HIS2319 – Inventing Mass Extermination. The Holocaust and Genocidal Policies in the Twentieth Century

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

The course provides an introduction to a field which has recently come to be known as Comparative Genocide Studies, with a clear focus on the destruction of the European Jews by Nazi Germany. It will cover various protagonists in the Holocaust, not only perpetrators but also victims, bystanders, and collaborators, as well as a range of contexts in which mass extermination took place. Ideological prerequisites which fueled mass murder will figure alongside the post-war attempts to tackle the crimes by judicial means. With this basis established, a comparative perspective will be assumed by looking into other (modern) cases of mass extermination – from the murder of Turkish Armenians to the so-called ethnic cleansing during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s – which have been labelled genocides.

The course has two agendas. First, it will provide a firm empirical basis and understanding of the Holocaust as well as of its historiography. Second, by shedding light on other case studies, the relative merits of categories such as ‘genocide’ will be explored, and the question of political implications of terminology and definitions shall be discussed. The course will also look at its subject from different methodological angles. Standard textual sources will be employed along with audio and various visual materials; the ‘history of events’ will be accompanied by analysis of representations and discursive practices.

Learning outcome

Students are expected to:

  • Acquire a sound understanding of the Holocaust, its protagonists and dynamics, as well as its historiography.
  • Reflect on the analytical and political implications of terminology such as ‘genocide’ and differentiate between various usages.
  • Compare different ‘genocides’ and discuss the merits of such comparative perspectives.
  • Develop methodological skills to deal with a broad array of source materials.
  • Develop skills to critically research, read, discuss, and write about a set of historiographical arguments and a variety of historical evidence.


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If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Recommended previous knowledge

30 credits in humanities or social sciences.

A good ability to read, understand and write English is required for this course.


Teaching will be in twelve two-hour seminars, consisting of discussions, exercises, and group work, plus two two-hour meetings in which methodological issues will be discussed and practiced. Students are expected to attend all classes and prepare the compulsory reading for each class.

Resources and information in this course will be given in Canvas.

Compulsory assignments:

  • Participants shall write an obligatory exposé (1 page) on a topic of their choosing but within the framework of the course, to be submitted by the penultimate week of the course.
  • The exposé is to be uploaded in Canvas.
  • If accepted – subject to possible revision – this will qualify for the final examination. More information will be given in class.
  • Obligatory attendance 9 out of 12 seminars.


The final examination will take the form of a term paper:

  • 4,000-5,000 words (approx. 8-10 pages).
  • based on the exposé, students will choose their topic and research question with the help of the lecturer.
  • the term paper is o be submitted through Inspera
  • the file must be submitted in pdf-format and we stress that the student is responsible for making sure that the files are readable. If you need assistance in converting your file into pdf, we recommend that you follow these instructions.
  • The file must be named with your candidate number (a 4 digit code, not your name) and the course code (HIS2319 / HIS4319).

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read about how to submit assignments in Inspera.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






This course is offered on an irregular basis.

Teaching language