HIS4603 - FROM BISMARCK TO HITLER
FROM BISMARCK TO HITLER
HIS4603 From Bismarck to Hitler: Politics and Culture in Germany, 1871 – 1945
4 credit advanced liberal arts
In 1871, after a series of short victorious wars against Denmark, Austria and France, Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of Prussia, concluded the “Road to German Unification”, by creating (in Versailles, France !!) the Second German Reich, out of, as he put it, “iron and blood.”
Not twenty five years later, in 1895, the world-famous, liberal German social theorist, Max Weber proclaimed: “We must understand that the unification of Germany was a youthful prank… if it were meant to be the termination, and not the point of departure for a German policy of world power.” Weber made conspicuous what many politicians, academics, business people and common workers expressed. Germany, at its peril, could remain satisfied with Bismarck’s accomplishment: Germany as a European power; or it could, at its peril, join the competition, belatedly, and with a vengeance, with other Empires for world power.
This “politics of cultural despair” ushered in Germany’s and the world’s 20th century. From 1933-1945, Adolph Hitler, and Third German Reich that his Nazi Party established, pursued policies that brought Europe and the world to the (il)logical conclusion of this “politics of resentment.”
In this class, we will explore this history. We will read philosophy and literature (Nietzsche; Mann) and look at expressionistic art and film to engage the cultural contexts within which politics and ideology developed. We will study the road to WWI and the aftermath of the “Great War” that brought Germany in the 20s revolution, its first Democracy, hyperinflation, increasingly polarized and fragmented politics, and then economic depression.
In these contexts, we will interpret the rise of Hitler, the Nazis, and Nazi ideology. And then we will analyze the Nazi State (3rd Reich), its domestic and foreign policies and WW2. For many Germans, not only Nazis, the Third Reich embodied, finally, the German “Volkgemeinschaft”, the German People’s community. We will assess this in an attempt to “understand” the Holocaust and its “Genocidal Ethics.” Finally, we will examine the Third Reich in post-WW2 German memory, as a way to consider how Germans rebuilt their country and lives and ultimately reunited their nation.
Prerequisites: Three intermediate liberal arts (CVA LVA HSS)