AUTHOR and distinguished Holocaust scholar Professor Christopher Browning visited UCT's Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research recently, holding a series of lectures for undergraduate and postgraduate students and a faculty seminar.
A multi award-winning academic, Browning is the Frank Graham Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
He established his reputation in 1978 with an important book The Final Solution and the German Foreign Office
, which addressed the contentious issues surrounding Hitler's "Final Solution" to the so-called Jewish question. At that time a vigorous argument had evolved between the "intentionalists", who accounted for the Final Solution in terms of a consistent plan initiated by Hitler, subject only to a tactical deviation, and the "functionalists" who laid emphasis on the unsystematic and improvised shaping of Nazi policy.
"Browning argued for a more nuanced understanding of the path to genocide," commented Professor Milton Shain, Director of the Kaplan Centre. "Rooting his study in extensive archival work, he subtly demonstrated that decision making in the Third Reich was complex and very often a function of contingent factors rather than careful planning."
In a later book, Fateful Month: Essays on the Emergence of the Final Solution
, Browning consolidated his position as a leading scholar in the field, defining himself as a "moderate functionalist".
His path-breaking work has been widely recognised, evident in his giving the prestigious George Macaulay Trevelyan Lectures at Cambridge University in 1999.
These were subsequently published as Nazi Policy, Jewish Workers and German Killers
. He has an honorary doctorate from the Hebrew Union College in the US and has been the recipient of fellowships in the US, Germany and Israel.
"His standing in the field of Holocaust history has resulted in his being called as an expert witness in a number of Holocast denial and libel trials, most recently in the David Irving vs Deborah Lipstadt/Penguin Books
libel trial," Shain noted.