Fall 2020 - HIST 401 D100

Problems in Modern German History (4)

Origins & Legacy of Nazi Germany

Class Number: 8181

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 9 – Dec 8, 2020: Wed, 9:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Michael Lanthier
  • Prerequisites:

    45 units, including nine units of lower division history and one of HIST 224, 225, 332 or permission of the department.



An examination of major debates concerning the history of late-nineteenth and twentieth century Germany. Themes may include the nature of German modernity, interpretations of the Third Reich, or German memory after the Second World War. Content may vary from offering to offering; see course outline for further information. HIST 401 may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught.


The Origins, Nature, and Legacy of Nazi Germany

The Third Reich is one of the most widely studied topics in European history, and continues to
fascinate and horrify. Nevertheless, more than seventy years after its demise, popular views of
National Socialism in the media and among the public are often based on simplistic caricatures. Adolf
Hitler, for example, is often portrayed as an evil genius of supernatural ability, while the Nazi state is
depicted as having had absolute control over every aspect of German peoples’ lives. This
interpretation conveniently allows ordinary Germans of the time to be portrayed as helpless victims of
Nazism, coerced (or seduced) into submission by mysterious, sinister forces beyond their control.
This class will move beyond such unsatisfactory explanations. We will examine the rise of
National Socialism as a political, social, and cultural phenomenon, all the while placing its
development firmly within the larger framework of German history. We will study the Weimar
Republic (1918 to 1933) in order to see whether it was truly doomed from the onset, then move on to
investigate the nature of the Nazi state at length. Finally, we will look at the “afterlife” of National
Socialism and the ways in which Germany and the world have dealt with this singular, horrific


  • Preparation and Participation 20%
  • Presentation 15%
  • Response Papers (x3) 15%
  • Paper Outline and Annotated Bibliography 5%
  • Final Paper (with "cover letter") 45%



Texts: TBA, but will all be available as ebooks for purchase or through the library.

Registrar Notes:


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Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).