Who was Adolf Hitler and how can we understand the Hitler phenomenon? Was his rise to power an aberrant historical accident or a logical outcome of German history? What was more decisive in shaping the catastrophic course of events under Hitler’s regime: his personality or deep structural historical factors? Would history have turned out better (or worse) if Hitler had been accepted into art school or died in infancy? Do melodramatic depictions of his last days normalize or even trivialize the Holocaust? Is it acceptable to laugh about or even empathize with Hitler today?
This course investigates Hitler’s life and afterlife on the basis of a broad variety of sources. Course materials range from scholarly articles to Nazi propaganda, films, novels, counterfactual histories and Hitler representations on the internet. Throughout this course, we will combine an interest in the personal dimensions of Hitler’s rule with the study of power structures, social interests, aesthetic forms, generational shifts, and national frames. We will pay particular attention to the affective logics and representational regimes that shape our understanding of the past (and present). Requirements include regular attendance, active participation, one oral presentation, and short written assignments. There will be no midterm or final examinations.