MA Holocaust Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London

Founder's Building, Royal Holloway

A few weeks ago, I started a Master of Arts degree at Royal Holloway, University of London. After deciding that work as a psychologist was not for me, and with all the volunteering I do with organisations such as the Holocaust Educational Trust and the London Jewish Cultural Centre, I felt that there was only one degree that I could take up for a Master's: Holocaust Studies.
People have asked me about this course and what it involves, some with a view to looking into studying it themselves. Therefore, I hope readers will excuse me in using this particular post as something of an advert for the course.

The degree lasts a year full-time or can be taken over two years part-time (I chose the latter option in the hope of finding paid work at the same time; even though it is part-time, however, it is already quite a full-on course!). It comprises of a core course, 'The Holocaust: History and Debates' and several optional modules. These can change year by year, but in recent years have included modules looking at the representation of the Holocaust in literature (which I am currently studying) and in film, post-Holocaust philosophy, Jewish history before the Holocaust and a comparison of old and contemporary Fascism. What's more, all these courses are taught by experts in the field; for those already interested in the study of the Holocaust, or who may have read books on the subject, the names Professors David Cesarani and Dan Stone will be familiar. Both are certainly some of the leading experts on the Holocaust in the UK and, as well as writing and editing their own books, are often consulted on programmes and films about the Holocaust. Other module leaders are also prominent figures in the areas of literature, music, film and philosophy.

One of the most interesting aspects of the course so far, as well as those teaching it, are those studying it. The small group on the Master's for this year are of both genders and of varying ages; they have backgrounds in Psychology, History and Religious Studies but also other more unexpected careers such as architecture and the police service. You do not have to be determined to take up a career in Holocaust research on completion of the degree; some have stated their reasons as simply expanding their knowledge of a subject they have always been interested in. As with any degree, though, there is a lot of work to put in - but, in my opinion, all the effort is worth it and I am sure I will get a lot out of it in return.

When I told people I was pursuing a Master's in Holocaust Studies, I met with one of two reactions. Some people looked genuinely pleased for me and said, upbeat, "Wow, that sounds really interesting!" The majority, however, frowned and said, "Oh, that sounds...interesting." The one question that both responses produced, however, was, "What on earth made you want to study that?"
First and foremost, of course, is my interest in the subject; the Holocaust is a very complex, dark period of our history that I feel is important to understand and analyse as best as we can. Furthermore, however, someone needs to be around to teach others about the Holocaust in years to come; to be able to prove deniers' 'evidence' as wrong, producing the real evidence to counteract their arguments; to at least try and understand why a civilised, educated people listened to a radical anti-Semite and descended into mass murder on an unprecedented scale; to question if such a total programme of annihilation could happen again, and how we can prevent it. I cannot give more reason than that.

For more course details, please click on this link.