Udi Greenberg wins prize for First Book

Given the extreme disruption caused by the Second World War, it would be easy to assume that the intellectual underpinnings of 20th-century international politics must have changed radically from the 1920s to the 1950s. Not so, argues Udi Greenberg, an associate professor of history, in his book The Weimar Century: German Émigrés and the Ideological Foundations of the Cold War, which has won the 2016 European Studies Book Award. Given every two years by the multi-disciplinary Council for European Studies, the prize recognizes the best first book published within the past two years on any subject related to European studies. Of receiving the award, Greenberg says, “It’s an honor to get a prize and to know that someone read your work and cared about it. With this specific prize, other people who received it in the past are scholars that I greatly admire, so I feel very honored to be on the same list.”

The Weimar Century follows five leading German thinkers of the Weimar Republic, each from different schools of thought, as they emigrated to the United States during the war and then back to West Germany as the Cold War heated up and Germany was being reconstructed as a liberal democracy.

“What was striking to me is that they said and wrote very similar things in the 1920s and in the 1950s,” Greenberg says. “It seemed counterintuitive that massive events like the rise of Nazism, World War II, and the Holocaust would not transform dramatically how people think about politics and international relations.”

One of the émigrés profiled in the book is a Jewish lawyer named Karl Loewenstein, “who began his career as a liberal supporter of democracy and Weimar,” Greenberg says. “He coined the theory of ‘militant democracy’—a theory that claimed that in order to save democracy, democratic states must restrict certain rights in fighting against anti-democrats.”

While Loewenstein’s ideas received little traction before the war, Greenberg says, “In the 1950s they became the mainstream of German thought. The Supreme Court in West Germany criminalized a German communist party citing the theory of militant democracy.”

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