Konrad H. Jarausch, Lurcy Professor of European Civilization, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill will discuss his latest book entitled Reluctant Accomplice: "Good Germans" in the War of Annihilation, 1939-1942. Comprised of wartime letters written by Jarausch's father, Konrad Jarausch, a German high-school teacher of religion and history who served in a reserve battalion of Hitler's army in Poland and Russia. The book brings the letters together to tell the gripping story of a patriotic soldier of the Third Reich who, through witnessing its atrocities in the East, begins to doubt the war's moral legitimacy. The elder Jarausch's letters reveal the inner conflicts of ordinary Germans who became reluctant accomplices in Hitler's merciless war of annihilation, yet sometimes managed to discover a shared humanity with its suffering victims, a bond that could transcend race, nationalism, and the enmity of war.
Reluctant Accomplice is also the story of the son, who for decades refused to come to grips with these letters because he abhorred his father's nationalist politics. Only now, late in his life, is he able to cope with their contents--and he is by no means alone. Jarausch provides rare insight into the so-called children of the war, an entire generation of postwar Germans who grew up resenting their past, but who today must finally face the painful legacy of their parents' complicity in National Socialism.
Christian Ostermann, director of the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program, will chair the event.
Konrad H. Jarausch is the Lurcy Professor of European Civilization at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and director of the Center for Research in Contemporary History in Potsdam, Germany. Starting with Hitler's seizure of power and the First World War, Jarausch's research interests have moved to the social history of German students and professions German unification in 1989/90, as well as with historiography under the Communist GDR, the nature of the East German dictatorship, and the debate about historians and the Third Reich. More recently, he has been concerned with the problem of interpreting 20th-century German history in general, the learning processes after 1945, the issue of cultural democratization, and the relationship between Honecker and Brezhnev. Jarausch has authored, co-authored, and edited over three dozen books on modern German and European history, including Shattered Past: Reconstructing German Histories; After Hitler: Recivilizing Germans, 1945-1995; and The Rush to German Unity.