Nazism on Trial: Context (HIH3284)

StaffDr Nicholas Terry - Lecturer
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15.00
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesAt least 90 credits of History at Level 1 and/or Level 2
Co-requisitesHIH3283 (Sources)
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module explores the investigation and prosecution of the crimes of the Nazi regime, using trials as a prism through which to view the history of Nazi atrocities, in particular the genocide of European Jews, as well as examining the trials as legal events that helped shape the collective memory of Nazism in post-war Europe. Drawing on an extensive literature on the trials themselves as well as the voluminous historiography of the Third Reich and Holocaust, the course will use a combination of case studies of individual trials (Nuremberg, the Eichmann trial) as well as a thematic approach, showing the changing legal and historical emphases placed on particular institutions or atrocity sites, such as the crimes of the German Army and the extermination camp of Auschwitz. The module will also assess how the trials have been used by historians, and how the Holocaust has returned to the courtroom in the course of trials involving Holocaust deniers.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. A broad and detailed knowledge of the significance of Nazi war crimes trials both as historical sources and as events in their own right
  • 2. A close specialist knowledge of the key developments in the prosecution of Nazi war crimes, and how different trials have affected interpretations of Nazi violence, developed through independent study and seminar work.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Ability to analyse the key developments within a particular historical environment
  • 4. Ability to focus on and comprehend complex issues
  • 5. Ability to understand and deploy historical terminology in a comprehensible manner
  • 6. Ability to follow the complex reasoning inherent in the discourse of the period

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Independent and autonomous study and group work, including presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 8. Ability to digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment
  • 9. Ability to present complex arguments orally.

Syllabus plan

The module focuses on the context to the following subjects:- 1. Pretrial Investigations: Wartime Knowledge of Nazi Atrocities, Post-Liberation Investigations, Interrogations and Witness Testimonies 2. The Nuremberg Trials of 1945-1949 and the Eichmann Trial of 1961 3. Prosecuting Perpetrator Institutions: Wehrmacht, Einsatzgruppen, Concentration Camps, Auschwitz 4. Trials, Collective Memory and Anti-Memory: the legacies of the trials for history, memory and the law, and court cases involving Holocaust deniers

Some of the students will already have studied the history of Nazism or the history of war crimes trials; others will not. The introductory sessions will therefore be important in offering a broad overview within which framework all students can place their subsequent work. The co-requisite module will also provide close focus on the historical sources available for the study of the trials, so complementing this module. The seminars will focus on the central issues in the history of the trials, allowing students to develop their skills and knowledge more fully. Students will be expected to prepare for seminars by reading and evaluating the respective sources in advance, and will discuss the issues raised by them in the seminars.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities44Seminars (22x2hr)
Guided independent study256Reading and preparation for seminars and presentations

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Better of two essay marks333000 word1-9Mark and written comments
Exam672 hour1-9Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Better of two essay marksBetter of two essay marks1-9Referral/deferral period
ExamExam1-9Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

- Lawrence Douglas, The Memory of Judgement (New Haven, 2001)
- Mark Osiel, Mass Atrocity, Collective Memory and the Law (New Brunswick, 1997)
- Patricia Heberer and Jürgen Matthäus (eds), Atrocities on Trial: Historical Perspectives on the Politics of Prosecuting War Crimes (Lincoln, 2008)
- Nathan Stolzfus and Henry Friedländer (eds), Nazi Crimes and the Law (Cambridge, 2008)
- Donald Bloxham, Genocide on Trial. War Crimes, Trials and the Formation of Holocaust History and Memory (Oxford, 2001)
- Hilary Earl, The Nuremberg SS-Einsatzgruppen Trial, 1945-1958: Atrocity, Law and History (Cambridge, 2009)
- Devin Pendas, The Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial 1963-1965: Genocide, History and the Limits of the Law (Cambridge, 2005)
- Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem. A Report on the Banality of Evil (Harmondsworth, 1979)
- Christopher Browning, Collected Memories: Holocaust History and Postwar Testimony (Madison, 2003)
- Annette Wieviorka, The Era of the Witness (Ithaca, 2006)
- Robert Van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz (Bloomington, 2002)

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

- Online books and documents relating to the Holocaust:
- Shoah Resource Center, Yad Vashem:
- Crimes, Trials and Law collection:

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

- The Times newspaper

Available as distance learning?


Last revision date