Professor Nicholas Stargardt, University of Oxford
Centre for the Study of War, State and Society Annual Lecture,
University of Exeter, 18 March 2015, 5pm, Venue to be confirmed
The Second World War was a German war like no other. Having started it, the Nazi regime turned the conflict into the most horrific war in European history, resorting to genocidal methods well before building the first gas chambers. Over its course, the Third Reich expended and exhausted all its moral and physical reserves, leading to total defeat in 1945. Yet seventy years on — despite whole libraries of books about the war’s origins, course and atrocities — we still do not know what Germans thought they were fighting for and how they experienced and sustained this war until the bitter end.
When war broke out in September 1939, it was deeply unpopular in Germany. Yet without the active participation and commitment of the German people, it could not have continued for almost six years. What, then, was the war Germans thought they were fighting? How did the changing course of the conflict — the victories of the Blitzkrieg, the first defeats in the east, the bombing of Germany’s cities — change their views and expectations? And when did Germans first realise that they were fighting a genocidal war?
Drawing on a wealth of first-hand testimony, The German War is the first foray for many decades into how the German people experienced the Second World War. Told from the perspective of those who lived through it — soldiers, schoolteachers and housewives; Nazis, Christians and Jews — its masterful historical narrative sheds fresh and disturbing light on the beliefs, hopes and fears of a people who embarked on, continued and fought to the end a brutal war of conquest and genocide.
Mathilde von Bülow Lecturer in International and Imperial history, University of Nottingham
Today, Germany’s Mannschaft will face Algeria’s Fennecs at Porto Alegre, after both teams made it through the group stage of the FIFA World Cup. Though it has yet to be played, the match is already being hailed as an historic, even epic, event. Why? Because it represents the first time the Algerian squad has progressed to the final sixteen at a World Cup. Its larger symbolism, however, is rooted in a longstanding Algerian resistance to French colonialism, which underpinned the secret history of Algerian-German football relations. Continue reading “The Secret History Behind Today’s Algeria-Germany #WorldCup Match”→
Professor Slobodian tells a remarkable story concerning the controversial Cold War German reception of one of the world’s most printed books: Mao’s Little Red Book.
In 1967, West Germans bought over one-hundred-thousand copies of Mao’s Book of Quotations, also known as the Little Red Book. Three editions were sold, each bearing a distinct ideological imprint. Alongside the familiar, plastic-bound edition of the Beijing Foreign Languages Press was a paperback published by the left-liberal Fischer Press. Translated and edited by West German students of Sinology, the Fischer edition provided a scholarly perspective on the Cultural Revolution that was broadly sympathetic, signaling its orientation with a cover photograph of a young girl and an elderly woman in a benign moment of intergenerational communication [left]. The third edition [right] of Mao’s book of quotations, published by the anti-communist Marienburg Press had the title, The Mao Zedong Breviary: Catechism of 700 Million. The editor, a minor functionary in the Economics Ministry, Kurt C. Steinhaus, warned of a coming race war led by the Chinese against the world’s white populations. The publishers declared that their goal in releasing the book was to “show Mao in all his severity.” “It is necessary,” they said, “to give Germans and Europeans the creeps.” Continue reading “Reading Mao’s Little Red Book in Divided Germany”→
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