A Project of the Hamburg Institute for Social Research in Cooperation with the Einstein Forum, Potsdam

Berliner Colloquien zur Zeitgeschichte

Berliner Colloquienzur Zeitgeschichte

The Holocaust and Sociology: New Approaches in Researching Extreme ViolenceHosted by Wolfgang Knöbl

19 and 20 February 2016

With his 2014 study Ganz normale Organisationen. Zur Soziologie des Holocaust (Completely Normal Organizations: On the Sociology of the Holocaust) published by Suhrkamp, Stefan Kühl – professor of Organizational Sociology at Bielefeld University – presented a thought-provoking addition to our understanding of macro-violence. Basing his work largely on previous studies in organizational sociology by Niklas Luhmann, the author seeks to shed new light on why “ordinary men” actively joined in mass murders. From the perspectives of various disciplines – sociology and history being only two - our colloquium offered an opportunity to discuss Kühl’s arguments and search for new approaches in researching the Holocaust. What advantages does Kühl’s approach have over other paradigms, especially those that focus on the social-psychological aspects of the perpetrators? Did the organizations that Kühl investigates really represent normal bureaucracy under the Nazis or do we need further typological differentiation? To what extent does the historiographical profession have to “historicize” concepts and basic theoretical assumptions when drawing on sociological arguments for explaining mass killing? Is the approach of organizational sociology at all suited to bridging the gulf between micro- and macro-theoretical approaches in violence research? If not, what theoretical paths would promise innovative research of the Holocaust? And, not least: How do Holocaust theorists see the future of their subject, and to what other disciplines do they look for new insights?                

The conference was held in German.


Stefan Kühl live at the Einstein Forum (in German)

Armin Nolzen and Michaela Christ in Mittelweg 36 (in German)