Marcuse majored in physics at Wesleyan University (B.A. 1979, magna cum laude) in Middletown, Connecticut. He earned an M.A. in art history from the University of Hamburg in 1987, with a thesis about a 1949 memorial dedicated "to the Victims of National Socialist Persecution and the Resistance Struggle".
In 1985, Marcuse co-produced a photographic exhibition on monuments and memorials commemorating events of the Nazi and World War II periods. In 1986, he entered the Ph.D program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, to write a dissertation about the post-1945 history of the (former) Dachau concentration camp that examined the legacies of Dachau. Marcuse says that since the end of World War II, much art, literature and public debate in Germany have revolved around the issues of resistance, collaboration and complicity with the Third Reich.
Marcuse began teaching history at UC Santa Barbara in 1992. He became fascinated with the different ways Germans memorialized events under Hitler's rule. Marcuse's research seeks to answer what people get out of learning about historical events. He examines the ways historical events have been portrayed over time, and the meanings various groups of people have derived from those events and portrayals. Marcuse was instrumental in connecting a student, Collette Waddell, with a Polish Holocaust survivor, Nina Morecki, which led to a book about the Holocaust that discussed not just the era, but how survivors pursued their lives afterward.
He is interested in the use of technology, such as videotaping and the Internet in history education; the use of oral history in social studies teaching; and questions of public conceptions of history, often referred to as "collective memory".
Marcuse and his first wife (1987–2001) had two children, Aaron (born 1988) and Miriam (born 1993). He married again in 2012. He is the grandson of German critical theorist and philosopher Herbert Marcuse.
Books and publications
- Harold Marcuse (2001). Legacies of Dachau: The Uses and Abuses of a Concentration Camp, 1933-2001. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-55204-4.
- Pat Dowell, "German Filmmaker Tackles the Holocaust in 'Ninth Day' " National Public Radio (June 1, 2005). Retrieved January 24, 2011
- "Interview with Collette Waddell" Author's Den (April 10, 2007). Retrieved January 24, 2011
- John Wilkens, "Son helps father share Holocaust recollections" San Diego Union-Tribune (July 24, 2010). Retrieved January 25, 2011
- Doug Ireland, "Remembering Herbert Marcuse" Z Communications (July 20, 2005). Retrieved January 25, 2011