Department of Religious Studies

Robert H. Abzug

Ph.D., History, 1977, University of California, Berkeley

Oliver H. Radkey Regents Professor of History; Director, Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies
Robert H. Abzug



Religion in the U.S. | social reform and religious life in antebellum America | America and the Holocaust | the interpenetration of religion and psychology in modern American culture


Professor Abzug taught at Berkeley and UCLA before coming to Texas in 1978. He held the Eric Voegelin Visiting Professorship at the University of Munich, 1990-91. He is also a former chair of American Studies (1990-96) and founding Director of Liberal Arts Honors Programs at Texas (1996-2002).

Professor Abzug's scholarship explores the formation of social and moral consciousness in American culture. He has worked in three major fields: social reform and religious life in antebellum America, America and the Holocaust, and, most recently, the interpenetration of religion and psychology in modern American culture. His research has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and numerous other foundations.

He is in the final stages of preparing a biography of the American psychologist, Rollo May. In addition, he has published  a new edition for classroom use of William James's Varieties of Religious Experience (2012). He is currently doing research on Jews and other minorities in the state of Montana and will be producing a volume for University of Texas Press’s Texas Bookshelf on insiders and outsiders and the creation of the Texas myth. He also edits a book series for UT Press, Exploring Jewish Arts and Culture.


R S 392T • Birth Of Psychotherapy

43840 • Fall 2012
Meets W 300pm-600pm GAR 1.122
(also listed as AMS 390, HIS 392, J S 383)

Perhaps no other movement in modern culture has had the pervasive and continuing effect on individuals and society as the various forms of psychotherapy that emerged from Freud’s invention in fin de siècle Vienna. This course will explore themes in the history of psychotherapy (not just psychoanalysis) and especially its impact on religion, gender and sexuality, and popular culture. We will concentrate on its basic history and accounts of its roots in Western religion, culture and science, and will also consider the literature attempting to gauge the ways in which it has affected modern life. The shorter writing assignments will be geared toward responses to various approaches to the study of psychotherapy as a historical phenomenon, both in Europe and America. A final paper will focus on some aspect of the general topic, and can either be a review of secondary literature on the history or influence of some aspect of therapy or a research paper, especially if sufficient primary materials are easily available. Students will be encouraged to write in areas that are most relevant to their interests, in consultation with me.


Class Participation: 30%--Regular Attendance a Requirement, Includes participation in seminar discussion, presentation of readings, and formal oral presentation on research in last meetings of the term.

2 Short response papers: 20% (to be assigned during the semester)

15-20 page historiographical or research essay: 50%(Topic to be worked out with me and directed toward the seminar member’s particular research interests in a wide range of interdisciplinary fields)

Possible Texts

Buhle, Mari Jo, Feminism and Its Discontents (Harvard University Press)

Frank, Jerome, Persuasion and Healing (Johns Hopkins University Press; third edition)

Freud, Sigmund, The Question of Lay Analysis (Norton)

Heinze, Andrew, Jews and the American Soul (Princeton University Press)

James, William, The Varieties of Religious Experience (Least expensive edition)

Jung, Carl, Modern Man in Search of a Soul (Least expensive edition)

Makari, George, Revolution in Mind: The Creation of Psychoanalysis (Harper)

May, Rollo, Psychology and the Human Dilemma (Norton)

Occasional shorter readings posted on Blackboard

R S 346 • America And The Holocaust

43615 • Fall 2010
Meets MW 330pm-500pm UTC 4.102
(also listed as AMS 321, HIS 356R, J S 365)

HIS 356R, AMS 321, JS 365, RS 346
Fall 2010
Professor Robert H. Abzug
Class Time and Place: MW, 3:30-5, at UTC 4.102
Office Hours: Garrison 2.108: MW 1:00-2:30 (in rare cases F 1:00-3) and by appt. by email)
Teaching Assistant: Jennifer Eckel (office and office hours to be announced)

America and the Holocaust

The goal of the course is to familiarize you with the history of the Holocaust and how it intersected with American culture. It will combine a basic introduction to the history of the Holocaust with a consideration of the ways in which American history, culture, and politics affected and have been affected these events in Europe. We will consider not only American policymaking and the Nazis but also how the Holocaust became central to the contemplation of evil in the decades after the end of World War II. Issues of race, ethical national policy, and the ability of cultures to depict and draw lessons from history form the interpretive questions at the heart of the course. .

Pre-Requisite: There are no specific course pre-requisites, though basic familiarity with modern American and European as well as Holocaust history will of course be helpful. However, I do not assume any such background and a student will most of all need a commitment to the lectures, readings, and questions of the course to do well.

Required Texts:
Robert H. Abzug, Inside the Vicious Heart
Robert H. Abzug, America Views the Holocaust
Doris Bergen, War and Genocide
Edward T. Linenthal, Preserving Memory
Philip Roth, The Ghostwriter
Edward Wallant, The Pawnbroker
Additional Required Material on Blackboard Site for this Course

Class and Reading Schedule:
August  25: Introduction: Defining the Holocaust: Jews, Roma, and Genocide
            30:    Betwixt and Between: Jews in Europe before 1914
September    06: Holiday: Labor Day
08:    The Age of Race and Nationalism: America and Europe
13:    World War I, Revolution, and the New Europe
15:    Culture and Politics in the 1920s/Jew as Pariah
20:    Discussion
22:    The Nazi Revolution and Germany’s Jews: 1933-39
27:    1933-41: Events in Europe and American Reactions
29:    1941-45: American Knowledge of and Reaction to the Exterminations
October    04:Discussion and Review
06:    Midterm Exam
11:    The Nuremberg Trials and the Cold War
13:    Displaced Persons and the State of Israel
18:    Crimes without Names: Depictions and Discussions in the 1950s
20:    The Eichmann Trial, Civil Rights and the Early Sixties
25:    Vietnam and the Counterculture
27:    The Birth of the “Holocaust” as a Historical Entity
November    01:Optional Midterm (out of class review to be announced)
03:    Holocaust as Literature and Film
08:    Holocaust on Television
10:    Holocaust and the Arts
15:    Holocaust and Music
17:    Museums, Memorialization, and the Holocaust
22:    Uses and Misuses: Exploitation, Metaphor, and History
24:    Discussion
29:    Review for Final Exam
December    01: Last Lecture: The Continuing Relevance of the Holocaust/ Evaluation
03:    Optional Review Hours, Time and Place To Be Announced


Schedule for Required Readings:
By September 17: Bergen, War and Genocide, Chapters I and II
By October 4: Bergen, balance of book. Abzug, America Views the Holocaust
By October 13: Abzug, Inside the Vicious Heart
By November 10: Wallant, The Pawnbroker and Roth, The Ghostwriter
By December 01: Linenthal, Preserving Memory
Basis for Evaluation (+ and – grades will be utilized):

Midterm: 35%         or      Midterm:    20%
Final:    65%                    Optional Midterm:    30% Final:    50%

Midterm Exam: One essay question (choose 1 of 2) covering material in readings and lectures through September 29th.
Optional Midterm Exam: One essay question (choose 1 of 2) covering material in readings and lectures from the beginning of the course through October 27th. Taking the optional exam is highly recommend for those not happy with their performance on the midterm or those who would like to even out impact of any one exam.
Final Exam: The exam will utilize all the material of the course, though with a focus on material since the first midterm. The exam will consist of two essays (choose 2 of 3) for which you will have the full three hours to write.

Important Points about Evaluation and Office Hours

The exam essays in each case will raise questions of interpretation that need to be answered with the fullest use of the LECTURES AND READINGS as material supporting your point of view. Reasoned arguments rather than mere opinion are at the heart of any good history essay. Review sessions will cover how best to write an essay in this class

Students will be responsible for all material and interpretations introduced in lecture, and therefore perfect attendance is ideal. We will not take attendance. However, students who miss lectures inevitably are at a disadvantage on exams because of the details they have missed. You will be responsible for all material in the course—readings, lectures, and reviews—and neither the TA nor I will provide lecture notes. Make some friends in the course.

Office Hours held by the professor or the TA are invaluable aids to understanding the material and doing well in the course. They should be utilized without fear or a sense that questions and concerns are somehow too small or too obvious to be considered. We are here to help you.

•    For authorized university travel and other legitimate events that take you away from campus, a week’s advance notice with documentation will allow you to take a make-up for either of the midterm exams. Sudden onset of illness will also be a legitimate excuse if documented with evidence from a doctor or the health center. Make-up exams are given at regular hours supervised by the Department of History
•    For all others who miss the first midterm, the final grade in the class will be figured on the basis of the optional midterm and the final.
•    Missing the final creates a far more serious situation, in which a rock-solid and documented reason such as the above must be submitted and, even so, a make-up won’t be available in time to avoid an X in the course and must be made up by the end of the spring semester at the professor’s convenience. Plan your schedule accordingly.

University-Wide Policy Information Relevant to this Course

•    Students with disabilities may request appropriate academic accommodations from the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Services for Students with Disabilities, 471-6259
•    Students seeking assistance with writing may wish to contact The Undergraduate Writing Center
•    Medical assistance/counseling services are available at
•    If you miss a class, an examination, a work assignment, or a project in order to observe a
religious holy day, you will be given an opportunity to complete the missed work within a
reasonable time after the absence.
•    We strictly abide by the UT Honor Code on questions of scholastic dishonesty.

This course contains a Cultural Diversity and an Ethics and Leadership flag.


Abzug, R. (2005, September) Abolition and Religion. History Now: American History Online.

Abzug, R. & Wetzel, J. (2005) Befreiung. In W. Benz & B. Distel (Eds.), Gesamtgeschichte der nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager (pp.313-328). Munchen: Verlag C.H. Beck.

Abzug, R. (2003, April) Rollo May: Philosopher as Therapist. AHP Perspective.

Abzug, R. (1999) America Views the Holocaust, 1933-1945: A Brief Documentary History. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's Press.

Abzug, R. (1999, September) The Deconversion of Rollo May. Review of Existential Psychology and Psychiatry, 24.

Abzug, R. (1996) Love and Will: Rollo May and the Seventies' Crisis of Intimacy. In E. Hurrup (Ed.), The Lost Decade: America in the Seventies (pp.79-88). Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press.

Abzug, R. (1994) Cosmos Crumbling: American Reform and the Religious Imagination. Oxford University Press.

Abzug, R. (1985) Inside the Vicious Heart: Americans and the Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camps. Oxford University Press.

Abzug, R. (1980) Passionate Liberator: Theodore Dwight Weld and the Dilemma of Reform. Oxford University Press.

Abzug, R. (2006, December) Review of The Stranger's Religion: Fascination and Fear. Journal of Church and State 48(1), 209-210.

Abzug, R. (2006, September) Borrowing Time.

Abzug, R. (2006, April) Review of Identifying the Image of God: Radical Christians and Nonviolent Power in the Antebellum United States. Journal of Religion 86(2), 322-323.

Abzug, R. (2005, December) Film Review of Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust. Journal of American History, 1099-1100.

Abzug, R. (2004, September) A Modest Proposal. Insights: The Faculty Journal of the Austin Presbyterian Seminary.

Abzug, R. (2002, July) Review of Elie Wiesel and the Politics of Moral Leadership. The Christian Century, 40-41.

Abzug, R. (2000, April) Review of Two Minds: The Growing Disorder in American Psychiatry. Austin American-Statesman.

Abzug, R. (1999, September) Theodore Dwight Weld. Oxford University Press, 22, 928-999.

Abzug, R. (1998, September) Review of The Romance of American Psychology. Journal of American History 85(2), 738-739.

Abzug, R. (1998, June) Review of A Cautious Patriotism: The American Churches and the Second World War. American Historical Review 103(3), 994-995.

Abzug, R. (1997, August) Review of American Reform and Reformers: A biographical dictionary. journal of southern history 63(3), 705-707.

Abzug, R. (1997, March) Review of The Politics of Reason and Revolution: Religion and Civic Life in the New Nation. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 188-189.

Abzug, R. (1997, March) Review of Sheltering the Jews: Stories of Holocaust Rescuers. Church History 66(1).

Abzug, R. (1997, January) Misery Loves Therapy, Review of On the Couch: Great American Stories About Therapy. Austin American-Statesman.

Abzug, R. (1996, December) Review of Moralists and Modernizers. Church History 65(4), 732-733.

Abzug, R. (1996, October) Review of Jonathan Edwards: Religious Tradition and American Culture. William & Mary Quarterly 53(4), 815-817.

Abzug, R. (1996, September) Rollo May, Paul Tillich and Existential Psychotherapy in America. Existential Analysis, 7(1).

Abzug, R. (1996, July) Review of Freedom's Champion: Elijah Lovejoy. Church History 65(2), 289-291.

Abzug, R. (1996, April) Review of The Abolitionist Sisterhood: Women's Political Culture in Antebellum America. American Historical Review 101(2).

Abzug, R. (1996, March) Rollo May as Friend to Man. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 36(2), 17-22.

Abzug, R. (1995, September) American Studies at the University of Texas. Craft: The Newsletter of the CTI (Computer Technology Initiative) for History, Archaeology, and Art History, 10-11.



America Views the Holocaust, 1933-1945: A Brief Documentary History (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999 (hc and pb).

Cosmos Crumbling: American Reform and the Religious Imagination (Oxford University Press, March 1994; Oxford Paperback, September 1994).

Inside the Vicious Heart: Americans and the Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camps (Oxford University Press, 1985; Oxford Paperback, 1987).

Passionate Liberator: Theodore Dwight Weld and the Dilemma of Reform (Oxford University Press, 1980; Oxford Galaxy Paperback, 1982.

Co-editor with Stephen E. Maizlish, New Perspectives on Race and Slavery in America: Essays in Honor of Kenneth M. Stampp (University of Kentucky Press, 1986.).


"The Transatlantic Dialogue in Religion and Psychology: Paul Tillich, Erich Fromm, Rollo May and the Reformulation of Personal Meaning, 1934-1960," in Jurgen Gebhardt, Political Cultures and the Cultures of Politics: A Transatlantic Perspective (Heidelberg: Universitatsverlag Winter, 2010).

Abolition and Religion,” online article commissioned by web magazine, History Now: American History Online, publication of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, September 2005

“Befreiung,” in Wolfgang Benz and Barbara Distel, Gesamtgeschichte der nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager (München: Verlag C.H. Beck, 2005) 313- 328. Based on new as well as earlier research, especially in regard to reactions to the liberations, and co-authored in part with a young German historian Juliane Wetzel, who integrated the latest German scholarship in the field.

“A Modest Proposal,” in Insights: The Faculty Journal of the Austin Presbyterian Seminary (Fall 2004). (Interpretive piece on the place of religion in American politics).

“Rollo May: Philosopher as Therapist,” AHP [Association for Humanistic Psychology] Perspective (April/May 2003).

"The Deconversion of Rollo May," Review of Existential Psychology and Psychiatry, XXIV (Special Issue, Nos. 1-3), Fall 1999.

“Rollo May, Paul Tillich and Existential Psychotherapy in America,” Existential Analysis 7.1 (1996) (Journal of the Society for Existential Analysis, London).

"Love and Will: Rollo May and the Seventies' Crisis of Intimacy," in Elsebeth Hurrup, ed., The Lost Decade: America in the Seventies (Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press, 1996), 79-88.

"Rollo May as 'Friend to Man'," Journal of Humanistic Psychology (Spring 1996), 17-22.

"The Liberation of the Concentration and Death Camps: Understanding and Using History," Dimensions: A Journal of Holocaust Studies 9:1 (Spring 1995), 3-8.

"The Liberation of the Concentration Camps," Liberation 1945, Exhibition Catalogue for exhibit of the same name at U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC (May 1995), 33-46.

"America and the Holocaust," Discovery, XI V: 2 (Spring 1995), 52-57.

"Facing Survivors in Fiction and Film," Simon Wiesenthal Center Annual V (1988), 241-53.

"Foreword" to Frieda Frome, Some Dare to Dream: Frieda Frome's Escape from Lithuania (Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1988).

"Introduction" to Brewster Chamberlain and Marcia Feldman, eds. The Liberation of the Nazi Concentration Camps 1945: Eyewitness Accounts of the Liberators (Washington, D.C.: United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 1987).

"Invisible Victims: European Jews in the American Consciousness, 1940-1946," Dimensions: A Journal of Holocaust Studies (Fall 1986).

"The Black Family during Reconstruction," in Huggins, Kilson, Fox, eds. Key Issues in the Afro-American Experience II (Harcourt Brace, 1971), 26-41.

"The Copperheads: Historical Approaches to Civil War Dissent in the Midwest," Indiana Magazine of History, March 1970, 40-55.

"The Influence of Garrisonian Abolitionists' Fears of Slave Violence on the Antislavery Argument, 1829-1840," Journal of Negro History, January 1970, 15-28.



Borrowing Time, Historical Consultant and Advisor for film by David Haspel and Robert Black, concerning the life of Henri Landwirth, Holocaust survivor and philanthropist. Finished and released 2006. Listed in Main Credits as Chief Historical Consultant

Nightmare’s End: The Liberation of the Camps, Chief Consultant and script editing on film by Rex Bloomstein, made for Channel 4 England, and premiered in America on the Discovery Channel, April 23, 1995.