Dr Stephan Petzold

Dr Stephan Petzold

Lecturer in German History, Programme Manager for German, German Residence Abroad Coordinator

+44 (0)113 34 35194

Summary: 20th-century German history, West Germany in 50s/60s, memory of the Nazi past and Holocaust, German national identity after 1945

Location: Michael Sadler Building

Teaching Commitments: GERM1050/1060 From Unification to Reunification: Introduction to German History 1870-1990, GERM2100/3250 Victims and/or Perpetrators? The memory of the Nazi past in Germany, MODL1100 Politics, Culture and Society


I studied Modern History, Politics, English and European Studies at Dresden, Newcastle, Strasbourg and Malmö. In 2005, I completed an MA in Politics and Modern History at the University of Dresden. In 2006, I completed an MSc in International History in the Department of International Politics at Aberystwyth, where I stayed as a research student. My PhD thesis on the 'Fischer controversy' was awarded the British International History Group Thesis Prize in 2012. 

Before joining the German department in 2013, I taught in the School of History at Leeds (2011-2013) and at Aberystwyth University (2011-2012).


Research interests

  • 20th-century German history
  • the history of the Federal Republic of Germany in the 1950s and 1960s
  • the memory of the Nazi past and the Holocaust after 1945
  • the legitimacy crisis of the GDR in the 1980s and the 1989 revolution
  • national identity in post-reunification Germany

    Current and past research

    My ongoing research project on the ‘Fischer controversy’ explores how West Germans remembered and dealt with the two world wars during the 1950s and the 1960s. It examines the West German debate over the origins of the First World War, provoked by Fritz Fischer's study Germany's Aims in the First World War (1961). The book I am working on shows that the controversy was not only relevant for West German historians. Instead, it reflected significant changes in West German society and mentalities between the 1950s and the 1970s while at the same time being a key catalyst in reinforcing these changes. I am also currently working on two related projects: (1) historical writing on the origins of the First World War as a site of memory and (2) the emergence of West German notions of Kritik in the 1950s and the 1960s within universities and society/culture more generally.

    Other interests include the changing memory of the Nazi past since 1990, in particular the local memory culture in Dresden but also recent developments such as the representation and reception of the TV series Generation War and representations of Hitler in popular culture.

    Through teaching on the history and legacy of GDR, I have more recently also developed an interest in studying the final years of the GDR. More specifically, I am interested in the role that popular culture played in the revolution of 1989 and how it channelled post-reunification dissatisfaction and nostalgia.


    '"Das akademische Glashaus zertrümmern"? Medienrepräsentationen, Medienwirkungen und Medienstrategien in der Fischer-Kontroverse der sechziger Jahre', in: Sylvia Palatschek and Rüdiger Prüll (eds), Universität, Wissenschaft, Öffentlichkeit nach 1945 (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2014). 

    'The social making of a historian in Nazi Germany and the early Federal Republic: Fritz Fischer's distancing from bourgeois-conservative historiography, 1930-1960', Journal of Contemporary History 48:2 (2013), 271-289.

    'Mit der Vergangenheit in die Zukunft? Zur Rolle von Geschichte und Geschichtswissenschaft in der Debatte über die deutsche Außenpolitik nach 1990', in: Alexander Brand and Stefan Robel (eds), Internationale Beziehungen. Aktuelle Forschungsfelder, Wissensorganisation und Berufsorientierung (TUDpress, 2008), 261-286.

    with Andreas Günther and Arne Niemann, 'Universitäre Ausbildung und Außenpolitikberatung in Deutschland', in: Alexander Brand and Stefan Robel (eds), Internationale Beziehungen. Aktuelle Forschungsfelder, Wissensorganisation und Berufsorientierung (TUDpress, 2008), 521-542.


    Undergraduate Teaching

    GERM1050 From Unification to Reunification: Introduction to German History 1870-1990

    GERM1060 Introduction to Modern Germany

    GERM2100 Victims and/or Perpetrators? The memory of the Nazi past in Germany (taught in English)

    GERM3250 Perpetrators and/or Victims? Remembering the Second World War in Germany (taught in German)

    MODL1100 Politics, Culture and Society

    MODL3310 Final-Year Project Extended Essay

    I previously also taught the following:

    GERM2310/2311 Politics, Society and Culture in the Berlin Republic 

    Research student supervision

    I am happy and interested in supervising research degrees on most aspects of 20th-century German history, in particular post-1945 Germany, the memory of the Nazi past/Holocaust and reunified Germany as well as the history of historiography.

    Current/past supervision:

    • Sangdon Lee's PhD on Communes and the New Left in the US and Europe (passed in 2017, co-supervised with Simon Hall).
    • Anja Coffey's MA by Research '"But granddad just wasn't a Nazi": A study of familial memory in post-war Austria' (passed in 2016, co-supervised with Ingrid Sharp)
    • Daniela Wegrostek, MA by Research 'Does "cosmopolitan memory" fully encapsulate the localised nature of Holocaust memory in Britain and South Africa?' (passed in 2016, co-supervised with Stuart Taberner)

    Outreach and public engagement

    I have been interviewed on aspects of German memory of the Nazi past for BBC Radio 5 live (on Generation War) and the South Korean station tbs eFM (on the new edition of Hitler's Mein Kampf).

    In addition, I have contributed to many outreach activities with secondary school students, relating to German Holocaust memory and the study of German, as well as delivering Continuing Professional Development for secondary school teachers.

    Academic Leadership

    • Programme Manager for German (since 2017)
    • German Final-Year Project Coordinator (since 2016)
    • GRASS Postgraduate Research Liaison Tutor (since 2016)
    • German Residence Abroad Coordinator (since 2013)
    • Director of the MA in Social and Cultural History (2012-2013)