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A Bystander Society? Passivity and Complicity in Nazi Germany

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Birkbeck, University of London

Torrington Square

WC1E 7HX

United Kingdom

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A Bystander Society? Passivity and Complicity in Nazi Germany

Holocaust Memorial Day Lecture - Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism in collaboration with the Institute of Historical Research

Speaker: Professor Mary Fulbrook, University College London

Date: 18 February 2019

Venue: Birkbeck, University of London, Torrington Square, WC1E 7HX

Time: 6:30pm - 8:00pm

The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is ‘Stand Together’. It implies that we should be inspired by the stories of courageous individuals who stood up against violence, showed solidarity with victims, and were not content to remain passive bystanders. This lecture argues, however, that a focus on individuals alone is not enough: it is not only a matter of personal commitment but also broader circumstances that explain whether or not significant numbers of people are prepared to ‘stand together’ and make a difference. Exploring experiences of Nazi persecution, the lecture analyses the conditions under which people were more or less likely to show sympathy with victims of persecution, or to become complicit with racist policies and practices. In seeking to combat collective violence, understanding the conditions for widespread passivity may be as crucial as encouraging individuals to stand up for others in the face of prejudice and oppression.

Mary Fulbrook, FBA, is Professor of German History at UCL. Her most recent book, Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice, won the 2019 Wolfson Prize; other books include the Fraenkel Prize-winning A Small Town Near Auschwitz: Ordinary Nazis and the Holocaust.


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Birkbeck, University of London

Torrington Square

WC1E 7HX

United Kingdom

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