Germany after the Dictatorships: Totalitarianism and its Consequences

The workshop with this title was organized on November 19-20 by the European Forum at SIIS and it gathered leading German historians from Stanford, other U.S. universities, and from Germany. The workshop will produce an edited volume next year, said Amir Eshel, Stanford professor and co-convenor of the European Forum.

In the context of the Iraq Wars, references to totalitarianism multiplied across the political, cultural, and intellectual spectrum. For every equation of Saddam with Hitler, another followed projecting the Nazi past onto the American present. The German experience with totalitarianism in the twentieth century is particularly intriguing. The Weimar Republic witnessed the rise of both Communist and National Socialist movements, with revolutionary aspirations, in the wake of which, ultimately, two dictatorial political systems followed. To be sure, the two cases are not symmetrical; East Germany was unthinkable without Russian occupation and the Cold War.

In light of the renewed totalitarianism discourse, a review of this past seemed more urgent than ever.