Jeffrey Herf

Killing in the Name
April 08, 2010

The following is adapted from a talk delivered at the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C., on March 19, 2010. One of the greatest ironies of the past decade's debates over political Islam has been that, on the whole, the most passionate and emphatic rejections of radical Islamism in this country came from President Bush and his supporters—that is, conservatives. This is peculiar because the various forms of radical Islamism represent the third major form of totalitarian ideology and politics in modern world history.

It Will Not Go Away
February 04, 2010

Robert Wistrich’s vast and important book is the most comprehensive account in print of the history of anti-Semitism since 1945 in Europe, the Middle

Bombs Away
October 13, 2009

At the Non-Proliferation Treaty meeting beginning today in New York, Iran will try to shift the discussion to Israel’s nuclear weapons by proposing that the Middle East become nuclear-free. As historian Jeffrey Herf wrote at TNR Online last October, this is similar to a ploy the Soviets used in the 1980s: Our negotiations with Iran are not off to a good start. After the initial meeting in Geneva on October 1--with Iran on one side and Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, and the United States on the other--Iranian representatives said they had agreed to send processed uranium to Russia.

Unpleasant Truths
December 30, 2008

There is an ungainly German word, Vergangenheitsbewältigung, that has no equivalent in the English language. It means "coming to terms with past," and it was coined to refer to the efforts of German intellectuals, journalists, and even some politicians who, over the past half century, insisted that facing unpleasant truths about their country's history was both a moral and political necessity.

Where Are the Anti-Fascists?
December 04, 2007

The memory of the crimes of the Nazi era and the determination to oppose anti-Semitism in all its forms have been constitutive and distinctive features of German democracy since 1949, when it was articulated by the founding generation of political leaders of West Germany's Federal Republic. Judging by the memorials, commemorative days, books, and films about Nazism and the Holocaust, this tradition of remembering the murdered Jews of Europe remains firmly embedded in the political culture of contemporary German public life.

Books: The Whole Horror
September 10, 2007

  The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945 By Saul Friedlander (HarperCollins, 870 pp., $39.95) With the publication of The Years of Extermination, Saul Friedlander adds to his already well-established reputation as one of the world's pre-eminent historians of the Holocaust and of its place in modern European, German, and Jewish history.

Memory Loss
February 14, 2006

Two weeks ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voted to refer the matter of Iran's nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council. There is plenty to like about the IAEA resolution, starting with the large majority it commanded among the organization's member states--even the usually recalcitrant Russians and Chinese signed on.

True Crime: A Different Way of Thinking about Homicide
August 10, 2005

The murder of large numbers of innocent people in a very short time span has become an infuriating and regular feature of contemporary life. Recently, such murders have been carried out by radical Islamists in Israel, Iraq, England, and Egypt. Last month we marked the tenth anniversary of the massacres at Srebenica, and just over a year ago, the tenth anniversary of the Rwanda genocide. Yet there is another kind of killing that receives far less attention as a distinct historical phenomenon.

Amnesty and Amnesia
March 10, 2003

Adenauer's Germany and the Nazi Past: The Politics of Amnesty and Integration By Norbert Frei Translated by Joel Golb (Columbia University Press, 365 pp., $35)In this grim account of the formative years of West German democracy, the German historian Norbert Frei examines legislation affecting the amnesty and the integration of Germans suspected of, accused of, and in many cases indicted for crimes committed during the Nazi era.

The Struggle Continues
August 05, 2002

Beyond the Conceivable: Studies on Germany, Nazism, and the Holocaust by Dan Diner (University of California, 286 pp., $45) Click here to purchase the book.What is the connection between the collective memory of Germans and Jews and the epistemology of historical scholarship about the Holocaust? What roles do political history and social history play in this enterprise? Why has there been a trend toward universalizing the causes of the Holocaust in both collective memory and historical method, and what are the arguments for a reassertion of historical specificity?

Pages