The Human Condition and the Totalitarian Experience

Freie Universität Berlin

Course Description

  • Course Name

    The Human Condition and the Totalitarian Experience

  • Host University

    Freie Universität Berlin

  • Location

    Berlin, Germany

  • Area of Study

    History, Psychology

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • Contact Hours

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    This course starts with the classical concept of the totalitarian state, as developed by Hannah Arendt and others, taking Hitler and Stalin as their models. We will then cover some subsequent modifications and debates regarding the theory of totalitarianism, as a result of historical changes and developments, especially in the Soviet Empire. Here are some of the questions we will be dealing with: What popular attitudes and psychological reactions exist towards totalitarian atrocities such as the Holocaust? Under what psychological conditions are individuals capable of offering resistance, as did the "rescuers" of Jews under Nazi domination? While these phenomena may now appear to be bygones of merely historical interest, the psychological aspects of "totalitarian situations" remain acutely important, even in present-day democratic societies. The massacre in My Lai, the obedience experiments carried out by Stanley Milgram, and other psychological studies provide shocking evidence of how easily average citizens -- and by no means only the "authoritarian personalities," as described by Theodor W. Adorno and Erich Fromm -- are in danger of behaving inhumanely in social situations, in which unthinking submission, even to the most questionable authorities, seems to be the easiest way out of stress and insecurity.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Eligibility for courses may be subject to a placement exam and/or pre-requisites.

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.

ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) credits are converted to semester credits/quarter units differently among U.S. universities. Students should confirm the conversion scale used at their home university when determining credit transfer.

Availability of courses is based on enrollment numbers. All students should seek pre-approval for alternate courses in the event of last minute class cancellations