History 4336. 001. 2158 Third Reich and the Holocaust Fall 2015

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History 4336.001.2158 - Third Reich and the Holocaust

Fall 2015

Prof. Roland Spickermann

TT 1230-145

MB 2260

Office: MESA 4108

Office Hrs: TBA

Telephone: 552-2318

E-mail: spickermann_r@utpb.edu

This course will cover the history of Nazi Germany (the “Third Reich”), with additional concentration on its most salient aspect, the Holocaust. These twelve years in the history of one country have become among the most intensively studied in world history, for very good reason: the period gives insight into nearly every aspect of the human condition, from why societies collapse to why human beings collapse. Everything we think we know about how human beings behave gets put to the test in this period. Expect your studies here to outrage, frighten, and perhaps even inspire you.

This will NOT be a course about World War II! War “buffs” and History Channel fans will find that a knowledge of weapons specifications, battles, and Hitler’s pets, or Nazi occult newsreels will be of no help.
Likewise, this course does not reward the mere reciting of events much. Such information is necessary but not sufficient. You will not get far by simply spitting back facts, in college or in “real life”. Instead, this course focuses as much on how and why things happened as they did, as much as on what happened. You will learn a lot about processes and structures. To do well in this course, you will have to consider how what you are reading relates to previous readings and current themes... In short, you must evaluate data more than recite it.

I have assigned the following four books to everyone:

Michal Burleigh: The Third Reich: a New History

Terrence Des Pres: The Survivor

Richard Bessel: Germany 1945

Michael Stargardt: Witnesses to War

Sebastian Haffner. Defying Hitler.


Hans Fallada: Every Man Dies Alone

(This is not a history text, but a novel, perhaps the single greatest novel about this period. If you want a “feel” for everyday life - and everyday fear - in the Third Reich, this is for you. If you read it, you will find it to be a *very* strong help for your assignments.)

Kate Turabian’s A Manual for Writers will help you with proper formatting of your essays.

You will have periodic writing assignments, analyzing the readings for specific sections, and considering how those readings reflect the overall themes for those sections. These are to be turned in (via Blackboard). Pay attention to section headings in the readings, as well as section and sub-sectional headings for the discussions. They are related to general interpretations of the Third Reich, and thus are guidelines for your assignments. Your grade will be determined by your ability to compare information in the course with these larger themes / interpretations of Third Reich history.
All submissions are to be double-spaced, and at least five pages (on the order of 1500-2000 words), and should include citations and quotations from the materials backing up your evidence. There will be no excuses for plagiarism, which I define here as attempting to take credit for work which is not yours. Even substituting only a word but keeping the core idea is still a form of plagiarism. Either cite your sources and quote, or use your own words. Plagiarism will constitute grounds for failing the course. So: cite your sources.
You may send writing material to me may be in Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) or in Macintosh Pages (.pages) formts. .pdf formats will be acceptable if the other formats are not available. (I can read them, but they are a pain to mark up.) I will return any documents in formats that I can’t open. If your resubmission falls after the deadline, then I will impose a late penalty.

I will not usually grade on attendance or participation, but reserve the right to give pop quizzes in order to ensure attendance. Thoughtful participation on the discussion board on the Blackboard site for this class, however, will help your grade and enrich your class experience. I will check the discussion area regularly, to post responses to comments, and perhaps even to raise a question or two myself.

I will assign each student a randomly chosen “character”. Each of these characters will represent a different facet of German society: a farmer, a factory worker, or the wife of a teacher,l, for example. All of them share a common birthdate in 1914, which means they will be 32 by the end of the course.
Your task will be to create (first) some more extensive background for your character, based on your understanding of German history. They will be Catholic, Protestant, male, female, urban, or rural. You will decide what the character will think and how he or she will act in response to the events and themes of that section. You will have to justify that choice, based on your understanding of how the trends in German history affect that person. Your more extensive background will be based on the readings for the course, *and* on additional reading and research of that character’s attributes.
* What was happening in his/her city, region or profession during these years, for example, and how did that resemble or differ from experiences in the rest of the country?

(PARAMETERS: Your character may not emigrate, though he or she might end up dying, if you make consistently bad decisions for him or her, in my judgement. No “miracle” plot twists are allowed. Your character hopefully will live at least through 1946 (for reasons which also will become clear). Each student will make regular submissions on his/her character, telling what happens to the character AND WHY (based on readings of the course, and other research). You will choose when and if your character marries, has children, when your character fights or flees... but remember, there’s NO “reset”. If you post it to me and I pass it on as plausible, it’s permanent, and subsequent choices available will be based on your decisions, unless I veto your posting as something unlikely … and I *always* have the right to throw a monkey-wrench in your plans, just the way the world would do to you in real life. If I return it with details about why your interpretation is *not* plausible (for example, a woman giving birth at age 55, or a mine worker being hired as a professional baseball coach in 1930s Germany), it will be returned to be redone. AT THE END OF THE SEMESTER… you will turn in a biography of your character, compiling all of your research into one larger paper.

PAPERS: 20% each.

AVATARS: 20%, with potential for extra credit.

ADA Information:
Students with disabilities are responsible for registering with the Office of Student Disabilities Services in order to receive special accommodations and services. Please notify me during the first week of classes if a reasonable accommodation for a disability is needed for this course. A letter from the UTPB/ADA office, located in the Pass Office (telephone 432-552-2630) must accompany this request. Thereafter, I will make every effort to ensure special accommodations.

The course schedule is still to be determined. However, the course will be divided into five units, which I describe here:


We will start with the most general trends in German history leading to the Third Reich, and also of trends in modern society generally. We’ll focus on the idea of “modernization”: how a society adjusts to industrialization and mass politics. This has bearing on a huge question: how much did German modernization promote or inhibit German democratization? Was there something inherently abnormal about German culture and society? Or is it simply just as normal for a country to go dictatorial as it is to go democratic as it modernizes?


We will examine the more immediate factors regarding how the Nazis came to power. Having discussed the idea of “modernity” and long-term issues, we move to the difficult life of the first German democracy, the “Weimar Republic”, and how much its difficulties helped to make Nazism attractive to German voters. The main question here: why did the Republic fail, and why did Nazism gain such a following?

2.1: The Weimar Republic’s Loss of Legitimacy and Stability, 1918-1930

SEPTEMBER 1 - Third Reich, pp.27-84

SEPTEMBER 3 - Haffner: Prologue

2.2: The Death of the Weimar Republic, 1930-1933

SEPTEMBER 8 - Burleigh, pp. 85-148

SEPTEMBER 10 - Haffner - Revolution


This section discusses how Nazi rule and German society actually functioned. The Nazi takeover was not just a seizure of power but an attempt to transform a nation. How much did they succeed or fail? How much is it even possible to transform a society? Add a few disturbing questions: how many aspects of Nazism and German society were unique to Germany... and how many were shared with other modern societies?

3.1: The Dismantling of Civil Society

SEPTEMBER 15 - Burleigh, ch.2

3.2: The Promotion of the New Order

SEPTEMBER 17 - Haffner - Leave-Taking

3.3: Daily Life in Totalitarian Society (for Germans)

SEPTEMBER 22 - Burleigh, ch. 3

3.4: Creating a Racial Order in Germany: Culling and Breeding

SEPTEMBER 24 - Burleigh, ch.4

3.5: Jews in the Racial Order: Separation

SEPTEMBER 29 - Burleigh, ch.5

Stargardt III - Medical Murder


This is the Holocaust itself: not only how the Nazi state implemented it, but also the dynamics and psychology of the camps. In contrast to the more “macro” themes of historical trends, this section will be more “micro”, examining human behavior: what made both the victims and the victimizers behave as they did. This section is the most profound, and the most troubling, of the whole course.

4.1: Creating a Racial Order Beyond Germany: Conquest

OCTOBER 1 - Stargardt I - Germans at War

Stargardt II - Disciplined Youth
OCTOBER 6 - Burleigh, ch. 6

Stargardt IV - Lebensraum

OCTOBER 8 - Burleigh, ch. 7

Stargardt V - The Great Crusade

4.2: Jews in the Racial Order: Extermination

OCTOBER 13- Burleigh, ch. 8

Stargardt VI - Deportation
OCTOBER 15- Des Pres, ch. 2-4
OCTOBER 20 - Des Pres, ch. 5-7

This section rests on the others: a discussion of the Nazi state’s collapse, and of Nazism’s legacy for Germany and for humanity in general. Can it happen again? Who was responsible? What does it say about us? What can we do?

5.1: Opposition - Potential and (Un)Realized

OCTOBER 22 - Burleigh, ch. 9

5.2: Collapse

OCTOBER 27 - Burleigh, ch. 10

OCTOBER 29 - Bessel 2: A World in Flames

Stargardt VIII - Bombing

NOVEMBER 3 - Bessel 3 - Murder and Mayhem

Bessel 4 - Fleeing for Their Lives

NOVEMBER 5 - Bessel 5 - The Last Days of the Reich

Stargardt X - The Final Sacrifice

NOVEMBER 10 - Bessel 6 - Revenge


6.1 - “Zero Hour”

NOVEMBER 12 - Bessel 7 - The Beginning of Occupation

Stargardt XI - The Defeated

NOVEMBER 17 - Bessel 8 - The Loss of the East

Stargardt IX - Forced Out
NOVEMBER 19 - Bessel 9 - Societies of the Uprooted

Stargardt XII - The Liberated

6.2 - New Beginnings

NOVEMBER 24 - Bessel 10 - Visions of a New World

Bessel 11 - The Great Disorder
DECEMBER 1 - Bessel 12 - Paying for War and Peace

Bessel 13 - Conclusion: Life after Death

DECEMBER 3 - No Readings



There isn’t one, actually. However, December 10 will be the last day for which I will accept your paper on your avatar (though with a late penalty). I will also show a film during the exam time. Those who attend and give a substantive write-up will receive extra credit.

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