Perspectives on the Individual—Core 2007
Dr. Jonathan Alexander (please use my BCC e-mail account)
Phone: 856-222-9311 x1123
Revised for Summer 2013

Required Texts:
The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)

Civilization and Its Discontents (Sigmund Freud)
The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Apology, Crito (Plato)
Night (Elie Wiesel)
FDU University Core Readings

Overview: Within the Western World we traditionally begin with the self in antithetical relationship to all others. In “Perspectives on the Individual” we begin by reading essays which discuss current trends in genetic research and gender classification. We then turn to Plato’s “Crito” and “Apology,” wherein we explore the development of the individual as dissenting thinker. In Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, we see depicted a society of the future in which the individual is no longer valued as such. We consider texts from Buddhist, Christian and Jewish perspectives which offer various points of view on morality and ethics. We move next to Gilgamesh and a discussion of the cultural emergence of the individual and socialization. With a selection from Pico della Mirandola’s “Oration on the Dignity of Man” we are introduced to Renaissance understandings of the value of the individual while Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” and “Ode: Imitations of Immorality” serve as a Romantic focus on the theme of turning inward. The course nears its end with the Autobiography of Malcolm X and deals with such topics as the lifelong search for self and the transformation of the self through catharsis. We turn to Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing” as we try to deal with the question of how the structure of society may culturally repress the individuality of women or allow it to grow. We move to Freud and the struggle between instinctual drives and the expectations of civilization and we conclude with Elie Wiesel’s Night, a depiction of the Holocaust and the struggle of humanity against its own worst enemy.

Attendance: If the student is to profit from any course, he or she must attend class on a consistent basis.

·         Students must attend all classes for the full duration of each session especially during shortened summer sessions. Should you need to miss a class for observance of religious holidays, jury duty, military duty, bereavement, or illness, you must notify the instructor by telephone or e-mail either prior to or within 24 hours after the class. Without such communication, students forfeit the right to make up missed work. If such communication is made, students will be permitted to make up missed work at the beginning of the following class meeting.

·         Entering class late or leaving class early (without prior authorization) is considered disrespectful and will not be tolerated.

Academic Etiquette: Students will respect themselves, their peers and their instructors by considering the following:

·         Cell phones must be kept on silent. No calls are to be made or received during class. If you are expecting an important call during the class meeting time, notify me prior to class and quietly excuse yourself if the call is received. No text-messaging or game-playing will be tolerated.

·         Students who wish to use the restrooms may do so by quietly leaving and re-entering the room. If a student believes he or she will require an absence of more than a few minutes, it is his responsibility to notify me accordingly.

Communication: Many means of communication are available to the student including telephone, e-mail and mailbox.

·         If you leave a message on my office voice-mail, please remember to speak clearly and provide your name, course information, and phone number if you request a return call.

·         If you contact me via e-mail, always include your full name and class information in the subject line. Too often students forget to sign e-mail or have e-mail addresses without obvious identifiers. If you do not include your name in the subject line, I will not open the message.

·         Students who send me e-mail and do not receive a reply of any kind within 48 hours should assume it was never received. Such e-mails should be resent. I do not mind receiving redundant messages if you are unsure whether your message was transmitted (though I may only reply to the first). If your message doesn’t present itself as urgent, I may reply quickly and briefly and ask to get back to you before long.

·         Students who send e-mails containing attachments must save these documents with one of the following extensions: DOC, DOCX, TXT, RTF, or PDF. Please convert all other file types (MAC, WPS, ODT) to DOC or TXT files.

Class Assignments:

·         All work written and submitted should utilize standard rules of grammar, sentence organization, paragraph organization, and diction.

·         All formal papers are to be typed, titled, double spaced, stapled, and carefully proofread.

·         All assignments are due on the date specified on the syllabus without exception. Assignments which are not submitted during the class session they are due will be penalized 15% for each subsequent day they are late.

·         When a student is absent the day an assignment is due, he or she must submit the assignment as an attachment via e-mail on or before the date it is due.

·         Since students are provided with all assignments and deadlines on the first day of the semester, excuses such as “crashed computers,” “misplaced data,” “misplaced disks,” or “empty printer ink cartridges” will not be accepted. All computer work should be saved twice (hard drive and floppy/flash).

Plagiarism will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Be aware that plagiarism includes (but is not limited to) copying someone else’s words without crediting the source; paraphrasing someone else’s words without crediting the source; using someone else’s ideas without crediting the source (even if rephrased in your own words); using facts not universally known which are obtained from a source without crediting the source; asking someone else to write your paper, either in whole or in part; or obtaining a paper or portion thereof by any means and submitting it as an original document. The penalty for plagiarism is failure of the assignment and potentially failure of the course (at the instructor’s discretion), and it may result in suspension or expulsion from the University (at the discretion of the Student Affairs Committee). Please refer to the FDU Policy on Academic Integrity for more information (


Grades will be based on the following equivalents:

Points Earned

Final Grade

Points Earned

Final Grade


















Course Assignments:
Journals, Participation, and other assigned activities (25 pts)
: Journal responses will be collected every Friday and will also be emailed through the week.

Paper (25 pts): One formal paper will be due near the end of the semester. This paper must be at least 1000 words, connecting material discussed in class with life experiences. Sample topics will be introduced in class.

Midterm Exam (25 pts) and Final Exam (25 pts): There will be a midterm examination covering the first half of the course material and a final examination that will cover only the second half of the material. Portions of these exams may allow for the use of notes and texts.


CLASS SCHEDULE: This course will meet each Friday from May 31st through July 19th


Schedule of Assigned Readings and Focus Questions: All reading must be completed by the date they are listed below. For days which we meet in class, a thoughtful response to the focus questions should be brought to class. For material that is to be emailed (as indented below), complete responses to listed questions must be sent by the dates listed.

FRIDAY, May 31
Course Introduction
Student Survey (in syllabus):
Respond to each question and email responses to me before noon on Sunday, June 9

Fausto-Sterling, The Five Sexes: Why Male and Female Are Not Enough
Sharon Begley, Decoding the Human Body
Geoffrey Cowley and Anne Underwood, A Revolution in Medicine
Adam Bryant, The Gold Rush
Robert Sapolsky, It’s Not “All in the Genes”

Focusing Questions:
(1) In “The Five Sexes,” Fausto-Sterling states that experts estimate “as many as four percent of births” are intersex or hermaphrodite babies who are neither male nor female, but some kind of true or pseudo-hermaphrodite. How do you feel knowing that one in 20 to 25 students attending your classes is an intersex, hermaphrodite, or transsexual person?
(2) How might you react if you discovered that a member of your family, a close friend, or a fellow student is a hermaphrodite or intersex? How might you react and feel if you discovered that a parent, family member, close friend, or fellow student was considering having a sex change operation?
(3) Until recently few questioned the “assumption that without medical care [and early genital surgery to correct an intersex condition] hermaphrodites are doomed to a life of misery.” Do you agree or disagree with this assumption, and why?
(4) Fausto-Sterling concludes that the medical community is finally recognizing the real harm and psychological damage its “biopower”—its ability to alter anatomical sex, and surgically and hormonally force intersexual persons and hermaphrodites into either male or female pigeonholes—has done to intersex and hermaphrodite persons. How do you think people, and our society as a whole, will react now that the gender experts, physicians, and psychologists are concluding that it is better not to operate on or medically treat intersex and hermaphrodite babies right after birth, and more humane and ethical to let them grow up as intersex persons until they can make a decision about their own treatment?
(5) Explain why you agree or disagree with Fausto-Sterling’s suggestion “that the three intersexes, herm, merm, and ferm, deserve to be considered additional sexes each in its own right.” Remember, she clearly suggests “that sex is a vast, indefinitely malleable continuum that defies the constraints of even five sexes.” Why are male and female not enough? Why are five sexes not enough?

FRIDAY, June 7
Plato, The Apology and Crito

Focusing Questions:
(1) Socrates claims that “An unexamined life is not worth living.” What exactly is an “examined life”? How is examining one’s life related to being an individual in our culture? Is living an examined life always desirable? Is it possible to examine everything about our lives? Do you accept Plato’s suggestion that the more heroic individual is the reflective, independent thinker rather than the warrior?
(2) What role does reasoning play in freeing us from the domination of traditional myths and social demands? What is the community’s or society’s interest in controlling dissent?
(3) Socrates claims that his sole “wisdom” consists in the realization that he is not wise. What does he mean? Is his behavior during his trial and imprisonment consistent with this claim?
(4) It is sometimes argued that Socrates committed a form of suicide. In what sense, if any, is this true?

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

Focusing Questions:
(1) Aunt Lydia talks of two kinds of freedom: “freedom to” and “freedom from,” and warns the handmaids not to underrate “freedom from.” What does each kind of freedom mean? Give examples. What does Lydia mean in warning not to underrate “freedom from?”
(2) Offred tells the commander that what is missing from Gilead is the opportunity to “fall in love.” Do you agree that this is the greatest failure of Gilead?
(3) Handmaids’ names are composed of “of,” followed by the names of their commanders. In our own society, the majority of married women adopt their husbands’ names. Discuss similarities and differences between the two practices.
(4) Is Offred a heroic individual? Why or why not?
(5) The Handmaid’s Tale presents us with a dystopia in which individuality is largely crushed. Which one of all your freedoms today now seems more precious as a result of reading The Handmaid’s Tale.

FRIDAY, June 14
Thây’s Fourteen Precepts”; The Sermon on the Mount; Maimonides’ Levels of Charity (IN SYLLABUS)

Focusing Questions:
(1) The beatitudes (5:3-10) are considered a proclamation of a new approach to the good life. Would Socrates have accepted these notions of goodness? Would he have rejected them all, accepted some?
(2) Do you see any similarities between Socrates’ attitude toward the gods and Jesus’ attitude toward God?
(3) In these sayings there is a heavy emphasis on heaven and hell. What value do you think this has for the formation of a self? Is it necessary? Is it good? Is it harmful?
(4) There is also a strong emphasis on an interior goodness that goes beyond outward good behavior. Is this important, valuable? or does it impose an impossible ideal?
(5) Jesus’ insistence that we not be anxious about food and clothing sounds like Socrates’ insistence than men not be anxious about acquiring honors and possessions. In what ways are they the same? different?


Focusing Questions:
(1) Heroes provide one perspective on the individual, since heroes serve as exemplary individuals or models of conduct. Gilgamesh is one of the first heroes in world literature. How does he exemplify heroic behavior?
(2) Other perspectives on the individual are provided by consideration of those factors that shape our identities. Enkidu first appears in Gilgamesh as a wild man, totally outside human society. How is he socialized into human society? What role does his friendship with Gilgamesh play in Enkidu’s socialization?
(3) In their adventures together, Gilgamesh and Enkidu defeat the monster Humbaba. Exactly what is Humbaba? Do you think this figure, at least in some respects, symbolizes some natural phenomenon?
(4) The death of Enkidu drives Gilgamesh into a frenzy of grief. To what extent do extreme pain or bereavement isolate or “desocialize” an individual?
(5) Gilgamesh’s search for Utnapishtim and the secret of immortality is an early example of the heroic quest. While there are possible elements of a real journey in Gilgamesh’s quest, it is easy to see this quest as a symbolic journey that brings Gilgamesh to a deeper understanding of human mortality. Which elements of the journey seem to you to be the most realistic? Which elements seem the most symbolic?

FRIDAY, June 21
Pico della Mirandola, “Oration on the Dignity of Man”

Focusing Questions:

(1) What is the importance for the individual human person of having a particular place in the “Great Chain of Being,” that is, in the immense natural world, from atoms to galaxies?
(2) In what way does Pico de la Mirandola’s understanding of human nature differ from the duality we saw in Gilgamesh between man as animal (Enkidu) and man as God (Gilgamesh)?
(3) In what way do human persons differ from the rest of nature in Pico de la Mirandola?
(4)Is Pico’s a legitimate way to define the relationship in today’s science-governed understanding?

TAKE-HOME MIDTERM (distributed in class)

FRIDAY, June 28
Wordsworth, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” and “Tintern Abbey”

Focusing Questions:
(1) What does it mean to say “the child is father to the man”? When is it true and when is it not?
(2) Wordsworth’s natural world is much more intimate and vivid than the abstract vision of the cosmos considered by Pico. In what way does this modify the way we think of ourselves in relation to nature?
(3) Why is it the child’s relation to nature that is so important in “Tintern Abbey” and “Ode”?
(4) For Wordsworth the outer self is the social self. Why does he reject this outer self in favor of an inner, private self? Is this same rejection found in any way in Gilgamesh or in Plato’s “Apology” and “Crito”?
(5) Wordsworth suggests that we become prisoners as we grow older. Do we find this experience reflected, for instance, in Gilgamesh or in Socrates? Do we find it in our own experience?

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Focusing Questions:
(1) In what ways was Malcolm’s individuality denied him because of his race?
(2) Malcolm said his life was a series of changes. What were the major changes in his life? How did the various names and nicknames he had mark some of the changes. What was the difference between the childhood of Malcolm X and the childhood that Wordsworth describes?
(3) What message did Malcolm have for African-Americans? For white Americans? Why did human rights become his central idea, and not just civil rights? What were his final spiritual teachings?
(4) Malcolm’s life can be seen as a process of mental liberation, of “decolonizing the mind.” How did his self-education contribute? How did his break with Elijah Muhammad?
(5) What was his attitude toward women in general, and in particular, towards Ella, his mother, Betty Shabbaz? What was his attitude toward Jews? Toward violence? How do racial and other group identifications shape our sense of who we are?


FRIDAY, July 12
Tillie Olsen, “I Stand Here Ironing”

Focusing Questions:
(1) There are many sources of the pain which Emily has experienced in her life. Who or what is mainly responsible for this pain?
(2) Does Emily have the freedom to overcome the difficulties of her early life? What might Pico say?
(3) “I Stand Here Ironing” has been called a work which de-romanticizes motherhood. Is it? Why or why not?

Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents

Focusing Questions:
(1) How does Freud differ from Wordsworth in his explanation of the struggle between instinctual drives and the expectations of civilization? Which one, do you think, better explains the tension?
(2) Wordsworth sees nature as a refuge from civilization. How does Freud see it?
(3) Does the struggle between civilization and instinct contribute to or inhibit personal growth?
(4) What is the difference between Freud’s notion of law and that of Socrates?
(5) What is the relationship between Freud’s theories and the way the struggle between instinct and culture has been managed in The Handmaid’s Tale?

FRIDAY, July 19
Elie Wiesel, Night

Focusing Questions:
(1) In what way is the narrator’s early life in Sighet like the early life described by Wordsworth? Note several elements of this early life which constitute the narrator’s individuality. Show how each is taken away from him by his life in the camps.
(2) The relationship of Eliezer to his father is very important in the second half of the book. Why? From this relationship, what lesson does Eliezer learn about an individual’s potential for good and evil?
(3) Just prior to the Nazi invasion of Hungary, the Jews of Sighet took comfort against rumors to the effect that Hitler was harming European Jews by asking: “Was he going to wipe out the whole people?. . . So many millions! . . . And in the middle of the twentieth century!” The twentieth century individual, they thought, was incapable of repeating the atrocities, the mass murders of the dim past. What assumptions about the effect of Western culture on the “twentieth century” individual are being made here? How have your ideas about “progress” been affected by this text?
(4) Early in the course we discussed Atwood’s fictional dystopia. Toward the close of the course we have now read a tale of a lived dystopia. What similarities to Gilead do you find in the world described in Night.

TAKE-HOME FINAL (distributed in class)

Student Survey


The following questions are to be answered thoughtfully and returned by the date identified on the syllabus. Please keep a copy of your responses with you in class each day; you will be asked to share your thoughts periodically. You are encouraged to answer the questions as honestly as possible; the more honest you can be with yourself, the easier you will find it to make connections between your experiences and those of the authors covered. These potential connections will be the guiding force for the assigned essay.

Each question below is presented as simply as possible in boldface, but since they often require some explanation, you may see clarifications or different phrasings, though you do not have to consider these separate questions. Each of the numbered items below is considered one question, no matter how many different ways it is expressed, and each question should be answered in 50-75 words. These questions are meant to be wide open; if you feel a question needs to be manipulated to suit your experiences, do so. If you feel a question is too vague and unspecific, it is likely intended to be, and you are encouraged to interpret it however you choose.

1. What is your philosophy of life? What creed or motto do you live by? Consider a philosophy or creed as a simple statement, something which might be printed on a t-shirt or bumper sticker. Consider from where, when or whom this philosophy was generated—does it come from one of your experiences, or perhaps was it a byproduct of a relationship or life experience?

2. What is the hardest thing about being a person of your gender? Consider work, leisure, family, education, culture, etc. Where might you have experienced gender bias or favoritism?

3. What do you wish someone had told you about life (or one aspect of life like relationships, work, family, school, etc.) that you had to learn yourself? Consider times when you may have said, “I wish I knew then what I know now.”

4. If you had died yesterday, what would have been written on your headstone by the person who would most likely be responsible for organizing your interment? Consider who this person is, and what he or she would have etched on your memorial stone. Keep in mind that you’re not alive, so you have no choice or opinion in the matter. The etching must be from this other person’s point of view. Consider that the stone has room for no more than 15 words.

5. What has been the high point of the first half of your life? Consider only the exact first half of the years you’ve lived, and identify what, more than anything, brings you the best memories.

6. Other than an immediate member of your family (parent, grandparent, aunt/uncle), what figure of authority (teacher, coach, clergy, employer) has had the greatest influence on you and your life? Consider that “greatest” suggests “most profound,” not necessarily “most enjoyable” or “most favorable.” Who is this person whose pleasant or enjoyable behavior or attitude has had the best positive impact on you?

7. If you knew you would lose all ability to communicate (spoken, written, and gestured), and you were given ten seconds to speak, to whom would you speak and what would you say? Consider that your chosen listener/audience can be as many or as few people as you desire, though you have to declare why this/these individual(s) are present. Keep in mind that you’re not going to leave Earth after this one minute expires; you will just not be able to communicate to anyone at any time.

8. What role (if any) does God and/or spirituality play in your life? Consider the appropriate influences (or lack of influences) in your life and how these people/events have impacted you and your approach to any form or brand of religion.

9. Name three attainable goals currently on your list of things to do or accomplish. Consider as honestly as possible what makes something “attainable.” It is not necessarily what you want or need to do; rather, it is what you will do.

10. What has been your greatest personal disappointment? What action, decision or behavior of yours are you least proud of? Don’t concern yourself with what others may or may not find disappointing about you; this is completely your perspective of your actions.

11. What one word most accurately sums up your whole being? You might find it helpful to generate a list of potential words—even consider prioritizing them—but you must end with one word only and be able to explain why it has been selected over all others.

12. What has been your proudest personal accomplishment? Consider the road leading up to this accomplishment and whatever obstacles or burdens had to be overcome to satisfy this journey. As with question 10 above, don’t concern yourself with how others may take pride in your work or deeds; this is completely your perspective of your actions.

13. What is your weakest personality trait? Consider that this question is not referring to any physical quality and is not necessarily something that others know about or have an opinion about.

14. If you had the opportunity, what would you change about your relationship with your parents? Consider one or both (or some other individual if “parent” is not applicable.) Assume for this question that many of us would not alter our past if given the chance because our past has made us who we are. Having acknowledged that, decide what you would change if you could.

15. Do you consider yourself more proactive or reactive? Are most of your actions and choices in life guided by a desire to set higher standards, find better methods, and build new roads or are you more likely to recognize and evaluate what has already been done and act according to what seems logically to follow with necessity?

Neoclassical period of 18th Century defined by:

·         Liberty vs. Authority

·         Reason vs. Intuition

·         Struggle of the new machine age

·         Alexander Pope, natural and universal law

·         Behavior of the cosmos

·         Art, science, and nature’s law

·         Reason ruled supreme

·         Poetry becoming emotionally barren

The romantic tendency of poetry (1798-1832):

·         entered into nature to express it and feel it

·         no illusion of a perfect natural world

·         pain and sorrow of life

·         individual artistic tastes, human rights, and responsibilities

·         perception

·         love and fear of nature

·         original genius, genuine emotion, and the human spirit

Nature as a poetic theme:

·         lower level

·         higher level

·         transcendental level


·         Two poetic tendencies of the moral and the confessional

·         Communing with nature vs. conformity to social convention

·         Integration of the natural world and the divine spirit

·         Poetry written to instruct and give pleasure.

Being aware of that special gift entrusted to him, the gift of the poet’s imagination, he stated in the Prelude:

Imagination—here the Power so called

Through sad incompetence of human speech,

That awful Power rose from the mind’s abyss

Like an unfathered vapor that enwraps,

At once, some lonely traveler. I was lost;

Halted without an effort to break through;

But to my conscious soul I now can say—

“I recognize thy glory.”


·         Jean-Jacques Rousseau

·         Nature

·         France

·         Plato

·         Christianity.

In the Prelude (Book XIII, lines 1010), he speaks of the hidden depth of power  behind all poetry:

From Nature doth emotion come, and moods

Of calmness equally are Nature’s gift:

This is her glory; these two attributes

Are sister horns that constitute her strength.

Hence Genius, born to thrive by interchange

Of peace and excitation, finds in her

His best and purest friend; from her receives

That energy by which he seeks the truth,

From her that happy stillness of the mind

Which fits him to receive it when unsought.


In the revised Preface:

·         “utmost simplicity of subject and diction”

·         sincere, simple, and unaffected in style and diction

·         language should be that of the common man

·         emotion gathered from a close communion with Nature

·         “recollection in tranquility”

·         “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”

“Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood”


I.                    Change brings loss

II.                 Loss is felt despite beauty of Nature

III.               Only with a connection to Nature can true happiness can be felt and isolation overcome

IV.               Natural beauty = “bliss”; questions truth of Nature’s cycles

V.                 Happiness of the soul exists before birth; humans walk with God and Nature

VI.               Physical existence serves to erase true beauty of our “Heaven . . . infancy” (66)

VII.            Cycles of life; playing roles, passing the time

VIII.          Delivery of soul from grave of “life”

IX.               All is not lost; eternal life of soul prompts longing for next phase of existence

X.                 Beauty lies beyond the cycle of physical or “natural” existence

XI.               Relinquish monotony of world for preferable transcendent / inexpressible state

Jan 30, 1933 – Hitler appointed Chancellor of Germany, a nation with a Jewish population of 566,000.


March 22, 1933 - Nazis open Dachau concentration camp near Munich, to house political prisoners.


April 26, 1933 - The Gestapo is born, created by Hermann Göring in the German state of Prussia.


May 10, 1933 - Burning of books in Berlin and throughout Germany.


July 14, 1933 - Nazi Party is declared the only legal party in Germany; Also, Nazis pass Law to strip Jewish immigrants from Poland of their German citizenship.


In July - Nazis pass law allowing for forced sterilization of those found by a Hereditary Health Court to have genetic defects.


Nov 24, 1933 - Nazis pass a Law against Habitual and Dangerous Criminals, which allows beggars, the homeless, alcoholics and the unemployed to be sent to concentration camps.


Sept 15, 1935 - Nuremberg Race Laws against Jews decreed.


June 17, 1936 - Heinrich Himmler is appointed chief of the SS, German Police.


In Jan - Jews are banned from many professional occupations including teaching Germans, and from being accountants, physicians, lawyers, or dentists. They are also denied tax reductions and child allowances.


In July - At Evian Conference, France, the U.S. convenes a League of Nations conference with delegates from 32 countries to consider helping Jews fleeing Hitler, but results in inaction as no country will accept them.


Nov 7, 1938 - Ernst vom Rath, third secretary in the German Embassy in Paris, is shot and mortally wounded by Herschel Grynszpan, the 17 year old son of one of the deported Polish Jews. Rath dies on November 9, precipitating Kristallnacht.


Nov 9/10 - Kristallnacht - The Night of Broken Glass. In all 101 synagogues and 7,500 Jewish businesses were destroyed. 26,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps, Jews were physically attacked and beaten and 91 died.   Nazis fine Jews one billion marks for damages related to Kristallnacht.


In May - The SS St. Louis, a ship crowded with 930 Jewish refugees, is turned away by Cuba, the United States and other countries and returns to Europe.


Sept 21, 1939 - Heydrich issues instructions to SS Einsatzgruppen (special action squads) in Poland regarding treatment of Jews, stating they are to be gathered into ghettos near railroads for the future “final goal.” He also orders a census and the establishment of Jewish administrative councils within the ghettos to implement Nazi policies and decrees.


In Oct - Nazis begin T-4 Program (euthanasia) on sick and disabled in Germany.


Nov 23, 1939 - Yellow stars required to be worn by Polish Jews over age 10.


Jan 25, 1940 - Nazis choose the town of Oswiecim (Auschwitz) in Poland near Krakow as site of new concentration camp.


In July - Eichmann’s Madagascar Plan presented, proposing to deport all European Jews to the island of Madagascar, off the coast of east Africa.


Nov 15, 1940 - The Warsaw Ghetto, containing over 400,000 Jews, is sealed off. It is roughly ¼ the size of Mount Laurel Township.


March 1, 1941 - Himmler makes his first visit to Auschwitz, during which he orders Kommandant Höss to begin massive expansion, including a new compound to be built at nearby Birkenau that can hold 100,000 prisoners.


Sept 3, 1941 - The first test use of Zyklon-B gas at Auschwitz.


Nov 24, 1941 - Theresienstadt Ghetto is established near Prague, Czechoslovakia in the city of Terezin. The Nazis will use it as a model ghetto for propaganda purposes.


Dec 8, 1941 - In occupied Poland, near Lodz, Chelmno extermination camp becomes operational. Jews taken there are placed in mobile gas vans and driven to a burial place while carbon monoxide from the engine exhaust is fed into the sealed rear compartment, killing them. The first gassing victims include 5,000 Gypsies who had been deported from the Reich to Lodz.


Dec 12, 1941 - The ship SS Struma leaves Romania for Palestine carrying 769 Jews but is later denied permission by British authorities to allow the passengers to disembark. In Feb. 1942, it sails back into the Black Sea where it is intercepted by a Soviet submarine and sunk as an “enemy target.”


Jan 20, 1942 - Wannsee Conference to coordinate the “Final Solution.” (Conspiracy)


In March - In occupied Poland, Belzec extermination camp becomes operational. The camp is fitted with permanent gas chambers using carbon monoxide piped in from engines placed outside the chamber, but will later substitute Zyklon-B.


In May - In occupied Poland, Sobibor extermination camp becomes operational. The camp is fitted with three gas chambers using carbon monoxide piped in from engines, but will later substitute Zyklon-B.


July 22, 1942 - Beginning of deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto to the new extermination camp, Treblinka, opened in occupied Poland, east of Warsaw. The camp is fitted with two buildings containing 10 gas chambers, each holding 200 persons. Carbon monoxide gas is piped in from engines placed outside the chamber, but Zyklon-B will later be substituted. Bodies are burned in open pits.


In 1943 - The number of Jews killed by SS Einsatzgruppen passes one million. Nazis then use special units of slave laborers Sonderkommando to dig up and burn the bodies to remove all traces.


Jan 18, 1943 - First resistance by Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. (Uprising)


April 19-30 - The Bermuda Conference occurs as representatives from the U.S. and Britain discuss the problem of refugees from Nazi-occupied countries, but results in inaction concerning the plight of the Jews.


In May - SS Dr. Josef Mengele arrives at Auschwitz and institutes process of selection.


In Oct - The Danish Underground helps transport 7,220 Danish Jews to safety in Sweden by sea.


Oct 14, 1943 - Massive escape from Sobibor as Jews and Soviet POWs break out, with 300 making it safely into nearby woods. Of those 300, fifty will survive. Exterminations then cease at Sobibor, after over 250,000 deaths. All traces of the death camp are then removed and trees are planted. (Escape from Sobibor)


In June - A Red Cross delegation visits Theresienstadt after the Nazis have carefully prepared the camp and the Jewish inmates, resulting in a favorable report.


In July - Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg arrives in Budapest, Hungary, and proceeds to save nearly 33,000 Jews by issuing diplomatic papers and establishing ‘safe houses.’


Oct 7, 1944 - A revolt by Sonderkommando (Jewish slave laborers) at Auschwitz-Birkenau results in complete destruction of Crematory IV. (The Grey Zone)


Jan 27, 1945 - Soviet troops liberate Auschwitz. By this time, an estimated 2,000,000 persons, including 1,500,000 Jews, have been murdered there.


Nov 20, 1945 - Opening of the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal.

Maimonides’ Eight Levels of Charity


Moshe ben Maimon (1135-1204) was a Jewish rabbi, physician and philosopher. He is most commonly known by his Greek name, Moses Maimonides (or more formally Rabbi Moses ben Maimonides), and subsequently many Jewish works refer to him by the acronym of his title and name, RaMBaM or Rambam.


According to Rambam, there are eight levels of charity, each greater than the next.


[1] The greatest level is to support a fellow in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others.


[2] A lesser level of charity is to give to the poor without knowing to whom one gives, and without the recipient knowing from whom he received.


[3] A lesser level of charity is when one knows to whom one gives, but the recipient does not know his benefactor.



[4] A lesser level of charity is when one does not know to whom one gives, but the poor person does know his benefactor.


[5] A lesser level of charity is when one gives to the poor person directly into his hand, but gives before being asked.


[6] A lesser level of charity is when one gives to the poor person after being asked.


[7] A lesser level of charity is when one gives inadequately, but gives gladly and with a smile.


[8] A lesser level of charity is when one gives unwillingly.


Altruism: the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others.



Seinfeld, “The Calzone” (1996)


            “If they don’t notice it, what’s the point?”


Questions: On Maimonides 8 Levels of Charity, where would George, his actions, and his motivations fall? Where in your life have displayed two different levels of charity according to Maimonides?












Friends, “The One Where Phoebe Hates PBS” (1998)


            “It made you feel good, so that makes it selfish.”


Questions: Is there such a thing as a “selfless good deed?” Can anything be done which achieves a good end but brings no sense of satisfaction to the doer? What experiences from your life bring you to your conclusions?















Crash (2004)


            “He came home. Did you know that? . . . my little boy . . . when I was sleeping.

            He brought me groceries . . . last thing he did.”


Don Cheadle’s brother has been acting in ways that are a danger to himself and others. His mother is suffering from depression and dementia, and she clearly cannot care for herself, so we see Cheadle bringing her food and other necessities. When the brother is found dead and the body has to be identified, the mother finally breaks down and turns her anger toward the surviving son, Cheadle, claiming that his other interests within his personal and police business have kept him from caring about what is important. “We weren’t much good to you anymore,” she tells him. She offers the final comments quoted above to her only surviving son before pushing him away.


Questions: Interpret Cheadle’s facial expressions, eye contact, gestures and/or any other affective details which would imply what might be going through his mind after listening to his mother’s criticism of his “lack of care for the family,” and then upon hearing his mother’s favorable (though untrue) comments about his dead brother. Describe this degree of benevolence, and relate it to something you have experienced in your life.