Sociology is concerned with modern society, but has never come to terms with one of the most distinctive and horrific aspects of modernity - the Holocaust. The book examines what sociology can teach us about the Holocaust, but more particularly concentrates upon the lessons which the Holocaust has for sociology.

Zygmunt Bauman explores the silences found in debates about the Holocaust, and asks what the historical facts of the Holocaust tell us about the hidden capacities of present-day life. He finds great danger in such phenomena as the seductiveness of martyrdom; going to extremes in the name of safety; the insidious effects of tragic memory; and efficient, "scientific" implementation of the death penalty.

Among the conditions that made the mass extermination of the Holocaust possible, according to Bauman, the most decisive factor was modernity itself. Bauman's provocative interpretation counters the tendency to reduce the Holocaust to an episode in Jewish history, or to one that cannot be repeated in the West precisely because of the progressive triumph of modern civilization. He demonstrates, rather, that we must understand the events of the Holocaust as deeply rooted in the very nature of modern society and in the central categories of modern social thought.

Bauman's work demonstrates that the Holocaust has to be understood as deeply involved with the nature of modernity. There is nothing comparable to Modernity and the Holocaust available in the sociological literature.


As I write, highly civilised human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me. They do not feel any enmity to me as an individual, nor I against them. They are only 'doing their duty', as the saying goes. Most of them, I have no doubt, are kind-hearted law-abiding men who would never dream of committing murder in private life. On the other hand, if one of them succeeds in blowing me to pieces with a well-placed bomb, he will never sleep the worse for it. He is serving his country, which has the power to absolve him from evil.

George Orwell, England your England

Nothing is so sad as silence.

Leo Baeck, President of Reichsvertretung der deutcher Juden, 1933-43

It is to our interest that the great historical and social could this happen?...should retain all its weight, all its stark nakedness, all its horror.

Gershom Scholem, objecting to the execution of Eichmann


  • ISBN: 978-953-8075-29-2
  • Dimensions: 142x205 mm
  • Number of pages: 348
  • Cover: paperback
  • Year of the edition: 2017
  • Original title: Modernity and the Holocaust
  • Original language: English
  • Translation: Srđan Dvornik