The German Revolution of 1918–19 brought an abrupt end to more than a thousand years of monarchical history in Central Europe. The revolution led to a state-of-the-art liberal democracy and the first ever socialist government of an advanced industrial economy. But it is seldom regarded as belonging in the same company of epoch-defining revolutions as those in France (1789), Mexico (1910), Russia (1917), China (1949), or Iran (1979). On the contrary, Germany’s first successful democratic revolution so disappointed generations of historians that they competed to award it negative epithets such as ‘stalled’, ‘aborted’, or ‘betrayed’. The eventful history and disastrous end of the Weimar Republic still cast a long shadow over the revolution that brought it to life. The 1918–19 revolution is examined in a diagnostic mode, with historians searching for ominous pathologies in a newborn democratic patient. This preoccupation with 1918–19 as a possible prefiguration of the Nazi seizure of power in 1933–4 has inescapably come at the cost of attention to the German Revolution as a lived event. Our edited volume Living the German Revolution 1918–19: Expectations, Experiences, Responses, published with Oxford University Press in the series ‘Studies of the German Historical Institute London’, redresses this by focusing on the synchronicity of the revolution and its contemporary construal by a diverse cast of social groups.
Continue reading The German Revolution of 1918–19: Expectations, Experiences, Responses
In July 1935, an unexpected assortment of mostly male European self-proclaimed patriots met for three days at a congress of the Nationalist International in London. Alongside ‘conservative’ delegates, including two British Tory MPs and Louis Bertrand, who was a French historian and member of the prestigious Académie française, the guest list also featured more radical and even outright fascist figures, such as Frits Clausen, the leader of a small Danish Nazi party, and Friedrich Grimm, an NSDAP attorney and member of the German Reichstag. According to The Times, most of the delegates were ‘notable European professors’, united not by politics, but by ‘devotion’ to their country. Other British newspapers such as the Daily Mirror and the London Evening Telegraph likewise commented on the event in a neutral or even benevolent tone, suggesting that delegates from forty countries met under the auspices of the ‘expert on international law’ Dr Hans Keller (1908–70). Keller was a young and ambitious German jurist who had founded the Nationalist International in Zurich in 1934 with the aim of securing peace and stability by transforming the League of Nations into a ‘parliament of peoples’ corresponding with the ‘racial divisions of Europe’. Blinded by a leaflet circulated prior to the conference which claimed that ‘The Nationalist International means world peace’ and stressed the supposedly neutral and scientific nature of the organization, the British press seemed not to realize the real mission of the congress: to promote German Nazism internationally.
Continue reading Promoting German Nazism in the Heart of the British Empire: The London Congress of the ‘Nationalist International’ in July 1935
This post has been adapted from a talk by Joseph Cronin, a former Researcher at the GHIL and now a lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, delivered at the Holocaust Research Institute’s New Directions in Holocaust Studies workshop, which was held at Senate House London on 4 November 2021. He would like to thank Sandra Lipner and Kate Ferry-Swainson for giving him the opportunity to speak at this event. The talk was prompted by and reflected on Joseph’s perceptions of the ‘German Catechism’ debate that took place in the summer of 2021.
Continue reading The Future of Holocaust Studies in Light of the ‘Catechism Debate’: Reflections from an Observer
In last week’s blog post, we addressed recent calls for equity and structural change in historical disciplines by looking inwards, in a moment of self-reflection. But what practical steps can we take to transform our field into a more inclusive environment—one in which not only scholars with privileged backgrounds can pursue a career? How can we address discrimination, diversity, and inclusion beyond tokenistic statements and designated research areas? What would a commitment to anti-racism look like if we were to spell out a concrete action plan, as colleagues have done in the UK?
Continue reading History is Located Inside, not Outside Racial Biases – Can Historians in Germany Break the Silence after Black Lives Matter? (Part 2)
In the weeks following the murder of George Floyd, hundreds of higher education institutions and other organizations around the world issued statements of solidarity. Yet despite mounting pressure, most German universities, research institutions, and associations remained silent. The hashtags #ShutDownAcademia and #BlackInTheIvory scarcely registered on German-speaking social media. Criticism was on the rise in the US and the UK because many historians felt the tokenistic statements of their institutions fell far short of plans for concrete action; yet in German academia, many colleagues were still waiting for an initial reaction.
Continue reading History is Located Inside, not Outside Racial Biases – Can Historians in Germany Break the Silence after Black Lives Matter? (Part 1)
At the turn of the eighteenth century, newspapers had established themselves as the principal port of call for readers with a strong taste for current affairs. One hundred years after the first newspaper had been printed in Strasbourg in 1605, the new medium had spread to all parts of western and central Europe.
Continue reading Manuscript News Sheets: A Neglected Medium of Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Europe