Origins of Nazism

History/German 322

The Course

History/German 322 is an upper level history course the focus of which is German culture and politics.

Over the course of the semester we trace different political systems – from Imperial to the divided German Republics. At its center, this course seeks to explain the rise and fall of National Socialism.

During the first half of the course, we learn about Germany’s first democracy – the Weimar Republic – and examine Nazism’s roots in postwar political culture. The Republic’s radical democratic visions and social programs may have failed to produce a lasting consensus in the 1920s, but they did not naturally or inevitably lead to the rise of National Socialism and the assumption of power in 1933.

In the second half of the semester, we focus on the Nazi period itself. How did the regime, consolidate its power, remake society, transform culture, and maintain popular legitimacy? What were the regime’s chief strategies to create a social order based on the concepts of race and struggle?  The concept of race is crucial here and we will spend a significant amount of time, reading, thinking, and talking about the construction of race in Germany at the time and place it into its global historical contexts. In the name of the “racial purity,” the Nazi state moved ruthlessly against Germany’s Jewish population and cleansed German society of all “undesirable” elements. Racial politics also chiefly drove the genocidal war for territorial expansion that underwrote the entire Nazi project. Lastly, we will begin to sketch the complicated consequences for postwar Europe in the aftermath of the Third Reich’s collapse in 1945.

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