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

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr David Motadel SAR 3.16


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

HY322 will be available to General Course students starting in the Michaelmas Term only in 2020/21.

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 Attica. 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.


Seminars will be taught on campus, with online teaching via Zoom as a back-up if required.

There will be a reading week in the MT and the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be required to write one conventional essay of 2,000 words during LT and one timed mock exam. 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).

Peter Fritzsche, An Iron Wind: Europe under Hitler (New York, 2016).

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 summer exam period.
Presentation (15%).

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

Unseen examination paper, in-person or online as circumstances permit.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2019/20: 30

Average class size 2019/20: 15

Capped 2019/20: Yes (30)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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