This 2007 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.
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'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
This 2007 book examines West German intellectual debates about the Nazi past by explaining why they were so relentlessly polarized. Germans argued about the viability of their very nationality: was it stigmatized, stained, or polluted by crimes of the Third Reich? Or was it really like any other nation? The book examines how German intellectuals either defended national traditions or condemned them and instead advocated alternative traditions.
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