Yehuda Bauer
יהודה באואר
Born (1926-04-06) April 6, 1926 (age 97)
Academic background
Alma materCardiff University
Hebrew University
ThesisBritish Mandate of Palestine
Academic work
DisciplineHolocaust studies
InstitutionsHebrew University

Yehuda Bauer (Hebrew: יהודה באואר; born April 6, 1926) is a Czech-born Israeli historian and scholar of the Holocaust. He is a professor of Holocaust Studies at the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Yehuda Bauer was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia and fluent in Czech, Slovak and German. He later learned Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French and Polish. His father had strong Zionist convictions and during the 1930s he tried to raise money to relocate his family to the British Mandate of Palestine. On the day Nazi Germany annexed Czechoslovakia, March 15, 1939, the family immigrated to Palestine by managing to get past Nazi officials on a train which slipped them over the border into Poland. From there they moved via Romania to Palestine.[1]

Bauer attended high school in Haifa and at sixteen, inspired by his history teacher, Rachel Krulik, he decided to dedicate himself to studying history. Upon completing high school, he joined the Palmach. He attended Cardiff University in Wales on a British scholarship, interrupting his studies to fight in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, after which he completed his degree.

Bauer returned to Israel to join Kibbutz Shoval and began his graduate work in history at the Hebrew University. He received his doctorate in 1960 for a thesis on the British Mandate of Palestine. The following year, he began teaching at the Institute for Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University.

He served on the central committee of Mapam, then the junior partner party of Israel's ruling Mapai (Israel Labour Party), and was a visiting professor at Brandeis University, Yale University, Richard Stockton College, and Clark University. He was the founding editor of the journal Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and served on the editorial board of the Encyclopaedia of the Holocaust, published by Yad Vashem in 1990.

Views and opinions

Bauer specializes in the Holocaust, antisemitism —a word which he insists should be written unhyphenated[2]—and the Jewish resistance movement during the Holocaust, and he has argued for a wider definition of the term. In Bauer's view, resistance to the Nazis comprised not only physical opposition but any activity that gave the Jewish people dignity and humanity in the most humiliating and inhumane conditions. Furthermore, Bauer has disputed the popular view that most Jews went to their deaths passively—"like sheep to the slaughter".[3] He argues that, given the conditions in which the Jews of Eastern Europe had to endure, what is surprising is not how little resistance there was, but rather how much. Bauer has defended Rudolf Kastner and the Aid and Rescue Committee, who have been criticized for allegedly not publicizing the Vrba-Wetzler report which documented the deportation of the Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz. According to Bauer, conditions prevented Kastner and other Jewish leaders from publicizing what they knew, and prevented Jews from escaping.[4][5]

Bauer believes that Hitler was the key figure who caused the Holocaust, and that at some point in the later half of 1941, he gave a series of orders which called for the genocide of the entire Jewish population. Bauer has pointed to the discovery of an entry in Himmler's notebook dated December 18, 1941 where Himmler wrote down the question "What to do with the Jews of Russia?" According to the same notebook, Hitler's response to the question was "Exterminate them as partisans."[6] In Bauer's view, this is as close as historians will ever get to a definitive order from Hitler ordering the Holocaust.[6] Bauer believes that, at about the same time, Hitler gave further verbal orders for the Holocaust, but unfortunately for historians, nobody bothered to write them down. What the Nazis called the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question" is considered to have been formalized at the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942, although Bauer has rejected this view, calling it a "silly story”.[7]

Bauer disagrees with those who argue that the Holocaust was just another genocide. Though he agrees that there were other genocides in history, he argues that the Holocaust was the worst single case of genocide in history, in which every member of a nation was selected for annihilation. American historian Henry Friedlander argues that the Romani and the disabled were just as much victims of the Holocaust as the Jews were. However, Bauer has said that the Romani were subject to genocide (just not "the Holocaust") and he has supported the demands of the Romani for reparations from Germany.[8]

Another trend that Bauer has denounced is the representation of the Holocaust as a mystical experience outside the normal range of human understanding. He has argued against the work of some Orthodox rabbis and theologians who say that the Holocaust was the work of God and part of a mysterious master plan for the Jewish people. In Bauer's view, those who seek to promote this line of thinking argue that God is just and good, while simultaneously bringing down the Holocaust on the Jewish people. Bauer has argued that a God who inflicts the Shoah on his Chosen People is neither good nor just. Moreover, Bauer has argued that this line of reasoning robs Adolf Hitler of his evil: if Hitler was just fulfilling God's will regarding the Jews, then he was merely an instrument of divine wrath and did not choose to be evil.[citation needed]

In January 2012, Bauer's article in the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs entitled "The Holocaust, America and American Jewry"[9] precipitated a bitter debate between him, Rafael Medoff (Wyman Institute) and Alexander J. Groth (University of California, Davis), on what the US Government and the Jews of America could and could not have done to rescue the Jews of Europe.[10][11] Bauer has criticized the American political scientist Daniel Goldhagen, who writes that the Holocaust was the result of the allegedly unique "eliminationist" antisemitic culture of the Germans. He has accused Goldhagen of Germanophobic racism, and of only selecting evidence which is favorable to his thesis.[12]

In 2003, Bauer stated that "What we have here between the Israelis and the Palestinians is an armed conflict - if one side becomes stronger there is a chance of genocide." When one of the visitors asked, "Am I to understand that you think Israel could commit genocide on the Palestinian people?," Bauer answered "Yes," and added, "Just two days ago, extremist settlers passed out flyers to rid Arabs from this land. Ethnic cleansing results in mass killing." Bauer said that opinion polls show that a high percentage of Palestinians want to get rid of Jews.[13]

Bauer was one of the architects of the Working Definition of Antisemitism, which classifies mainstream Palestinian positions as antisemitic. He has argued that calling for Palestinian right of return is antisemitic because he believes it is a prelude to the genocide of Jews.[14]

Concerning Pope Benedict XVI's pilgrimage to Israel and Jordan, Bauer argued that the Pope meant well and tried to walk the tightrope between Arab-Palestinian-Muslim and Palestinian-Christian enmity toward Israel and the Jews on the one hand, and the collective trauma of Jews in Israel and elsewhere regarding the Holocaust on the other.[15]

Awards and recognition

International Dimensions of Holocaust Education, UNESCO 31 January 2012.

Bauer has received recognition for his work in the field of Holocaust studies and the prevention of genocide.

In addition, he serves as an academic adviser to Yad Vashem, academic adviser to the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research, and senior adviser to the Swedish Government on the International Forum on Genocide Prevention.

Published works

Authored books

Book chapters

Edited conference papers

See also


  1. ^ Dalia Karpel 'History professor Yehuda Bauer: 'Netanyahu doesn't know history' at Haaretz 21 February 2013.
  2. ^ "Problems of Contemporary Antisemitism" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 5, 2003. Retrieved 2003-07-05.. Lecture by Yehuda Bauer, 2003. Jewish Studies at UC Santa Cruz
  3. ^ Bauer, Yehuda. Interview with Amos Goldberg. 18 January 1998. 22 July 2007 [1]
  4. ^ Bauer, Yehuda. Jews for Sale? Nazi–Jewish Negotiations 1933–1945. Yale University Press, 1994, p. 72.
  5. ^ Vrba, Rudolf. I Escaped from Auschwitz, Barricade Books, 2002, p. 406.
  6. ^ a b Bauer, Yehuda Rethinking the Holocaust Yale University Press, 2000, page 5
  7. ^ Levitt, Lee (23 January 1992). "Nazi Scheme Not Born at Wannsee, Israeli Holocaust Scholar Claims" (PDF). London: London Jewish Chronicle. Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 30 June 2022.
  8. ^ "Info" (PDF). Retrieved 2019-12-30.
  9. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-25. Retrieved 2015-04-20.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Segev, Tom (November 2, 2012). "Maybe Roosevelt Couldn't Have Saved the Jews From the Nazis After All". Haaretz.
  11. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-08-25. Retrieved 2015-05-26.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link). Holocaust Rescue Revisited, Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs VII:3, 127-142
  12. ^ Bauer, Yehuda (January–April 1997). "On Perpetrators of the Holocaust and the Public Discourse". The Jewish Quarterly Review. 87 (3/4): 346, 349. doi:10.2307/1455190. JSTOR 1455190. Retrieved January 9, 2021.
  13. ^ "Halpern, Orly, "Bauer: It could happen here," Haaretz, 26 February 2003".
  14. ^ Goldberg, Amos (2022). "From a Global War of Narratives to a Binational Framework". Society. 59 (1): 3–11. doi:10.1007/s12115-022-00666-3. S2CID 246859888. Yehuda Bauer, one of the architects and supporters of the IHRA definition, has argued in various op-ed articles that the mere demand for the Right of Return is in itself a prelude to genocide and therefor is essentially antisemitic. Hence this definition, which has been adopted by many states world-wide, including the USA, criminalizes the essence of Palestinian narrative as antisemitic.
  15. ^ "The Pope meant well". The Jerusalem Post |
  16. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site - Recipients in 1998 (in Hebrew)".
  17. ^ "Regeringens belöningsmedaljer och regeringens utmärkelse: Professors namn". Regeringskansliet (in Swedish). January 2006. Archived from the original on 2021-11-02. Retrieved 2022-05-18.
  18. ^ "Recipients of Yakir Yerushalayim award (in Hebrew)". Archived from the original on 2011-06-17. City of Jerusalem official website