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Rethinking Modernity and the Holocaust: The Application of Zygmunt Bauman's Thesis to the Jewish Council of Lodz, 1940–1944


  • Kirk W. Goodlet is a PhD candidate in history at the University of Waterloo, Canada and works at the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies (LCMSDS). He can be contacted via e-mail at


When Zygmunt Bauman first published Modernity and the Holocaust (1989) it elicited a variety of reactions among historians and sociologists. In his work, Bauman sought to address the Holocaust, a topic that he argued sociologists hitherto neglected, and to provide an alternative theoretical explanation for why the Holocaust occurred.

Although historians have accused Bauman of having “no clear idea what genocide is,” historians have not fully assessed the validity of his work. This essay suggests that despite aversion to incorporating sociological and anthropological theories to historical studies of the Holocaust, they remain valuable in helping scholars understand the multivalent nature and complexity of the Holocaust. Using unprinted ghetto documents, this paper evaluates Bauman's work by placing it in the historical context of the Lodz ghetto administration from 1940 to 1944.