Thursday, March 28, 2019

Gavriel D. Rosenfeld's "The Fourth Reich"

Gavriel D. Rosenfeld is Professor of History at Fairfield University. He received his B.A. in History and Judaic Studies from Brown University in 1989 and his Ph.D. in History from UCLA in 1996. His areas of specialization include the history of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, memory studies, and counterfactual history.

He has written a wide range of books, including Hi Hitler! How the Nazi Past is Being Normalized in Contemporary Culture and the edited collection, "If Only We Had Died in Egypt!" What Ifs of Jewish History From Abraham to Zionism. Rosenfeld is also the author of Building after Auschwitz: Jewish Architecture and the Memory of the Holocaust, The World Hitler Never Made: Alternate History and the Memory of Nazism, Munich and Memory: Architecture, Monuments and the Legacy of the Third Reich, and the co-edited work, Beyond Berlin: Twelve German Cities Confront the Nazi Past.

Rosenfeld applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Fourth Reich: The Specter of Nazism from World War II to the Present, and reported the following:
Page 99 of The Fourth Reich offers a glimpse into the struggles of postwar Germans to refashion their national identity in the wake of the Nazi catastrophe. In the fall of 1948, politicians were debating whether to call the incipient West German state a “Reich” or a “Republic.” SPD representative Carlo Schmid strongly opposed the former, saying that it had an “aggressive accent” and was best abandoned, given the many “psychological reasons” that existed for “avoiding the term.” Because Germany’s neighbors would look askance at a new Reich next door, he concluded, it was best to go with the term, “Republic.”

Ever since World War II, people throughout the western world have been wary about the return of Nazism in the form of a Fourth Reich. My book explores these fears by historicizing the concept and showing how it has evolved from the 1930s up to the present day. It examines the extent to which the danger of a Nazi return to power was a real one or merely a rhetorical device used by political activists to gain attention to various causes.

Given the present-day global upsurge in right-wing political activity, it is particularly timely to revisit how the western world has coped with the nightmare that never happened – the creation of a Fourth Reich. On the one hand, its history reminds us that people not too long ago were paralyzed by concerns that proved to be groundless. On the other hand, studying the Fourth Reich helps us realize that postwar fears of a Nazi return to power were also grounded in real dangers – ones that might have been realized had circumstances been slightly different.

By revealing how contingencies can determine history – by reminding us that our world was hardly inevitable – the history of the Fourth Reich warns against complacency. By revealing how our worst fears have gone unrealized, it cautions against hysteria. By examining how people have contended with fears in the past, it shows how they might cope with fear in the present.
Visit Gavriel D. Rosenfeld's website.

The Page 99 Test: Hi Hitler!.

--Marshal Zeringue