Charles Maier

Charles Maier is Krupp Foundation Professor of European Studies at Harvard. His most recent book is The Unmasterable Past: History, Holocaust and German National Identity.

Sideshows

Charles Maier, 18 November 1993

With the collapse of Communism and the disorientation of the Marxist Left, a poignant revaluation has overtaken the history of the European Resistance in World War Two. The gradual disappearance of the survivors would in itself have led to a dissipation of the Resistance’s sacred aura; but politics as well as demography is now at work. Of course, the history of the Resistance has always been especially vulnerable: for four decades in Italy it served to legitimate the vision of a Left that could embrace Communists and non-Communists alike; in France it justified the creation of the Gaullist Republic; in Yugoslavia it helped for forty years to hold together a precarious nationhood; in the Soviet bloc it furnished credentials for the Communist Parties that monopolised power after Hitler’s armies had been cleared out. In the early post-war years a source of pride and solace, the Resistance has by now become a troublesome, sometimes tiresome legacy.

Certainly not the saddest for historians, according to Geoffrey Hawthorn’s wonderfully playful and intelligent book: rather, the most instructive. Hawthorn is intrigued by the philosophical standing of counter-factuals – hypothetical ‘other worlds’ – and their usefulness for historians and social scientists. Some historians resist the legitimacy of invoking counter-factual stories. They stringently insist that we can research and speculate only about what we believe actually occurred; anything else is merely fanciful. Call them factualists.’

Many Americans celebrate national holidays by mobbing megastores at dawn, pushing aside the slow-footed and grabbing the $39 computers, while TV crews film the spectacle and warn the indolent...

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Was it unavoidable?

Christoph Bertram, 18 September 1997

It is a rare experience to witness the collapse of a modern state, not to mention of an empire; but those who were alive and conscious in 1989 can claim to have been present at just such an...

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Germans and the German Past

J.P. Stern, 21 December 1989

The ‘white years’ of German history – the period between the end of the war and Adenauer’s first government of 1949 – were notable for two blank spaces in the...

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