The Holocaust: Genocide in History
UC Merced juniors majoring in History are required to take History 190, "Applied Research," an internship in the local community. The purpose of History 190 is to allow students the opportunity to demonstrate the research and writing skills they have learned in the major. This semester, three students—Amanda Oesterreich, Paolo Diaz, and John Lara—elected to do an exhibit on a painful and controversial topic: the systematic effort by Nazi Germany to exterminate the Jews of Europe during the Second World War. The Holocaust was picked as a twentieth century example of an historical phenomenon that, unfortunately, continues today: genocide—"the deliberate destruction of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group."
In keeping with the unique emphasis of the major upon "public history"—that is, history for a broad, non-specialist audience—the exhibit was also intended by the History 190 instructor, Professor Gregg Herken, as an experiment in how to depict, fairly and accurately, what is nonetheless a large and often contentious topic in contemporary history. This exhibit was made possible by the generous loan of artifacts from the private collection of Michael Akers, an Atwater resident, and from the permanent collection of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.