Nazi Germany’s War: Violence and Occupation in Europe, 1939-1945

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr David Motadel


This course is available on the BA in History, BSc in Government and History and BSc in International Relations and History. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

This course is capped at 15 students.

Course content

The Second World War was the most destructive conflict in modern European history. At the height of the war, German soldiers occupied lands from the Channel Islands to the Caucasian mountains, from Scandinavia to the Attica peninsula. Across the continent, societies were torn apart by war, occupation, and civil war. Drawing on key secondary texts and primary sources, this course examines Nazi Germany’s war in Europe from a comparative perspective. It looks at the origins of the conflict; the course of the war, from the partition of Poland to the fall of Berlin; war crimes; Nazi occupation regimes; local collaboration and the recruitment of hundreds of thousands of non-Germans into Hitler’s armies; resistance and partisan insurgency; ethnic cleansing and genocide; and the aftermath of the war. The focus is not only on political leaders, party functionaries, and generals, but also on ordinary people, such as soldiers, peasants, slave workers, and concentration camp inmates. Particular attention is given to the views and experiences of contemporary intellectuals, such as George Orwell, Raphael Lemkin, Marc Bloch, and Hannah Arendt. The course considers the Second World War as an amalgam of different forms of conflict, including wars between states, civil wars, and partisan wars, and it also addresses more general questions about conflict and violence in the modern age.


20 hours of seminars in MT. 20 hours of seminars in LT. 2 hours of seminars in ST.

There will be a reading week in MT and LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be required to write one conventional essay of 2,000 words during LT and one timed mock exam in ST. Students will also be required to prepare short summaries of the readings (bullet points) for the weekly meetings.

Indicative reading

Omer Bartov, The Eastern Front, 1941-45: German Troops and the Barbarisation of Warfare (London, 1985).

Christopher Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (New York, 1992).

Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich at War, 1939-1945 (London, 2008).

Saul Friedländer, The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 (London, 2007).

Robert Gildea, Marianne in Chains: In Search of the German Occupation, 1940-1945 (London, 2002).

Jan T. Gross, Neighbours: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland  (Princeton, 2001).

Christian Hartmann, Operation Barbarossa: Nazi Germany’s War in the East, 1941-1945 (Oxford, 2013).

Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews (London, 1961).

Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1937-1945: Nemesis (London, 2001)

Ian Kershaw, The End: Hitler’s Germany, 1944-45 (London, 2011).

Halik Kochanski, The Eagle Unbowed: Poland and the Poles in the Second World War (Cambridge, MA, 2012).

Mark Mazower, Inside Hitler’s Greece: The Experience of Occupation.1941-44 (New Haven, 1993).

Mark Mazower, Hitler’s Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe (London, 2008).

Catherine Merridale, Ivan’s War: The Red Army at War 1939-45 (London, 2006).

Rolf-Dieter Müller and Gerd R. Ueberschär, Hitler’s War in the East: A Critical Assessment (Oxford, 1997).

Nicholas Stargardt, The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-45 (London, 2015).

Jozo Tomasevich, War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945: Occupation and Collaboration (Stanford, 2001).


Exam (85%, duration: 3 hours) in the main exam period.
Presentation (15%).

The Presentation (15%) will be in MT or LT.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2015/16: 12

Average class size 2015/16: 12

Capped 2015/16: Yes (15)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills