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Professor Nikolaus Wachsmann

B.Sc. (London School of Economics), M.Phil (University of Cambridge), PhD (University of London)

Professor in Modern European History

Contact details

Department of History, Classics and Archaeology
Birkbeck, University of London
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HX



  • Professor Wachsmann joined the department in 2005. He previously worked as a research fellow at Downing College (University of Cambridge) and as a lecturer at the University of Sheffield.

Research and teaching

  • Introduction
  • I have long been interested in deviance and discipline in modern Germany, with a particular focus on repression and resistance the Third Reich. Having worked on the regular Nazi legal system, with its courts and prisons, I have since studied extra-legal terror, looking at the emergence and development of the Nazi concentration camp system.
  • Research interests
  • Concentration camps in Germany and beyond
    Law, prisons and policing in modern Germany
    Terror and resistance in the Third Reich
    Weimar cultural history
  • Teaching interests
  • I help to convene the MA European History, and teach on a number of modules at both undergraduate and MA level, including:
  • ● BA Group 1: Europe since 1800
  • ● BA Group 2: The Birth of Modern Germany
  • ● BA Group 3: The Third Reich
  • ● MA Option: Mastering Historical Research
  • ● MA Option: The Nazi Capture of Power
  • ● MA Option: The Holocaust
  • PhD supervision
  • I have supervised several successful dissertations on German and European history. I am currently supervising dissertations on:
  • ● The post-war restitution of German Jews
  • ● Conservation professionals and the Nazi looting of art
  • ● The role of the Organisation Todt as overseers of forced labour under Nazism
  • ● German Prisoners of War in Great Britain in World War 2
  • I am also currently serving as Director of Doctoral Students in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology


  • Books
  • Rewriting German History. New Perspectives on Modern Germany (London, 2015), co-edited with Jan Rüger
  • KL. A history of the Nazi Concentration Camps (New York, London, 2015) Translated as:
    • KL. Een geschiedenis van de naziconcentratiekampen (Amsterdam, 2015)
    • KL: Historia de los campos de concentración nazis (Barcelona, 2015)
    • KL: A História dos Campos de Concentração Nazis (Lisbon, 2015)
  • Die Linke im Visier. Zur Errichtung der Konzentrationslager 1933 (Göttingen, 2014), co-edited with Professor Sybille Steinbacher
  • The Nazi Concentration Camps, 1933-1939: A Documentary History (Lincoln, 2012), co-edited with Dr. Christian Goeschel
  • Concentration Camps in Nazi Germany: The New Histories (London, 2010), co-edited with Professor Jane Caplan
  • Before the Holocaust: New Approaches to the Nazi Concentration Camps, 1933-1939, special issue of Journal of Contemporary History 45 (2010), Nr. 3, co-edited with Dr. Christian Goeschel
  • Hitler's Prisons: Legal Terror in Nazi Germany (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004). Translated as:
    • Le Prigioni di Hitler. Il sistema carcerario del Terzo Reich (Milan, 2008)
    • Gefangen unter Hitler. Justizterror und Strafvollzug im NS-Staat (Munich, 2006)
    • Hitlers gevangenissen. De rechtsorde in Nazi-Duitsland (Amsterdam, 2005)
  • Articles and chapters
  • ‘The Nazi Concentration Camps in International Context: Comparisons and Connections’, in Rüger, Wachsmann (eds), Rewriting German History (London, 2015), pp. 306-24
  • ‘Rewriting resistance and repression under the Nazi regime’, in Hachtmann, Reichardt (eds), Detlev Peukert und die NS-Forschung (Göttingen, 2015), pp. 102-14.
  • 'Terror gegen Links: Das NS-Regime und die frühen Lager‘, in Wachsmann, Steinbacher (eds.), Die Linke im Visier, pp. 7-30.
  • ‘Before Auschwitz: The Formation of the Nazi Concentration Camps, 1933-9’, in Journal of Contemporary History 45 (2010), pp. 515-34, co-written with Dr. Christian Goeschel. Reprinted in: C. Jahr, J. Thiel (eds), Lager vor Auschwitz (Berlin, 2013), pp. 268-87
  • 'The Dynamics of Destruction: the Development of the Concentration Camps, 1933-45', in Caplan, Wachsmann (eds), Concentration Camps in Nazi Germany: The New Histories (London: Routledge, 2010), pp. 17-43. Translated as: ‘La dinámica de la destrucción: la evolución de los campos de concentración’, Historia Social 66 (2010), pp. 119-39
  • 'The Policy of Exclusion: Repression in the Nazi State, 1933-1939', in J. Caplan (ed.), Short Oxford History of Germany: The Third Reich (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 122-45. Translated as: ‘La política de exclusión: la represión en la Alemania nazi (1933-39)’, in Javier Rodrigo (ed.), Políticas de la violencia. Europa, siglo XX (Zaragoza, 2014), pp. 117-44
  • 'Strafvollzug und Zwangsarbeit im Dritten Reich', in H. Kramer, K. Uhl, J.C. Wagner (eds), Zwangsarbeit im Nationalsozialismus und die Rolle der Justiz (Nordhausen, 2008), pp. 32-47
  • 'Introduction', in M. Buber-Neumann, Under Two Dictators. Prisoner of Stalin and Hitler (London, 2008), pp. vii-xxii
  • 'Looking into the abyss: historians and the Nazi concentration camps', European History Quarterly 36 (2006), pp.247-278.
  • 'Writing about the SS-State: Eugen Kogon, Buchenwald and the Nazi camps', in E. Kogon, The Theory and Practice of Hell (New York, 2006), pp. xi-xxiii
  • '"Soldiers of the Home Front": Jurists and Legal Terror during the Second World War', in N. Gregor (ed.), Nazism, War and Genocide (Exeter, 2005)
  • 'Prisons, Ghettos, Camps: Jews in captivity under the Third Reich', in Testaments of the Holocaust, Thomson Gale Electronic Publishing (2005)
  • 'Between Reform and Repression: Imprisonment in Weimar Germany', The Historical Journal 45 (2002), pp. 411-32. Reprinted in R. Wetzell (ed.), Crime and Criminal Justice in Modern Germany (New York, 2014), pp. 115-36.
  • 'From Indefinite Confinement to Extermination. "Habitual Criminals" in the Third Reich', in R. Gellately, N. Stoltzfus (eds.), Social Outsiders in Nazi Germany (Princeton, 2001), pp. 165-91
  • 'After Goldhagen. Recent Work on the Genesis of Nazi Genocide', Journal of Contemporary History 34 (1999), pp. 477-87
  • '"Die soziale Prognose wird damit sehr trübe": Theodor Viernstein und die Kriminalbiologische Sammelstelle in Bayern', in M. Farin (ed.), Polizeireport München (Munich, 1999), co-authored with W. Burgmair and M. M. Weber
  • '"Annihilation through Labor": The Killing of State Prisoners in the Third Reich', The Journal of Modern History 71 (1999), pp. 624-59
  • 'Marching under the Swastika? Ernst Jünger and National Socialism in the Weimar Republic', Journal of Contemporary History 33 (1998), pp. 573-89

Public lectures and podcasts

Professional membership

  • Royal Historical Society
  • German History Society
  • Editorial Panel, European History Quarterly
  • Board of Editors, Central European History

Honours and awards

  • 2016 Wolfson History Prize
  • 2016 Mark Lynton History Prize
  • 2016 Jewish Quarterly-Wingate literary prize
  • 2011 HF Guggenheim Foundation Research Grant
  • 2010 Leverhulme Research Fellowship
  • 2009 British Academy Research Development Award
  • 2006 AHRC Research Grant on the history of the early Nazi camps
  • 2005 Longman-History Today Book of the Year Award (joint winner)
  • 2004 Royal Historical Society Gladstone History Book Prize
  • 2001 Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History (joint winner)
  • 2001 Guggenheim Foundation Research Grant