The Second World War as seen from Germany


The Second World War, history’s bloodiest conflict continues to haunt the world’s memories even in this age of relative peace and prosperity. To commemorate the eightieth anniversary of the Nazi attack on Poland, this course reviews the conflict from the perspective of Germany. You will learn how the war played out in Germany, and in powers directly affected by German invasion: Poland, France, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and the Balkans.

Target audience:
This course will appeal to anyone who enjoys history, particularly those who are interested in the history of Germany and/or the Second World War.

Learning objectives:
By the end of this course, you will:

  • Appreciate German motives for overturning the Versailles system.
  • Understand the reasons for Germany’s defeat.
  • Learn what the Second World War meant for countries under German occupation, including Croatia, Czechoslovakia, and Latvia.
  • Discuss some of the moral dilemmas posed by politics in the age of nationalism.

Course outline:
Each session includes two 1-hour lecture presentations and time for questions and discussion.

Session 1

  • The folly of Versailles: Germany’s losses and resentments.
  • Hitler’s daring: from the Rhineland to the capitulation of Munich.

Session 2

  • The fourth Partition of Poland.
  • 1940: The humiliation of France.

Session 3

  • Stalin facing his many enemies.
  • Hitler’s Racial Empire and its many Holocausts.

Session 4

  • A case study from Occupied Europe: Latvia’s War.
  • The Red Army’s costly Victory.

Session 5

  • Allied holocausts? The Ethnic Deportations of 1945.
  • The Division of Germany and the Cold War World.

There is a short break halfway through each session and you are welcome to bring your own refreshments if you wish.

Alexander Maxwell is senior lecturer in history at Victoria University. He is an expert in East European nationalism and teaches courses in both German and Soviet history.

“The lecturers clearly both had a passion of the subject and a vast amount of knowledge of the topics covered. Thanks for an informative and enjoyable course”, Science and the Stars: A brief history of astrophysics participant (2018)

“Great course! Alexander made the topic easy to understand”, Science and the Stars: A brief history of astrophysics participant (2018)

“Hope there are more courses run by Dr Maxwell. His teaching style is excellent and engages us, the audience. His research was excellent”, Science and the Stars: A brief history of astrophysics participant (2018)

Relevant links:
School of History, Philosophy, Political Studies and International Relations

For further information:
Continuing Education, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140
Phone 04 463 6556, Email:

Please note: Courses need a minimum number of enrolments to go ahead. If your course doesn’t reach the number required, we’ll have to cancel it. If this happens, we’ll contact you by phone or email about a week before the scheduled start date and arrange a full refund. Please check your emails regularly.