Sean Farrell is associate professor of history at Northern Illinois University. Sean lives in Sycamore, Illinois, and has been a member since 1996.
By Andrew Demshuk
In a rambling speech to colleagues on Hitler’s birthday in 1963, district party secretary Paul Fröhlich insisted upon the proposed demolition of Leipzig’s fully intact Gothic University Church: “I recommend that, when deciding this question, we proceed on the basis of the Politburo resolution. The people can certainly express their opinion about it, but we must be sovereign to decide for ourselves.” Massive public opposition had arisen to block the unthinkable outcome—how could the regime tear down the historic campus that had been the center of intellectual exchange since the University of Leipzig (in communist times Karl Marx University) had grown out of a Dominican cloister in the 15th century to become the oldest university in East Germany?
By Antia Wiersma
On the one day between the first European winter storm of the year and a North American snow blizzard, I flew to Washington, DC, to participate in the 2018 AHA annual meeting. The United States and the Netherlands are both dealing with difficult issues regarding structural discrimination of certain groups in society, and both are engaged in vigorous debates about history and memory in the public sphere. I came to the AHA annual meeting hoping to get some new perspectives on these issues, and to see how historians in a different political and social context are tackling these debates.
By Rebecca Erbelding
The story of the Holocaust is generally told with a great deal of certitude. Beyond white supremacist hate groups and the dark corners of the Internet, the genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany and its collaborators against millions of Jews and the systematic targeting of Roma, Slavs, Soviet POWs, the disabled, homosexuals, and other groups are universally condemned. Nazi leaders are rarely lionized, Germans don’t anticipate that Nazi Germany will rise again, and those murdered in the Holocaust are remembered as innocent victims of racism and antisemitism who bore no responsibility for their fate.
By Daniel Franke
Carol Symes’s AHA Today post, “Medievalism, White Supremacy, and the Historian’s Craft,” raises a number of important issues about the impact of recent political and academic controversies on the historical profession. I have long admired Symes’s work, and at the present writing she has graciously agreed to present a paper in a session I have organized for the 2018 International Medieval Congress at Leeds. We share a common intellectual lineage as well: we are both students of Joseph Strayer’s students—she of Thomas Bisson at Harvard, I of Richard Kaeuper at Rochester.
In the past year, historians have frequently been called upon to make meaning of news. From Confederate monuments and statues around the country to President Donald Trump’s travel ban executive orders, historians have answered the call to provide historical perspective and analysis. As AHA executive director Jim Grossman wrote recently in Perspectives, the assumption that “historians should have a voice in public culture and in public policy” is a guiding principle for the AHA’s agenda.
By Kaete O’Connell
Last winter while leafing through the Official File at the Truman Library for material on Herbert Hoover’s 1947 economic mission to Germany, I was struck by a vibrant burst of color. The monochrome of telegrams and correspondence was replaced by colorful sketches of chickens, Lifesaver candies, and a family of beans marching to a can for preservation. The drawings were bound together with thank-you notes penned by young recipients of US food relief. German children clearly appreciated the “gift” of food, pleasing occupation officials keen to capitalize on American charity.
By Carol Symes
With every passing day, the AHA’s upcoming annual meeting on the theme of Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism in Global Perspective is becoming more and more urgent. In particular, a group of sessions on The Modern Legacy of Premodern Racial and Ethnic Concepts anticipates a number of recent events and controversies that have drawn attention to the close links between white supremacism and medievalism: that is, the projection of modern agendas onto the medieval past, or the selective use of that past to further such agendas.