As the first director of the Holocaust Resource Center’s Oral History Project, Dr. Sidney Langer recorded the first-person accounts of Holocaust survivors, as they recalled their experiences before, during and after World War II. One by one, as these survivors shared their raw, unedited thoughts and emotions, the interviews preserved their faces, their voices, their humanness, for future generations to see and hear.
Langer routinely showed the interviews to students in his Sociology of Extreme Situations course, who were asked to reflect on them. The benefits were immediate and immeasurable. “These first-person narratives really provided students with a human dimension,” said Langer, a professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. “These oral histories allow the students to connect to the real-life experiences of these survivors.”
Langer continued to realize the rewards of providing students with a more comprehensive view of historic, “extreme” situations and institutions, one that encompasses both scholarly research as well as the firsthand accounts of eyewitnesses. He began to put together an anthology of readings that would inform students about these critical, life-altering episodes, featuring the people who endured and were forced to cope with these experiences. The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks proved to be the final catalyst for his work.
I want students to be informed of these historic events and understand the personal experiences that people had. I want to provide them with a reality that they might not necessarily have had. – Dr. Sidney Langer.
Published by Pearson in January, From Slavery to 9/11: Readings in the Sociology and Social Psychology of Extreme Situations explores the social structure of institutions and extreme situations, and survival and coping mechanisms used by the people in response. The text includes standard source material, as well as contemporary and classic readings. The first-person narratives of coping and survival include oral histories that highlight the unique experiences of women in extreme situations.
The topics include many defining events of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as the beginning of the 21st century, including institutionalized slavery, genocidal atrocities and the Holocaust, September 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina.