Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2012

Publication Title

Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies


The history of philosophical positions about the meaning of Holocaust victim experience can be organized around three general stances identified by the moral implications that follow: the "redemptive," "nihilistic," and "narcissistic" positions. Further, each stance includes a distinct view of the muselmann—that category of Holocaust victim generally referred to as the "walking dead"—that serves to confirm its larger theoretical claims. These categories have served as a helpful pedagogical tool when teaching a wide variety of texts in the field of Holocaust studies, and students can identify the limitations of each position in terms of the caricature of the muselmann on which it rests. Lastly, organizing a syllabus around these three positions encourages a certain intellectual progression from moral judgment, to moral uncertainty, to renewed engagement with the world.

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