HIS2126 : The difficult Fatherland: Germany's Past

  • Module Leader(s): Dr Felix Schulz
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


Wars of liberation, revolution, rapid industrialisation, unification through 'blood and iron', the launching of and defeat in two world wars, the rise of the Nazis, responsibility for war crimes and genocide on an unparalleled scale, foreign occupation and re-education, and political division for four decades have made German history, and the ways in which Germans have remembered it, contentious and of broad public concern. In few countries have visions of the nation's history been so varied and contested, and few peoples have created and faced such challenges when confronting their 'transient' or 'shattered' pasts. This course explores this history through representations of German pasts including memorials, films, artworks, exhibitions, etc.

This course will examine German historical memory during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with the general aim to provide an opportunity of investigating in some depth selected problems, including the appraisal of selected source material and the critical examination of current historiography.

There are three more specific aims:

To enable students to develop a sound grasp of the main strands of recent German history and some of the most contentious and disputed aspects of that history;
To offer students the opportunity to consider the relationship between histories as experienced and histories as presented publicly; and,
To allow students to apply and test ideas about 'heritage', 'sites of memory' and 'coming to terms with the past' (Vergangenheitsbewältigung) in the most challenging of contexts.

Outline Of Syllabus

Topics may include:
1 - History, Memory, and the Problems of remembering German History
2 - Historical Memories and Monuments of the German Empire.
3 - Remembering Germany's First World War; War Memorials, Cemeteries and the Unknown Soldier.
4 - Nazi Visions of the German Past.
5 - Remembering the German Dead of the Second World War; Private and Public Memories.
6 - Remembering Nazi Dictatorship.
7 - Remembering the Holocaust.
8 - Official Anti-Fascism: East German historical Memories.
9 - Remembering Revolt and Violence: 1968 and the Autumn of 1977.
10 - Non-Germans remember the German past.
11 - Remembering the GDR.
12 - Coming to terms with the past

In this module the three film screenings are compulsory.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion631:0063:0040% of guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture241:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading631:0063:0040% of guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching32:006:00Film screenings
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:0012:00Seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study321:0032:0020% of guided independent study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures impart core knowledge and an outline of knowledge that students are expected to acquire; they stimulate development of listening and note-taking skills.
Seminars encourage independent study and promote improvements in oral communication, problem-solving skills and adaptibility. After the introduction of the material/problems in the lecture, they will offer a deep and close engagement and interpretation of the set reading and a mixture of group and individual work.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1352A7048 Hour take home exam
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M10500 word commentary
Essay2M201,500 word essays (including footnotes but excluding bibliography).
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Work submitted during the delivery of the module forms also a means of determining student progress. The 48 hour take-away exam tests the broader acquisition of general knowledge of the subject, the documentary component tests the ability to research and analyse primary source material and the exam component examines the ability to think and analyse a problem within a fixed timeframe, both in terms of applying general knowledge and detailed knowledge gained throughout the module. Like all exams this format also tests problem-solving skills, adaptability, the ability to work unaided, and to write clearly, concisely, and to do so within a clear word count limit.

Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing.

All exchange students at Newcastle University including Erasmus, study-abroad, exchange proper and Loyola are warmly encouraged to do the same assessment as the domestic students unless they have compelling reasons not to do so. If this is the case, they are offered the option of writing one 3,000 word essay to be handed in by 12.00 p.m. of the Friday of the first week of the assessment period. This will replace all assessment work required of domestic students. If they wish to take up this option, students need to discuss it with their module leader, having checked with their home university that the new assessment will be accepted by them.

Students who opt for the alternative assessment because they will have to leave Newcastle University before the assessment period (excluding Erasmus students, who are contractually obliged to be at Newcastle until the end of the semester) should hand in their 3000-word essays before they go away. If this is not possible, they should tell the School exchange coordinator that they are going to submit their essays in absentia, then submit their essays through Blackboard and email copies of the essays to the School Office (historical@ncl.ac.uk). Any essay received after the deadline will be considered as a late submission.

Reading Lists


Disclaimer: The University will use all reasonable endeavours to deliver modules in accordance with the descriptions set out in this catalogue. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, however, the University reserves the right to introduce changes to the information given including the addition, withdrawal or restructuring of modules if it considers such action to be necessary.