Wilson Center Experts

Jeffrey Herf

Fellow
Global Europe Program

Affiliation:
Professor, Department of History, University of Maryland, College Park
Wilson Center Project(s):
"The War and the Jews: Nazi Propaganda in World War II"
Term:
Sep 01, 2004
-
Jan 01, 2005

The focus of my work is on the intersection of politics and ideas in modern German and European history. Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984) explored the paradox of the embrace of modern technology by the anti-democratic right and the Nazis in Weimar and the Third Reich at the same time in which they rejected the rationalism of the Enlightenment and liberal democracy. The work demonstrated that Nazi Germany had an ideological melange which could embrace parts of modernity while it rejected others. In so doing, the work has had continuing relevance for the emergence of totalitarian regimes and movements outside of Europe where the embrace of modern technologies has also coincided with different forms of totalitarian ideologies and policies.My second book, War By Other Means: Soviet Power, West German Resistance and the Battle of the Euromissiles (New York: The Free Press, 1991) examined the domestic West German political and intellectual debates that took place during the most important political conflict of the last decade of the Cold War, the battle of the euromissiles from 1979 to 1983. It traces the weakening of a tradition of vehement Social Democratic criticism of the Soviet policy and Communist states in the era of Detente and Ostpolitik, the shadow of the Nazi past that hung over the euromissile debates, the reasons for the outcome of the euromissile dispute, and its significance in the last decade of the Cold War. My third book, Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996) examined how the West, and the East German governments addressed and avoided addressing the Holocaust in the form of public statements, judicial proceedings, restitution to survivors, and policy towards the Middle East conflict. I traced a distinct West German tradition of public memory that was always in tension with powerful efforts to "put the past behind." In the early years, West Germany experienced a tension between rapid democratization and renewed sovereignty, on the one hand, and purges and judicial proceedings on the other. This tension between early democratization vs. the claims of memory and justice is, I believe, one that many post-dictatorial democracies face. Divided Memory draws on the archives of the East German Communist government including the Stasi files to offer a history of the "anti-cosmopolitan campaign," in East Germany in the postwar decade, its anti-Semitic components and impact on East German hostility to Israel in subsequent decades. These works, as well as my current project on Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda, express my long term project to continue and develop further a tradition of European political and intellectual history. At the Wilson Center, I will complete "The War and the Jews." I am also interested in the aftereffects of Europe's era of totalitarian politics in the mid-twentieth century on the Middle East and the Islamic world and in exploring the similarities and differences between Europe's totalitarian past and contemporary movements and regimes which display features of totalitarianism in recent decades.I have also published political essays as a contributing editor of Partisan Review, in Die Zeit, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and Die Welt, and have published many reviews in The New Republic. I am pleased to be working with fine colleagues at the University of Maryland in College Park where we are able to draw on the superb resources of the Washington, D.C. area in helping us to sustain and enhance the excellence of our undergraduate and graduate programs in history.
 

Education

B.A. (1969) University of Wisconsin, Madison; M.A. (1971) History, State University of New York at Buffalo; Ph.D. (1981) Sociology, Brandeis University
 

Subjects

European History,Germany
 

Experience

  • Full Professor, University of Maryland, College Park, 2000-04
  • Full Professor, Ohio University, 1999-2000
  • Associate Professor, Ohio University, 1996-99
  • Mount Holyoke College; "Sommersemester" (April-July) 1994
  • Fulbright Guest Professor at the Seminar für Wissenschaftliche Politik, Albert-Ludwigs Universität Freiburg, Freiburg i. Br., Germany; Summer Semester, 1994
  • Emory University, Department of Political Science, 1989-90
  • Department of Strategy, Naval War College, 1987-88, College of the Holy Cross, 1986-87
  • Harvard University, Lecturer in the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies, 1981-85
  • Fellowships: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; the Yitzak Rabin Center for Israel Studies, Tel Aviv, Israel; the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, School of Historical Studies; the German Marshall Fund Fellowship; Fulbright Award in Freiburg, Germany; the Helen and Lynde Bradley Foundation; Institut fur Zeithistorische Studien Potsdam, and the Max Planck Gesellschaft, in Germany; the Volkswagen Research Fellowship, at the German Historical Institute; and American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, Washington, D.C.; Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen, Vienna, Austria; Research Associate and Bradley Foundation Fellow, Center for European Studies, Harvard University; Bradley Foundation Fellowship at the John M. Olin Center for Inquiry into the Theory and Practice of Democracy, University of Chicago; National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for Independent Study and Research; Ford Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellowship in European Society and Western Security, Center for International Affairs, Harvard University; and the German Academic Exchange Service Fellowship for Doctoral Research, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany.

    Expertise

    Modern European, in particular Modern German, political, intellectual and international history

Project Summary

This study blends political and intellectual history to examine Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda during World War II. In their private conversations and in a massive propaganda output, the leaders of the Nazi regime viewed World War II and the Final Solution of the Jewish Question in Europe, the Holocaust, as two aspects of one war. They did not distinguish between a war waged against the Allied coalition led, after June 1941, by Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States, and a second simultaneous and separate "war against the Jews." The Nazi hard core believed that it was fighting one, large war—"the Jewish war"—in which the Allies and their states and armies merged with the behind-the-scenes power of an international Jewish conspiracy. The work explores these themes in the editorials of Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels, in secret press directives sent daily and weekly to newspaper and magazine editors, articles in the controlled press and weekly posters that conveyed the regime's propaganda with a mixture of visual images and text.

Major Publications

  • Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys Harvard University Press, Fall 1997. Winner of 1998 American Historical Association's George Louis Beer Prize; and co-winner of the 1996 Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History by the Institute of Contemporary History and the Wiener Library in London.
  • War By Other Means: Soviet Power, West German Resistance, and the Battle of the Euromissiles (New York: The Free Press, 1991)
  • Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich (New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984)

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