University of Pittsburgh

Holocaust and Crimes against Humanity Studies Emphasis

The Law School is offering a new Studies Emphasis in the Holocaust and Crimes against Humanity.  The Holocaust was the pivotal cause of the transformation of international law from a law of states that excluded individuals as subjects, to a system that henceforth included individuals as subjects.  Among the post-war documents it spawned are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.  Drenched not just in blood but also in law, or the mimicry of law, the Holocaust also was the epitome of the interdisciplinary event that cannot be studied effectively from a single field.  Conversely, modern international law cannot be understood without an understanding of the Holocaust.

From the Nuremberg trials to the trials of accused concentration camp guards currently taking place, to civil restitution lawsuits, to narratives of memory and the emerging scholarship on collective and cultural memory, the Holocaust poses a critical backdrop for comparison and contrast with subsequent mass crimes throughout the world, and the social, legal and political resolutions that follow in their wake.  Issues meriting study include the appropriate role of law; the limits of both law and justice in the aftermath of crimes against humanity; law’s intersection with history; historical justice; individual, collective and cultural memory; and narrative.

The Studies Concentration will allow law students to examine these issues in any appropriate discipline, including but not limited to Law, Political Science, History, Jewish Studies and Literature.  Courses dealing with subjects such as international human rights; slavery; the Rwandan genocide and the history of the Holocaust are examples of those which would qualify.   


Students must complete eight credits, two of which can be in satisfaction of the upper-level writing requirement. Up to four credits can be taken outside of the Law School.  (Any non-Law School credits will be part of the total of six non-Law School credits students may apply to their J.D. degrees)

Recognition of Completion for Students

Completion of the requirements will be acknowledged in an official Law School letter to the student, a copy of which will be kept in the student’s file.  This Studies Emphasis is not at present an official university program:  therefore, the student’s university transcript will not reflect it.  It is expected that students will want to include reference to their successful completion of this course of studies on their résumés, however.  The Law School will confirm the student’s completion of the course of studies to potential employers and others.

A list of such courses has been compiled, and will be posted.  Not all courses are offered every year.  Additionally, if a student has identified a course which deals in large measure with the subject of this Studies Emphasis, in order to find out if it will qualify, please contact Professor Curran at

Revised 09/28/2011 | Copyright 2011 | Site by UMC