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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - bologna.lab - Neue Lehre. Neues Lernen

Berlin 1945-1990: The Divided City

Taught by Peter Mitchell

Thursday, 16:00 - 18:00, Hausvogteiplatz 5-7, Room 0323-26

Course taught in English (with parts in German, depending on language level)

Course description

Straddling  the  Cold  War’s  frontline,  Berlin  has  stood  at  the  forefront  of  not  only German history but of European and global developments as well.  The divided city symbolized and represented the global conflict between capitalism and socialism; the division of the world, Europe and Germany into East and West; and also the nature, structure and goals of their supporting, antagonistic world political systems.  This course will prove insights into the key political developments in Berlin’s recent history from the fall of the Third Reich, through the decades of political and physical division, to the collapse of the Wall in 1989 and Germany’s subsequent reunification.  What is more, the course will also explore post-war Berlin’s social and cultural history, paying special attention to common themes, experiences and concerns that transcended the city’s physical division, affecting Berliners on both sides of the Wall. The  course  is  composed  of  eleven  seminars  and  three  excursions. Students  are provided with suggested reading to prepare themselves for each session.


Methodology and learning objectives

This course is open to students from all academic backgrounds who have an interest in Berlin and its history. The course requires a good or very good command of English. The course will develop transferrable skills, including the ability to argue effectively about intellectual issues, both orally and in writing, and to work together with others in a small group setting. The course seeks to bolster students’ confidence  in their German language skills through encouraging them to work with German primary sources and short excerpts of German academic texts. An excursion to a local archive will provide a basic introduction to historical research.

Participants will develop a close understanding of key political, social, and cultural developments in Berlin and of the connections between those developments and broader trends in post-­war German and European history. They will be introduced to the latest relevant historiography and will learn to engage critically with a range of written and unwritten materials, including novels, films, photographs and public exhibitions. Excerpts from German academic articles and/or primary sources will be circulated and discussed in class, providing students with an opportunity to improve their German language proficiency. 



Students will be asked to maintain a regular attendance, participate actively in class, and submit two written assignments.



  • Ahonen, Pertti, Death at the Berlin Wall (2011). Beevor, Antony. Berlin: the Downfall, 1945 (2003).
  • Brown, Timothy S. "“1968” East and West: Divided Germany as a Case Study in Transnational History." The American Historical Review 114, no. 1 (2009): 69-­‐96.
  • Brown, Timothy S, “A Tale of two Communes: The Private and the Political in Divided Berlin, 1967-­‐1973,” in Martin Klimke, Jacco Pekelder, and Joachim Scharloth eds., Between The Prague Spring and the French May 1968: Transnational Exchange and National Recontextualization of Protest Cultures (2011).
  • Harrison, Hope Millard. Driving the Soviets Up the Wall: Soviet-­‐East German Relations, 1953–1961 (2003).
  • Jarausch, Konrad. The Rush to German Unity (1994).
  • Karapin, Roger. Protest Politics in Germany : Movements on the Left and Right since The 1960s (2007).
  • Ladd, Brian. The Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape (1997).
  • Large, David Clay. Berlin (2000).
  • Maier, Charles S. Dissolution: The Crisis of Communism and the end of East Germany (1997). Moorhouse, Roger. Berlin at War: Life and Death in Hitler's Capital, 1939-­‐45 (2010).
  • Richie, Alexandra. Faust's Metropolis: a History of Berlin (1998). Schneider, Peter. Wall Jumper: a Berlin Story (1998).
  • Sperber, Jonathan. "17 June 1953: Revisiting a German Revolution," German History 22, no.4 (2004): 619-­‐43.
  • Steege, Paul. Black Market, Cold War: Everyday Life in Berlin, 1946-­1949 (2007).
  • Strobel, Roland. "Before the Wall Came Tumbling Down:  Urban Planning Paradigm Shifts in a Divided Berlin." Journal of Architectural Education 46, no. 1 (1994): 25-­‐37.
  • Thomas, Nick. Protest Movements in 1960s West Germany: A Social History of Dissent and Democracy (2003).
  • Tusa, Ann & John. The Berlin Airlift (1998).