HomeCOURSEGER 383 Third Reich Culture: Racism, Resistance, Legacy

GER 383 Third Reich Culture: Racism, Resistance, Legacy


The Third Reich was supposed to last a thousand years, but it only existed for 12, from 1933 to 1945. During that time it caused the bloodiest war in human history, resulting in the deaths of tens of millions of people. But its demise didn’t see the end the Third Reich – its legacy of racism continues to mark German society and culture to this day.

In GER 383 we are less interested in the political or military history of this period. Instead, we look at how culture, in particular the arts, was used and manipulated during this period. How did the arts represent Nazi ideology? Why was everyone so fascinated with Hitler? And how do the arts deal with the legacy of the Nazi period? These are just some of the questions that we will explore in this course.

Course Features

A number of things set this course apart from other online courses:

  • an emphasis on human engagement: online courses are sometimes thought of as the lesser cousins of in-class (face-to-face) courses because both students and instructors are more passive, less present and active in the course. Not here; the online discussion forums aren’t just add-ons but an integral part of the course – you do a lot of your studying and learning by participating regularly and consistently in the forums. And the instructor will be right there with you.
  • the human engagement leads to learning engagement: this is not the kind of course where you memorize facts and spit them back on tests and exams, only to forget them as soon as you leave the exam. Instead, you become familiar with the material by discussing and writing about it.
  • this course is all about communication. The ability to communicate clearly and effectively is a life and career skill that everyone needs. We’ll be improving our communication skills while at the same time using them to learn, because basically to engage with knowledge means communicating about ideas with others. 

Actually, come to think of it, that last sentence sums up my whole approach to studying at university, especially in the humanities: engaging with knowledge is all about communicating ideas. Communication is a two-way street, by the way; the whole point behind researching and writing about a topic is to engage others in a discussion about that topic. It’s that simple.

Course Structure

The course consists of ten modules – week-long units in which we work on a particular topic and its related ideas. Each module is comprised of a number of content items – readings, interviews, videos (including some ProfMoments, short lectures by the instructor). Each content item is embedded in its own discussion forum where you can answer questions set by the instructor or raise questions and ideas of your own. 

In addition to the ten modules there are two Writing Weeks – time set aside to give you guidance and support for your course writing assignments. 

Here’s how the course looks in a outline form. :

Module 1 – Introduction and Background
Module 2 – Hitler
Module 3 – Cultural Politics and Propaganda
Module 4 – Decadent Culture
Module 5 – Approved Culture
Writing Week 1
Module 6 – German Resistance
Module 7 – Jewish Resistance
Module 8 – Guilt
Module 9 – Curiosity
Module 10 – Neo-Nazism
Writing Week 2


This course has three main learning objectives:

  1. to understand the role of culture in the Third Reich;
  2. to explore the legacy of that culture in Germany and beyond;
  3. to improve our ability to communicate about these matters.