Course description

This seminar on postwar European history acquaints students with some of the most important problems of the period, with a special focus on East Central Europe. The course is especially designed to help students draw comparisons with their own country’s experience.

The themes touched upon include the legacy of Europe’s wartime memory and its lingering importance; the impact of the Second World War on the civilian population (DP camps); the problem of postwar retribution trials in both East and West; the communization of Eastern Europe; the Stalinist era and its show trials; the Cold War and some of its major crises; 1968 in both East and West; and the decline and fall of communism.

The course is conducted as a discussion seminar, in which students are required to participate in a discussion of the week’s reading materials. Although there is a main text (Judt, supplemented by other textbook  excerpts), the discussions focus primarily on historical documents (such as those in Stokes) and films (feature films and documentaries).

As part of the course, the students visit the Institute for National Remembrance, where the director of its archives and someone involved in its oral history project give a presentation and a tour, and show them some of their archival materials. The students are also required to complete an oral history project, in which they select someone they know to interview about a historical event or period.

In preparation, an oral historian will present them with information about the scholarly value of oral history and some methodological guidelines about how to interview.

The course is graded on the basis of participation, some written assignments, an oral history project, and the final exam (two hours, one essay and six of ten identification questions).