The Baberowski affair: historical falsification in an age of imperialism

Hughes, David (2017) The Baberowski affair: historical falsification in an age of imperialism. In: Millennium Annual Conference, 21-22 October 2017, LSE.

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Abstract

This paper theorizes the Baberowski affair at Berlin’s Humboldt University (HU) as a case study in the politics of remembering the past. It highlights the role of history and memory in legitimizing contemporary German foreign policy and raises institutional questions about the HU’s complicity with state power as Germany grows increasingly authoritarian, militaristic, and imperialistic. Jörg Baberowski, the HU’s Professor of Eastern European History, stands by his 2014 claim that “Hitler was no psychopath, and he wasn’t vicious.” His books refuse to recognize the role of anti-Semitism in the Jewish Holocaust. His revisionist historiography seeks to relativize the crimes of the Third Reich in order to legitimize a right-wing agenda in the present. For example, he routinely agitates against immigrants in far right media outlets such as Breitbart. In public appearances he calls for the most brutal state violence to deal with terrorists. When students circulated a leaflet calling him a right-wing extremist, he took legal action against them - and lost. The court ruled the students were within their rights to call him a right-wing extremist based on his public statements on immigration. Nevertheless, the HU defends Baberowski to the hilt, misrepresenting the court’s ruling in a statement, trying to prevent student criticism of him, and then deploying security personnel to stop students distributing flyers alleging violation of their freedom of speech. Especially in light of the HU’s ignominious capitulation to National Socialism, serious questions need to be asked about the university’s willingness to provide institutional enforcement for a falsification of history whose main function is to legitimize state violence.

Keywords:Jörg Baberowski, Politics of Memory, Historical Revisionism, Dictatorship, Gleichschaltung
Subjects:L Social studies > L380 Political Sociology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
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ID Code:29880
Deposited On:06 Dec 2017 16:17

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