look forward to seeing how today’s lecture will influence their future scholarship.


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website:


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