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Research Workshop: Primary Sources from the Third Reich and its Aftermath


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. Students from within the specialization the course belongs to have right of way. It is not accessible for BA students.


A common view of culture in nazi Germany holds that Adolf Hitler, together with Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, controlled all cultural manifestations of artistic creation and established rigid guidelines of what was acceptable or unacceptable. In recent years, this view has become the focus of serious academic criticism. Scholars, like the musicologist Pamela Potter, have argued that there is a fundamental difference between ‘what is known’ and ‘what is believed’ about the nature and politics of culture in the Third Reich.

During this workshop, we will closely examine the common, traditional view of culture in the Third Reich by going back to the sources. How important were the ideological manuscripts written by prominent nazi leaders for the politics of culture during this time? To what extent were they able to define typical nazi characteristics of culture? How did Jewish artists respond to antisemetic legislation? What motivated the cultural elite to support or detest Hitler and the NSDAP? Moreover, how did they justify their actions after the Second World War? In order to answer these questions, we will analyse a variety of primary sources from the Third Reich and its aftermath, including books, speeches, diaries, memoirs, government documents, oral-history interviews, as well as auditory and visual documents, and reflect on their characteristics, opportunities, and limitations.

The focus of this workshop is German history. Sources used will be partly in German language. Therefore, passive knowledge of the German language is beneficial. However, it will be possible to study primary sources from other countries and/or in other languages.

No initial exam.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to independently identify and select sources, using traditional and modern techniques;

  2. The ability to analyse and evaluate a corpus of sources with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;

  3. The ability to independently formulate a clear and well-argued research question, taking into account the theory and method of the field and to reduce this question to accessible and manageable sub-questions;

  4. The ability to independently set up and carry out an original research project that can make a contribution to existing scholarly debates;

  5. The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;

  6. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;

  7. The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;

  8. (ResMA only:) The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

The student has acquired:

  1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subtracks as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following; in the specialisation Politics, Culture and National Identities, 1789 to the Present: political practices, symbols and perceptions, nationalism, and national identities in a cultural and societal context from 1800;
  2. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical, conceptual and methodological aspects of the specialisation or subspecialisation in question, with a particular focus on the following; in the specialisation Politics, Culture and National Identities, 1789 to the Present: international comparison and transfer; the analysis of the specific perspectives of secondary studies; a cultural-historical approach of politics and a political-historical approach of culture.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Research Workshop

The student has acquired:

  1. Knowledge and understanding of the opportunities and pitfalls of the different genres of primary document from the Third Reich and its aftermath.
  2. The capacity to analyze a variety of primary sources and to extract from these documents insights pertaining to the history of culture in the Third Reich.
  3. A solid understanding of the controversies and debates surrounding culture in the Third Reich.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar (compulsory attendance)

This means that students must attend every session of the course. Students who are unable to attend must notify the lecturer beforehand. The teacher will determine if and how the missed session can be compensated by an additional assignment. If specific restrictions apply to a particular course, the lecturer will notify the students at the beginning of the semester. If a student does not comply with the aforementioned requirements, the student will be excluded from the seminar.

Assessment method


  • Collaborative written paper (ca. 2.500-3000 words per person, based on research in primary sources)
    measured learning objectives: 1-13

  • Oral presentation:
    measured learning objectives: 4-6, 11-13

  • Participation in Class:
    measured learning objectives: 2, 6, 7, 9-13


  • Collaborative paper written by groups of three students each: 60% (this can be assessed jointly or individually, as each group prefers)

  • Oral group presentation: 30% (a group presentation on the paper topic; there will be one grade for the group effort)

  • Class participation: 10%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Assignments and written papers should be handed in within the deadline as provided in the relevant course outline on Brightspace.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.

Inspection and feedback

How and when a review of the written paper will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the results, a review of the written paper will have to be organised. 

Reading list

Will be announced through Brightspace.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.

General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website.


  • For course related questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga.


Students participating in this workshop may expect to use German language primary sources.