German Historical Institute London

17 Bloomsbury Square
London WC1A 2NJ
United Kingdom

Phone: Tel. +44-(0)20-7309 2050





‘Only doing my Duty’

Defining Perpetrators in Relation to State Sanctioned Violence


10 October 2014

Venue: German Historical Institute London
(please note: the film viewing on 9th October will take place at University College London, Garwood Theatre, UCL South Wing, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT)


This workshop is organized by the “Reverberations of the Second World War in Germany and Europe” research group at University College London (directed by Professor Mary Fulbrook and Dr Stephanie Bird) in co-operation with the German Historical Institute London.

The past two decades have seen a notable shift from focusing primarily on the experiences and the suffering of victims of Nazi violence towards a new interest in perpetrators. While most of the academic literature is primarily concerned with motives and circumstances in which violent acts were committed, this workshop comes to the complex subject of perpetration and its aftermath by addressing several distinct dimensions: 1) questions of ethics, morality and terminology, 2) Individual agency and social mobilization, 3) strategies/patterns of (self-) representation in literature, historiography, autobiography and the media and 4) intergenerational transmission.

The first session questions our understanding of the term “perpetrator” and our interpretation of the circumstances and conditions of acts of extreme violence as they emerge in debates in various disciplines. Session two looks at the representation of perpetrators in historical studies, journalistic pieces, novels, films, as well as selfnarratives of individuals who were widely considered to be Nazi perpetrators. It also deals with the ways in which the legacy of perpetrators impacts on and is reflected by subsequent generations.

The final session brings together Jens-Jürgen Ventzki and Naomi Tadmor. They will speak about their family histories and about ways of coping with the past for members of the second generation of victims and perpetrators alike.

Scholars working in the field are invited to attend after registration with Dr Christiane Wienand and Dr Julia Wagner. All other interested GHIL readers are welcome to join the conference for the public evening session with Jens-Jürgen Ventzki and Naomi Tadmor, which starts at 5:30pm. Due to limited number of seats, registration is also necessary for this public evening event under the email addresses named above.

for further information please contact:
Dr Julia Wagner &
Dr Christiane Wienand
University College London
Department of German


Conference programme (PDF file)

Conference report (PDF file), published in: GHIL Bulletin 37 (2015), Vol 1