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GE 433: Germany and the Holocaust: Interpretations and Debates

Click here for information about Summer Reading

R Hilberg: 'The Discovery of the Holocaust'

The module takes place on Tuesdays, 14:00-16:00, in room H2.02 (Humanities Building)




Please note: The seminar reading is, at this point, illustrative; some titles might still change. You should also expect having to do some additional background reading!


Week 1:


Lecture: Anti-Semitism before 1933


Week 2:

Lecture: The end of Weimar and the rise of National Socialism and The pre-war years 1933-39

Materials for lecture 2: Grosz: Stützen der Gesellschaft & images NS regime  

(Background reading: Benz, chapters I-IV.)

Seminar: The ideological roots of Nazi racism and anti-Semitism

(Michael Burleigh, Wolfgang Wippermann, “Barbarous Utopias: Racial Ideologies in Germany”, in The Racial State, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991)

 Questions for Burleigh/Wippermann (week 2)


Week 3:

Lecture: Nazi population policy and Euthanasia

Materials for lecture 3: Euthanasia

 (Background reading: Benz, chapter V-VII.)

Seminar: Social history – Sources of consent in the German population

Detlev Peukert, “Contradictions in the mood of the 'little man'" and "The Führer myth and consent in everyday life", in Inside Nazi Germany: Conformity, Opposition and Racism in Everyday Life , London: Penguin, 1987.

 Questions for Peukert (week 3)


Week 4:

Lecture: 'War of Extermination' in the East

(Background reading: Benz, chapter VIII-IX.)

Materials for lecture 4: War of Extermination

Seminar: Hitler’s role: ‘Intentionalism’

(Eberhard Jäckel: ch. 3 + 4 (extracts), in Hitlers Weltanschauung: Entwurf einer Herrschaft, München: DVA, 1981)

Questions for Jäckel (week 4)



Week 5:

Lecture: Wannsee conference; SS and other main agents

(Background reading: Benz, chapter X.)

Materials for lecture 5: Wannsee conference

Facsimile of the Protocol of the Wannsee Conference

Seminar: Hitler’s role: ‘Structuralism/Functionalism’

(Martin Broszat: “Hitler und die Genesis der ‘Endlösung’: Aus Anlaß der Thesen von David Irving”, in Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, no. 4, Oct. 1977)

[A translation is available here if you have trouble understanding certain passages in the German text, but please note that everybody has to read the German version, which will be the basis for seminar discussion and assignments!]

 Questions for Broszat (week 5)


Week 6: Reading week

Week 7:

Lecture: The system of the camps; life and death in an ‘Arbeitslager' (the example Neuengamme); profit and extermination.

(Background reading: Benz, chapter XI.)

Seminar: The perpetrators: ‘Ordinary men’ or ‘Hitler’s willing executioners’? (Part 1)

(Daniel J. Goldhagen: Introduction and chapter 7, Hitler’s willing executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, New York: Vintage, 1997 [1996])

Reading questions for Goldhagen (week 7)

Questions for seminar discussion

Week 8:

Lecture: Genocide: the example Auschwitz.

(Background reading: Benz, chapter XII)

Seminar: The perpetrators: ‘Ordinary men’ or ‘Hitler’s willing executioners’? (Part 2)

- (Christopher Browning, “One Day in Jozefow: Initiation to Mass Murder”, in Peter Hayes (ed.), Lessons and Legacies: The meaning of the Holocaust in a changing world, Evanston/Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1991

- Christopher Browning, “Ordinary Germans or Ordinary Men? Another look at the perpetrators”, in Donald G. Schilling (ed.), Lessons and Legacies: Teaching the Holocaust in a changing world, Evanston/Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1998 )

Questions for Browning (week 8)

 Further material on the Browning-Goldhagen debate


Week 9: Lecture: Film (extracts from Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah)

Additional film clips

Bystanders: Beautiful Jewesses

Jews as Christ Killers

Victims: Abraham Bomba interview

Perpetrators: Walter Stier

Seminar: Discussion of issues raised by the film

Dan Diner: 'Historical Experience and Cognition'

Questions for Diner: 'Historical Experience and Cognition'


Week 10:

Lecture: The aftermath

Seminar: National Socialism - relapse into barbarity’ or ‘the dark side of modernity’?

(Zygmunt Bauman, Modernity and the Holocaust, Cambridge: Polity, 1989, chapter 1)

Questions_for_Bauman (week 10)