1st Edition

Sociology and the Holocaust A Discipline Grapples with History

By Ronald J Berger Copyright 2024
    240 Pages
    by Routledge

    240 Pages
    by Routledge

    For some time the conventional wisdom in the interdisciplinary field of Holocaust studies is that sociologists have neglected this subject matter, but this is not really the case. In fact, there has been substantial sociological work on the Holocaust, although this scholarship has often been ignored or neglected including in the discipline of sociology itself. Sociology and the Holocaust brings this scholarly tradition to light, and in doing so offers a comprehensive synthesis of the vast historical and social science literature on the before, during, and after of the Holocaust—a tour d’horizon from an explicitly sociological perspective. As such, the aim of the book is not simply to describe the chronology of events that culminated in the deaths of 6 million Jews but to draw upon sociology’s “theoretical toolkit” to understand these events and the ongoing legacy of the Holocaust sociologically.


    1 Personal and Professional Roots 

    A Second Generation Perspective 

    Terms of the Inquiry 

    The Indifference of a Discipline 

    2 On the Shoulders of Giants 

    Sociologists of the 1930s and 1940s 

    The Trifocal Lens of Classical Theory 

    A General Theory and Case Study of Structure and Agency 

    3 Antisemitism and Pseudoscientific Racism 

    The Development of Christian Antisemitism 

    The Confluence of Antisemitism and Racism 

    Nazi Eugenics and the Medicalization of Genocide 

    4 The Class Composition and Economics of Nazism 

    Nazi Party Membership and Election Studies 

    Economic Exclusion, Aryanization, and Mass Theft 

    Nazi and Corporate Enterprises 

    5 The Nazi State, Bureaucracy, and Response of the Jews 

    The Inner Circle of the Nazi State 

    Nazi Cultural Organizations 

    From the Nuremberg Laws to the Final Solution 


    Open-Air Shootings and Concentration Camps 

    6 The Response of the Allies 

    The Prewar Period 

    The Wartime Period 

    The Immediate Postwar Period 

    7 National Collective Memories of the Holocaust 

    The Federal Republic of Germany 


    The United States 


    8 Is It Happening Here? 

    The New Authoritarianism 

    The Question of Fascism 

    The White Power and Patriot Movements 

    The Radicalization of the Republican Party 

    Concluding Reflections on Contemporary Antisemitism 







    Ronald J. Berger is professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He is the author of The Holocaust, Religion, and the Politics of Collective Memory (2012) and Surviving the Holocaust (Routledge, 2011).

    “Berger’s work will play a significant role in any future investigation of the Holocaust from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Readers of this book will realize how lacking the new field of Holocaust Studies is without the contribution of sociology.”      

    - Dr. Shay Pilnik, Director, Emil A. and Jenny Fish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Yeshiva University

    "In the context of explaining the Holocaust, Berger attempts to bring sociology back in. He succeeds admirably by discussing the relevance of the sociological classical theorists Marx, Durkheim, and Weber. For example, he addresses Weber’s thought on bureaucracy in the context of the organization of the Nazi killing apparatus. His analysis includes collective memory of the historical events and their victims – highly recommended."

    - Lutz Kaelber, Associate Professor of Sociology at University of Vermont, Faculty Committee of the Carolyn and Leonard Miller Center for Holocaust Studies