HHIK06741U HIS HK 2 “Ordinary Germans” and National Socialism 1919-1945 (15 ECTS)

Volume 2015/2016

Historical Subject 2 (HHIK03741E) [[Det centrale fag i Historie med gymnasierettet profil: Studieordning for det centrale fag på kandidatniveau i Historie, 2015-ordningen]
Historical Subject 2 (HHIK03741E) [Studieordning for sidefaget på kandidatniveau i Historie, 2015-ordningen]


HK 2 “Ordinary Germans” and National Socialism 1919-1945 (15 ECTS)
Seventy years after the demise of the “Third Reich”, National Socialism still stands as the ultimate evil, as a “…negative ethical norm against which the standards of civilized society could be defined” (Gregor). The extermination of millions of human beings merely for their belonging to certain “races” abundantly justifies this status. Yet it also underlines the challenge of explaining the attraction of Nazism. Why did more Germans in 1932 and 1933 vote for the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) than for any other party? What accounts for Hitler’s popularity throughout the 1930s? And what enabled the regime to carry on with its war as well as its systematic mass killings until its total defeat in 1945?

Rather than the development of Nazi organizations or the complexities of the war, the course focuses on the nature and amount of support for Nazism. Drawing on primary sources as well as research literature, we will discuss to what extent the Nazi regime succeeded in creating their so-called peoples community (Volksgemeinschaft), or whether this remained an empty propaganda parole. We will analyze the role of consensus and coercion, respectively, for the functioning of the regime. Did support and acceptance reflect the – perceived or real – “welfare” side of the regime? To what degree support reflect ideological themes such as antisemitism and the self-flattering paroles of racial superiority and inferiority?

Assessing and explaining the attitudes towards the Nazi regime is a huge challenge, given the absence of free elections and free speech on the one hand, and the standing threat of persecution including internment in concentration camps on the other. These difficulties are even bigger for the question of knowledge about and support for the mass murder of “life unworthy of life” and the systematic extermination of Jews since 1941. What did different groups of Germans know about what the regime termed the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”? To what extent did “ordinary Germans” even – more or less actively – support it?

We will also discuss the premises and problems of a narrow focus on National Socialism and try to point to “roads not taken” that could have led in other directions than to Hitler’s seizure of power and ultimately the Holocaust.

Course objectives (on completion of this course students are expected to be able to):
• demonstrate knowledge of contemporary patterns of interpretation
• place primary sources in the relevant historical context
• pose relevant questions to the history of National Socialism and use primary sources as well as research literature to give a coherent answer to these question

- Nazi Germany. Ed.: Jane Caplan. Oxford & N.Y.: OUP, 2008.
- Richard J. Evans: The Coming of the Third Reich. N.Y.: Penguin, 2003.
- Richard J. Evans: The Third Reich in Power 1933-1939. N.Y.: Penguin, 2006.
- Richard J. Evans: The Third Reich at War. N.Y.: Penguin, 2010.
- Christopher Browning: Ordinary men. Reserve police battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. New York Harper Collins, 1992.
- Michael Burleigh: The Third Reich. A New History. Basingstoke and Oxford: Macmillan, 2000.
- Robert Gellately: Backing Hitler. Consent and coercion in Nazi Germany. NY & Oxford: OUP, 2001.
- Nazism, War and Genocide. New Perspectives on the History of the Third Reich. Ed.: Neil Gregor. University of Exeter Press, 2008.
- Eric A. Johnson: Nazi Terror. The Gestapo, Jews, and Ordinary Germans. NY: Basic Books, 2000.
- Ian Kershaw: Hitler 1889-1936. Hubris. N.Y.: Norton, 2000.
- Ian Kershaw: Hitler 1936-1945. Nemisis. N.Y.: Norton, 2000.
- Ian Kershaw: Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution. Yale University Press, 2008.
- Ian Kershaw: The Hitler Myth: Image and Reality in the Third Reich. Oxford Paperbacks, 2001.
- Jeremy Noakes & Geoffrey Pridham: Nazism 1919-1945. A Documentary Reader Vol. I-IV. Exeter, 1996 ff.
- Thomas Rohkrämer: A Single Communal Faith? The German Right from Conservatism to National Socialism. NY: Berghahn Books, 2007.
- Schumann, Dirk: Political Violence in the Weimar Republic. N.Y. & Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2012.
- Visions of Community in Nazi Germany: Social Engineering and Private Lives. Eds.: Martina Steber & Bernhard Gotto. Oxford University Press, 2014.
- Michael Wildt: Hitler's Volksgemeinschaft and the dynamics of racial exclusion: violence against Jews in provincial Germany 1919-1939. New York. Berghahn, 2012.

Group instruction / Seminar
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Exam Preparation
  • 129,5
  • Preparation
  • 203
  • Total
  • 388,5
Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assesment