The Past in Hiding: Legacies of War, Holocaust, Occupation and Collaboration in Post-1945 Europe

The details
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 03 October 2019
Saturday 14 December 2019
29 May 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module explores how Germany, Italy, Holland, Poland, France and Austria dealt with the legacies and memories of fascism, National Socialism, occupation, collaboration and resistance. Coming to terms with the recent past of war, Holocaust and destruction was a European teask carried out differently in different countries. New founding narratives were created and former enemies were replaced with new ones.

Taking the triangle of history, memory and narrative as a starting point, the module explores ways in which different nations coped with the past, providing insight into historical narratives and political thought in post-1945 Europe. After the end of the Second World War, Europe's population was faced with death and destruction on an unprecedented scale and there was little time, so it seemed, to mourn and reflect.

New governments and new political systems quickly replaced the previous ones and often based their foundation on an explicit stance against totalitarian regimes. Stories of resistance and martyrdom, of suffering and victimhood were essential to create the sense of a new beginning.

Module aims

In this module, we will look at key debates—sometimes generated by books, sometimes by trials, films, exhibitions and other cultural forms—that altered the view on the past of individual European countries

Module learning outcomes

To understand the importance of political narratives, the use/abuse of history and memory in European history.

Module information

General Reading List:
D. Geppert, The Postwar Challenge. Cultural, Social and Political Change in Western Europe 1945-58 (2003)

I. Deak et al (eds), The Politics of Retribution in Europe: World War II and its Aftermath (2000)

M. Winter/ M. Spiering (eds), European Identity and the Second World War (2011)

R. Ned Lebow et al. (eds), The Politics of Memory in Postwar Europe (2006)

P. Lagrou, The Legacy of Nazi Occupation: Patriotic Memory and National Recovery in Western Europe 1945-65 (1999)

R. Bessel/ D. Schumann, 'Introduction: Violence, Normality and the Construction of Postwar Europe', in R. Bessel/ D. Schumann (eds), Life after death. Approaches to cultural and social history of Europe during the 1940s and 1950s (2003)

I. de Haan, 'Paths of Normalization after the Persecution of the Jews: The Netherlands, France and West Germany', in R. Bessel/D. Schumann (eds), Life after death (2003)

P. Lagrou, 'Victims of Genocide and National Memory: Belgium, France and the Netherlands 1945-65', Past and Present, 154 (1997)

Learning and teaching methods

1 x 2 hour seminar per week


  • Bessel, Richard; Schumann, Dirk. (2003) Life after death: approaches to a cultural and social history of Europe during the 1940s and 1950s, Washington, D.C.: German Historical Institute.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework 5,000 Word Extended Essay 15/01/2020

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Nadine Rossol
Graduate Administrator, Department of History, Telephone: 01206 872190



External examiner

Dr Paul Corthorn
Queen's University Belfast
Senior Lecturer in Modern British History
Available via Moodle
Of 20 hours, 18 (90%) hours available to students:
2 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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