Germanic Languages | Kultur und Gesellschaft
G464 | 6148 | Rasch

G464     The German Experience of War

Topic: The German Experience of War (World War II)

By examining letters, diaries, memoirs, films, and works of
literature, this course will explore the ways Germans have reflected
on and represented their various experiences during the Second World
War.  Topics will include the aftermath of World War I and the rise
of the Nazis; the experiences of German soldiers at the front
(primarily on the Eastern Front); life on the “home front,”
including the bombing war against German cities; life in defeat,
1945-’47, including the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Eastern
Europe; and post-war representation of the Holocaust in West
Germany.  Since, at best, the course will only be able to touch
briefly on each of these areas, the course can be viewed as a kind
of “starter kit” that can direct students to areas of interest in
need of greater study

With the exception of Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem and a
very few shorter texts, all reading will be in German.  Class and
homework assignments (study questions, brief essays focused on
particular points, possible short quizzes) are designed to improve
reading and writing proficiency in German and will serve as the
basis for in-class discussion in German.  There will be a mid-term
and final exam.  Texts include Arendt; Breloar: Geheime Welten
(diaries of ordinary Germans during the war); Kipphardt: Bruder
Eichmann (a play); Hage (ed.): Hamburg 1943 (collection of fictional
and non-fictional accounts of the bombing of Hamburg); Naimark:
Fires of Hatred (on “ethnic cleansing” in the 20th century,
including sections on the Holocaust and the expulsion of the Germans
from Eastern Europe); and a course reader that includes short
selections by some of the following: Ernst Jünger, Ernst von
Salomon, Guy Sajer, the Stalingrad letters, Friedrich’s Der Brand,
and Heinrich Böll.

There will be weekly film showings Tuesday evenings.  Films will be
discussed during part of each Thursday session.  Included among the
mostly German films (mostly subtitled, though a few will not be) are
documentaries and features.  Viewing the films is part of the
course; homework and in-class assignments may require having seen
all the films.

The topic of the course is grim; the behavior of humans towards
humans hard to imagine in its extreme brutality; yet the study of
this behavior is necessary.