Jeffrey Herf

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Jeffrey C. Herf (born April 24, 1947) is an intellectual historian, sociologist, political scientist, and professor of modern European, in particular modern German, history at the University of Maryland.

Herf graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1969. Herf received his PhD. 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 New Republic, Die Zeit, Partisan Review and elsewhere.

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 anti-Semitic propaganda; and Nazi Germany's propaganda aimed at North Africa and the Middle East.

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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