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.
Awards and honors
- 1996 Charles Frankel Prize (co-winner) of the Wiener Library and Institute of Contemporary History, Divided Memory
- 1998 George Louis Beer Prize, Divided Memory
- 2006 National Jewish Book Award, The Jewish Enemy
- Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967–1989. Cambridge University Press, 2015.
- Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich (Cambridge University Press, 1984)
- War By Other Means: Soviet Power, West German Resistance and the Battle of the Euromissiles (The Free Press, 1991. ISBN 978-0-02-915030-6) examined the intersection of political culture and power politics in the last major European confrontation of the Cold War.
- Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys (Harvard University Press, 1997. ISBN 978-0-674-21303-6).
- The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II and the Holocaust (Harvard University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-674-02175-4). The work examines the Nazi regime's radical anti-Semitic propaganda as a bundle of hatreds, an explanatory framework, and effort to legitimate mass murder.
- Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World (Yale University Press, 2009). This work documents and interprets Nazi Germany's Arabic language print and radio broadcast propaganda aimed at North Africa and the Middle East during World War II and the Holocaust. It draws on translations in German in various German government archives as well as a remarkable collection of English language transcripts produced by American diplomats, mostly in Cairo during the war. It documents a fusion of radical anti-Semitism in Nazi ideology with radical anti-Semitism emerging from Islamists and radical Arab nationalists who collaborated with the Nazi regime especially from 1941 to 1945 in Berlin. The cultural fusion in wartime Berlin persisted in Islamist politics in the Middle East after 1945.
- Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, 1967-1989 (Cambridge University Press, 2016). Drawing on the archives of the former East German Communist regime (i.e., the German Democratic Republic), the West German government (Federal Republic of Germany), archives of political organizations in Germany, of the United Nations and the United States government, this work documents and interprets the spectrum of antagonism to Israel from hostile propaganda, efforts at diplomatic isolation, political warfare at the United Nations, formal alliances for military assistance, weapons delivery and training with Arab states and with the Palestine Liberation Organization and its affiliated groups.
- Hitler and the Nazis' Anti-Zionism, Fathom, Summer 2016
- David Cesarani: In Memoriam, Fathom, Autumn 2015
- Alfred Schmidt: History and structure: an essay on Hegelian-Marxist and structuralist theories of history. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, c1981. ISBN 0-262-19198-9
- Herf bio at University of Maryland's site
- "The Historian as Provocateur: George Mosse’s Accomplishment and Legacy", Yad Vashem Studies, vol. 29 (2001), pp. 7–26.
- The "New World Order": From Unilateralism to Cosmopolitanism by Herf
- “What Does Coming to Terms with the Past Mean in the ‘Berlin Republic’ in 2007?"
- "An Age of Murder: Ideology and Terror in Germany," TELOS 144 (Fall 2008): 8–37
- Undeclared wars on Israel: East Germany and the west German Far Left 1967-1981: An interview with Jefferey Herf - Fathom Journal