Jeffrey Herf

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Jeffrey C. Herf (born April 24, 1947) is an American historian. He is Distinguished University Professor of modern European, in particular modern German, history at the University of Maryland, College Park.


Herf graduated in history from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1969 and received his PhD in sociology from Brandeis University in 1980. Before joining the faculty at the University of Maryland, he taught at Harvard University and Ohio University. He has published essays in The American Interest, Commentary, Die Welt, Die Zeit, Partisan Review, The Times of Israel, and The New Republic. Herf is considered an authority on the American inventor, Buckminster Fuller.

In his 1984 book, Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich, drawing on critical theory, in particular ideology critique, Herf coined the term “reactionary modernism” to describe the mixture of robust modernity and an affirmative stance toward progress combined with dreams of the past - a highly technological romanticism - which was a current in the thinking of ideologues of Weimar's "conservative revolution" and of currents in the Nazi Party and Nazi regime.

His subsequent books (see below) examine the political culture of West Germany before and during the battle over the euromissiles in the 1980s; memory and politics regarding the Holocaust in East and West Germany; Nazi Germany's domestic anti-Semitic propaganda; and Nazi Germany's propaganda aimed at North Africa and the Middle East; and the history of antagonism to Israel by the East German regime and West German leftist organizations from the Six Day War in 1967 to the revolutions of 1989, the collapse of the European Communist states and the unification of Germany in 1990.

Herf has had a variety of fellowships including at Harvard University, the University of Chicago, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the German Historical Institute in Washington, the Yitzhak Rabin Center for Israel Studies in Tel Aviv, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC and at the American Academy in Berlin in Fall 2007.


  • Alfred Schmidt: History and structure: an essay on Hegelian-Marxist and structuralist theories of history. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, c1981. ISBN 0-262-19198-9

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