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German Intellectuals and the Nazi Past


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  • Date Published: November 2009
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521145718

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About the Authors
  • This book analyzes how West German intellectuals debated the Nazi past and democratic future of their country. Rather than proceeding event by event, it highlights the underlying issues at stake: the question of a stigmatized nation and the polarized reactions to it that structured German discussion and memory of the Nazi past. Paying close attention to the generation of German intellectuals born during the Weimar Republic - the forty-fivers - this book traces the drama of sixty years of bitter public struggle about the meaning of the past: did the Holocaust forever stain German identity so that Germans could never again enjoy their national emotions like other nationalities? Or were Germans unfairly singled out for the crimes of their ancestors? By explaining how the perceived pollution of family and national life affected German intellectuals, the book shows that public debates cannot be isolated from the political emotions of the intelligentsia.

    • German intellectuals and Nazi past integrating concepts of stigma and structured political emotions
    • Political and intellectual history that embeds ideas in political emotions, i.e., how we feel about national identity, shame, guilt, pride
    • Explains why the question of stigma comes to an end early in the 21st century
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    • Winner of H-Soz-u-Kult's best contemporary historical study 2007, as part of its annually held forum on The Historical Book of the Year.

    Reviews & endorsements

    'All research on the intellectual history of the Federal Republic will find trustworthy orientation in this book.' History

    '… remarkable synthesis of public debates on German history and identity.' Tuska Benes, History: Review of New Books

    'A. Dirk Moses provides an excellent analysis and review of the sometimes esoteric and often bitter disputes between different schools of thought in Germany about the Holocaust and German guilt.' Arthur B. Gunlicks, Holocaust and Genocide Studies

    'Moses does an outstanding job of referring debates and of dealing with aspects of intellectuals that are less known in traditional accounts.' Robert C. Holub, German Politics and Society

    'Moses's greatest contribution in German Intellectuals and the Nazi Past is his analysis of why some intellectuals believed that the German population needed to be morally transformed after the war and why others did not.' Noah B. Strote, Theory and Society

    'All research on the intellectual history of the Federal Republic will find trustworthy orientation in this book.' Jens Hacke, H-Soz-u-Kult

    'Moses has provided a masterly synthesis of West German political thought, and a work of great intellectual power. In short: his book is the most important work in English on West German memory of Nazism to have appeared in recent years.' Bill Niven, German Quarterly Book Reviews

    'German Intellectuals and the Nazi Past is a splendid and original interpretation that ought to be consulted by all historians interested in historical memory, national identity, and the discourse of public intellectuals.' William David Jones, Canadian Journal of History

    'Moses's study of the influence and use of memory in the West German political realm, focusing on the role of the public intellectual, is superb.' Douglas C. Peifer, Contemporary European History

    'Precisely because of the questions it raises, this is an agenda-setting book, with which any scholar of intellectuals, political culture and postwar Germany's reckoning with the past will have to contend. Moreover, it should interest those who study memory, identity and transitional justice more broadly.' Sean A. Forner, National Identities

    'This well-informed book by Moses rewrites the intellectual history of federal Germany from the second world war to the first years of the new millennium, concentrating on the development of German national consciousness as a means to recover an 'underlying structure of German emotions' [p.5, c.f. 32], that is, a historically and geographically specific 'Germanicity'.' Manfred Alexander Hinz, Ricerche di Storia Politica

    'In this compelling and accessible intellectual history of West Germany, the author explores how the past comes to bear on the present.' The Historian

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2009
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521145718
    • length: 304 pages
    • dimensions: 226 x 152 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.29kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Stigma and structure in German memory
    2. The languages of republicanism and West German political generations
    3. The Forty-Fivers: a generation between fascism and democracy
    4. The German German - the integrative republicanism of Wilhelm Hennis
    5. The non-German German - the redemptive republicanism of Jurgen Habermas
    6. Theory and practice: science, technology, and the republican university
    7. The crisis of the republic:
    8. 1967 and its aftermath
    9. The structure of discourse in the 1980s and 1990s
    10. History, multiculturalism, and the non-German German
    11. German Germans and the old nation
    12. Political theology and the dissolution of the underlying structure.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • UG Germany 1871 to the Present; Grad Colloq in Mod German History
  • Author

    A. Dirk Moses, European University Institute, Florence
    Dirk Moses studied history in Australia, Scotland, the United States and Germany before joining the History Department at the University of Sydney in 2000. As a research fellow at the University of Freiburg, he worked on postwar German debates about the recent past, a project which became German Intellectuals and the Nazi Past. He has edited and co-edited four anthologies on genocide, mainly on the relationship with colonialism. He has held fellowships in Austria, Germany, Israel and the USA, most recently at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. Currently, he is Professor of Global and Colonial History at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, where he is finishing a book manuscript entitled Genocide and the Terror of History. He is also working on a project called 'The Diplomacy of Genocide', which studies international reactions to allegations of genocide in postcolonial conflicts in the 1960s and 1970s.


    • Winner of H-Soz-u-Kult's best contemporary historical study 2007, as part of its annually held forum on The Historical Book of the Year.

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