Abstract- Operationalizing the Holocaust Complex

My name is Michelle Hermes, and I am a rising senior here at William & Mary. I am a German and Government double major. My Honors thesis research will focus on exploring social trends in the context of the German population, and specifically attempting to operationalize lasting sentiments from the Holocaust. My project aims to isolate a phenomenon I have coined, “the Holocaust Complex.” Following World War II and the Holocaust, Germans felt a lot of shame. Many of the individuals that experienced guilt are still alive. Since then, Germany has evolved into a liberal country. This occurred partially to overcome the Nazi stereotypes. In light of current events and the Syrian refugee crisis, the idea of Germans wanting to be viewed as an open and accepting society may again be at play.
My goal is to operationalize the Holocaust Complex in the context of the ongoing refugee crisis. I want to explore whether or not individuals who personally experienced this post-Holocaust guilt, approach the refugee crisis differently. I hope to identify differences in thinking among older generations. The combination of social, cultural, and political consequences stemming from this crisis makes it one of the most significant issues present within the international community. My research question breaches this and also may act as a predictor for future demographic effects on German refugee and immigration politics.


  1. emmamerrill says:

    I love this topic! I took Modern Jewish History this past semester with Dr. Maggie Kirsh, and while the vast majority of the class covered topics unrelated to the Holocaust (or Shoah, as it is termed in Jewish history) and its impact on Jewish populations, we did not cover much about it’s impact on the rest of the German population. How do you plan on contacting these individuals? Will you be doing one-on-one interviews in person or via the internet? Also, how many people do you plan on interviewing/will you use primarily a quantitative or qualitative approach with the data you gather surrounding this “Holocaust complex”? I imagine it may be difficult to do a quantitative study, especially since you would have to find a lot of subjects, and I’m not sure what your access to these people may be. Either way, I’m sure the project will yield fascinating and relevant results in a very appropriate political climate!