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The Holocaust's Shadow: Germany and the Jews, 1871 to the present


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 5
  • Convenor and tutor: Dr Joseph Cronin
  • Assessment: a 500-word primary source analysis (17%), 500-word modern scholarship summary (17%) and 2000-word essay (66%)

Module description

In this module we explore the dramatic relationship between Germany and its Jewish minority from 1871 right up to the present day. During this period, interactions between Jews and non Jews in Germany were turbulent, tense and frequently violent. Yet, amidst the struggles and upheavals for Jews living in Germany, there were some remarkable achievements, embodied by figures such as Albert Einstein. How do we explain this peculiar relationship? Why did so many German Jews identify so fully with German culture that they found it difficult to let go after the Nazis came to power, even after the Holocaust?

We will start by looking at the emancipation and assimilation of Jews in Imperial Germany, the efflorescence of German-Jewish culture in the Weimar Republic, the rise of anti-Jewish hatred and the Nazi takeover of power, and Jewish responses to persecution and the Holocaust. We will conclude by examining Jewish life in postwar Germany. Why did some Jews choose to return to the country that had wanted to murder them? And what does Jewish life in Germany look like today?

Indicative syllabus

  • Introduction: what is German-Jewish history?
  • Emancipation and assimilation: two sides of the same coin?
  • Re-inventing Jews and Judaism in Imperial Germany
  • Antisemitism in Imperial Germany: politics, society and culture
  • Jews in the Weimar Republic: an open society for Jews?
  • Jews in the Weimar Republic: cultural achievements, social stigma
  • Nazi Germany: the years of persecution (1933-1939)
  • Nazi Germany: the years of extermination (1939-1945)
  • Jews in Germany after the Holocaust (1945-1990)
  • Jews in Germany after reunification: a ‘normal’ minority?

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will:

  • possess a rounded understanding of the relations between Jews and non Jews in modern Germany
  • be able to engage in debates surrounding key terms from the module, such as Jewish emancipation, assimilation, Bildung and Sittlichkeit, antisemitism, restitution, and Wiedergutmachung
  • understand the facts and interpretations concerning National Socialism, the Holocaust, and Jewish responses to these
  • have developed analytical skills and be able to take a critical approach to sources.