The University of Southampton

HIST2073 Jews in Germany before the Holocaust

Module Overview

This module explores the life and culture of Jews in Germany from the late C18th until the eve of the Nazi takeover in 1933. Using a core set of primary sources as our foundation, we will trace Jewish life from the struggle for emancipation through to the cultural, social, and political transformations of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The history of Jews in Germany is a crucial background to understanding the Holocaust, from the perspective of both its origins and the responses of its victims.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• introduce you to key aspects of Jewish life and culture in Germany from the late 18th century until 1933 • encourage you to think about minority-majority relations as well as minority identity formation • encourage you to explore the intersections between cultural, social, and political developments in history • introduce you to different analytical concepts and approaches to Jewish history

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the transformation of Jewish life during the long 19th and early 20th centuries
  • the relationship between Jews and non-Jews in Germany
  • different academic approaches to Jewish history and culture
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • evaluate different scholarly approaches to the study of Jewish life in Germany
  • show a critical understanding of the nature of minority-majority relations
  • make connections between political, social, and cultural developments and the formation of identities
  • integrate textual analysis with secondary research
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • critically engage in and contribute to group discussions
  • give engaging oral presentations
  • produce coherent and well-argued written work
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • analyze primary and secondary sources in the framework of Jewish history and culture
  • work confidently with library, archival and virtual sources as appropriate


During the module the following questions will be addressed: • Did Jews consider themselves primarily Jewish or German? • How were they perceived by others? • What was their relationship with non-Jewish Germans, as individuals and communities? In answering these questions you will engage with a wide range of primary sources including documents, testimonies, literature, and films. You will also debate the diverging scholarly approaches to this history, which since 1945 has often been read through the lens of the Holocaust.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

This module, like all of the 15 credit History modules offered to second year students, will be research led and it will focus heavily on primary sources. You will study an individual source in depth each week. As such, this module will provide you with a sound preparation for the source-based work undertaken in year 3 during the Special Subject and the dissertation. Teaching methods include: • Short introductory lectures which may include some group work/participation • Seminars focusing on the detailed reading and analysis of primary sources – these could be texts, images or objects Learning activities include: • In depth analysis of primary sources • Preparatory reading and individual study • Individual participation in seminars, group work and short presentations on seminar themes Discussion in seminars will help you to develop your ideas on a topic, to analyse a range of source material and to articulate a critical argument.

Preparation for scheduled sessions36
Wider reading or practice18
Completion of assessment task72
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Werner E. Mosse (1987). Jews in the German Economy: The German-Jewish-Economic Elite, 1820-1935. 

Ritchie Robertson (ed.) (1999). The German-Jewish Dialogue. 

Shulamit Volkov (2006). Germans, Jews, and Antisemites: Trials in Emancipation. 

Marion Kaplan (1991). The Making of the Jewish Middle Class: Women, Family, and Identity in Imperial Germany. 

David Sorkin (1987). The Transformation of German Jewry, 1780-1840. 

Amos Elon (2004). The Pity of It All: A Portrait of Jews in Germany 1743-1933. 

Paul Mendes-Flohr (1999). German Jews: A Dual Identity. 

Michael Brenner (1991). The Renaissance of Jewish Culture in Weimar Germany. 

Werner Bergmann (2002). Exclusionary Violence: Antisemitic Riots in Modern German History. 

Mordechai Breuer (1992). Modernity Within Tradition: The Social History of Orthodox Jewry in Imperial Germany. 

Nils H. Roemer (2005). Jewish Scholarship and Culture in Nineteenth-Century Germany: Between History and Faith. 

George Mosse (1985). German Jews beyond Judaism. 

Steven E. Aschheim (1982). Brothers and Strangers: The East European Jew in German and German Jewish Consciousness, 1800-1923. 

Helmut Walser Smith (ed.) (2001). Protestants, Catholics and Jews in Germany, 1800-1914. 

Jacob Katz (1978). Out of the Ghetto: The Social Background of Jewish Emancipation, 1770-1870. 

Rainer Liedtke and David Rechter (eds.) (2003). Towards Normality? Acculturation and Modern German Jewry. 

Peter Pulzer (1992). Jews and the German State: The Political History of a Minority, 1848-1933. 

Paul Mendes-Flohr and Jehuda Reinharz (eds.) (1995). The Jew in the Modern World: A Documentary History. 

Michael Brenner, Vicki Caron and Uri R. Kaufman (eds.) (2003). Jewish Emancipation Reconsidered: The French and German Models. 

Sander Gilman and J. Zipes (eds.) (1997). Yale Companion to Jewish Writing and Thought in German Culture. 

Neil Gregor, Nils Roemer, Mark Roseman (eds.) (2006). German History from the Margins. 

Michael A. Meyer et al (eds.) (1996-2000). German-Jewish History in Modern Times. 

Michael Brenner and Derek J. Penslar (eds.) (1998). In Search of Jewish Community: Jewish Identities in Germany and Austria, 1918-1933. 

Peter Pulzer (1988). The Rise of Political Anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria. 

Till van Rahden (2008). Jews and other Germans: Civil Society, Religious Diversity, and Urban Politics in Breslau, 1860-1925. 

Jehuda Reinharz and Walter Schatzberg (eds.) (1985). The Jewish Response to German Culture: From the Enlightenment to the Second World War. 


Assessment Strategy

Formative assessment includes: • Oral feedback in weekly seminars • Individual tutorials concerning the essay • Feedback from tutors and fellow students on presentations The weekly seminars will provide you with a forum to discuss the primary sources and relate them to the historical context and the historiography. They will also allow for the development of interpersonal skills; through the use of class presentations you will be able to develop your knowledge and understanding of particular subject areas and to enhance your oral communication skills. The essay and exam will test your knowledge and understanding of the subject matter, your capacity to deploy interdisciplinary approaches and to develop a coherent written argument. In addition, the source-based focus of the essay and the exam will prepare you for the Special Subject and Dissertation in the third year.


MethodPercentage contribution
Commentary exercise  (1500 words) 50%
Essay  (2000 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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