National History Center

Were Soviet Tanks Deployed in Egypt 50 Years Ago? On the Front Lines of Historical Forensics

By Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez

On February 3, 2018, Russian Air Force Maj. Roman Filipov’s jet was shot down while attacking rebel positions in Syria. Filipov bailed out and, after a shootout with “terrorists,” blew himself up with a grenade rather than be captured. By the time of Filipov’s funeral, President Vladimir Putin had decorated him as a Hero of the Russian Federation. The incident highlights the depth of present-day Russia’s military involvement in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Demolishing “Participatory Dictatorship”: Leipzig in 1968

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?

“We Came Here to Take the Bastille”: The Class of ’74 and the 2018 Election

By John Lawrence

A tense atmosphere is building in Washington, DC: an unpopular president in office, an election marked by criminal tampering, and a special prosecutor probing the clandestine hijinks of White House and campaign officials. Demonstrators are filling the nation’s streets, there’s a long and controversial war sapping America’s treasure in lives and dollars, and whispers are circulating about impeachment. Early special elections appear to signal that a wave of voter anger might be building toward a dramatic climax in the November off-year election.

The National History Center’s New Teaching Decolonization Resource Collection

By Annabel LaBrecque

In a Native American history class, during our second in-class discussion of the semester, I mentioned the term “decolonization” while deliberating over that week’s readings about ancient Cahokian and Caddoan civilizations. My professor stopped me mid-sentence: “Is everyone familiar with this concept? Decolonization?” My classmates remained silent, and my professor turned back to me. “Please, elaborate.” 

How the Feds Reshaped Higher Education

The paradox of American higher education is that it is at once so successful and so controversial. Our best universities consistently stand at the top of international rankings, and more than a third of Americans now hold bachelor’s degrees, the highest rate on record. Yet colleges and universities have become lightning rods in the culture wars, and concerns about student debt have spurred increasing calls for colleges to control their costs. The House Committee on Education recently approved a sweeping overhaul of federal legislation related to higher education, including controversial provisions that critics charge will make student loans more costly.

Encouraging Nuance in Holocaust History

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.

Will Robots Rule the World?

On a recent cover of the New Yorker (October 23, 2017), robots purposefully stride to their jobs; the only human in sight is unemployed and begging for change. We are warned: this could be our future. The illustration perfectly captures the current anxiety about automation’s impact on the workplace. 

December 11, 2017