This news release appreared originally on June 23, 1999.
UCLA historian Saul Friedlander, who holds UCLA's 1939 Club endowedchair in history, was named a MacArthur Fellow today -- the fourth facultymember in the College of Letters and Science to receive the prestigioushonor in the last six years. MacArthur Fellows receive five years of unrestrictedsupport to use as they see fit.
Friedlander, a scholar of the Third Reich and the Holocaust, has "transformedour understanding of this period by weaving into a coherent whole the perspectivesof the participants: ordinary Germans, party activists, military and politicalfigures and, most importantly, victims and survivors," the John D.and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation said in a statement announcing thisyear's 32 fellows. "Drawing from documents, films, recollections andhis personal experience, he reconstructs these events with a judicioustone that defies the nature of the subject. By enhancing our understandingof the nature and meaning of the Holocaust, Friedlander demonstrates theinterplay of memory and representation in the interpretation of historicevents."
Nazi Germany was one of the most advanced nations in the world, yetmost Germans "looked the other way" as Hitler systematicallypersecuted Germany's Jews in a prelude to the Holocaust, Friedlander wrotein his chilling 1997 book, "Nazi Germany and the Jews, Volume 1: TheYears of Persecution, 1933-1939" (HarperCollins). The book, whichcovers the period from Hitler's rise to power to the outbreak of WorldWar II, has been praised as the definitive history of Nazi policies priorto the Holocaust.
The great majority of Germans in the 1930s "espoused traditionalanti-Semitism in one form or another," but neither demanded nor opposedanti-Jewish measures, which most Germans considered a peripheral issue,Friedlander wrote. Most of the largely middle-class, educated populationof Germany accepted Nazi policies against the Jews and ignored the systematicremoval of Jews from Germany's government, business and cultural life.
Friedlander made extensive use of new documents in his research, includinglocal German police reports.
"Among most 'ordinary Germans' there was acquiescence regardingthe segregation and dismissal of the Jews from civil service" -- employmentwhich in pre-war Germany included judges, doctors in public hospitals anduniversity professors, among many others, Friedlander wrote. "Therewas some glee in witnessing their degradation, but outside party ranks,there was no massive agitation to expel them from Germany or to unleashviolence against them."
The German majority did not advocate violence against the Jews, butwhen Hitler pursued a policy of total extermination of the Jews in 1941,the "hundreds of thousands of 'ordinary Germans' who actively participatedin the killings acted no differently from the equally numerous and 'ordinary'Austrians, Rumanians, Ukrainians, Balts and other Europeans who becamethe most willing operatives of the murder machinery functioning in theirmidst," Friedlander wrote.
Hitler's early years in power were viewed by a majority of Germans asthe beginning of a period of prosperity for Germany, wrote Friedlander,who was born in Prague and spent his childhood in Nazi-occupied France.
"The chronology of persecution, segregation, emigration and expulsion,the sequence of humiliations and violence, of loss and bereavement thatmolded the memories of the Jews of Germany from 1933 to 1939 was not whatimpressed itself on the consciousness and memory of German society as awhole," he wrote.
Instead, for most Germans, Hitler's actions against the Jews occurredin the shadow of a German renaissance marked by an improving economy, anend to unemployment, political stabilization and the resurgence of Germanpower. Friedlander characterized 1930s Germany as a world "grotesqueand chilling under the veneer of an even more chilling normality."
In Hitler, "cold calculation and blind fury coexisted and couldfind almost simultaneous expression," Friedlander wrote.
Friedlander cited a 1933 dispatch from the British ambassador in Berlin,Sir Horace Rumbold, to the British foreign minister, recounting Hitler'scomments on the persecution of the Jews, in which Hitler shouted "withgreat ferocity, as if he were addressing an open air meeting." Mentioningthe high unemployment rate in Germany, Hitler is quoted as screaming thathe is forced to "turn away youths of pure German stock from highereducation. There are not enough posts for the pure-bred Germans, and theJews must suffer with the rest." Rumbold concluded in the dispatchthat "Hitler is himself responsible for the anti-Jewish policy ofthe German government" and that anybody who heard his remarks on theJews "could not have failed to realize that he is a fanatic on thesubject."
In all major decisions, the Nazis depended on Hitler. Throughout the1930s, Hitler's pattern was to give or confirm orders secretly concerningthe Jews and avoid having his name openly linked with the brutality thathe ordered, Friedlander said.
In September 1933, Jews were forbidden to own farms or work in agriculture.The next month the German press was "cleansed" and Jews werebarred from being newspaper editors.
Citing one anti-Jewish action after another, Friedlander summed up,"And so it continued, day in and day out."
Yet very few of the approximately 525,000 Jews living in Germany inJanuary 1933 sensed the implications or foresaw the terror to come. A smallnumber of Jewish artists and intellectuals left Germany almost immediatelyafter Hitler's rise to power, but the vast majority of German Jews felt"no apparent sense of panic or urgency," Friedlander wrote. Evenby the end of 1933, when tens of millions of people inside and outsideGermany were aware of the Nazis' "systematic policy of segregationand persecution" against the Jews, the majority felt anxiety but noneed to leave the country.
Friedlander quoted satirist Kurt Tucholsky, who took exile in Sweden,as saying, "For every 10 German Jews, one has left, nine are staying;but after March 1933, one should have stayed and nine should have gone."
Jews who left Nazi Germany lost virtually everything they owned, Friedlandernoted. The vast majority of German Jews knew they would face continueddiscrimination, but thought they could maintain their livelihood in Germany,he said.
The persecution worsened as the months and years passed, and the samescenes were repeated in town after town, Friedlander wrote. "The sadisticbrutality of the perpetrators, the shamefaced reactions of some of theonlookers, the grins of others, the silence of the immense majority, thehelplessness of the victims."
The Nazis were on their best behavior in 1936, the year of the BerlinOlympics, but more severe measures followed. The Nazis issued a seriesof decrees that were disastrous for Jews in 1938, including those thatstripped Jewish doctors and lawyers of their licenses and that systematicallyimpoverished German Jews. More than 250 synagogues were destroyed thatyear.
By January 1939, Jews were forced by law to sell their businesses andvaluables, such as land, stock, jewels and works of art. By 1939, the Nazishad "entirely destroyed any remaining possibility for Jewish lifein Germany," Friedlander said. That November, all Jewish childrenstill attending German schools were expelled. The same year, Hitler approvedthe mass murder of handicapped children and mentally ill adults.
Throughout the 1930s, no powerful voice within Germany was raised againstthe Nazi regime, Friedlander said. With very few exceptions, the Protestantand Catholic churches were silent; no criticism or protest came from Germanuniversities.
By 1939, virtually every American newspaper published editorials condemningthe Nazis, but U.S. policies toward Germany did not change, he said. France,unlike other democratic countries, failed to offer even a symbolic gestureof protest against the Nazis.
Hitler did not hint what the final goal of his anti-Jewish policy wouldbe in his first years in power, Friedlander said. His main goal towardthe Jews in the late 1930s was to force their emigration to a distant countryafter confiscating their wealth. Friedlander found no evidence of any plansfor total extermination of the Jews prior to Germany's invasion of theSoviet Union.
When Germany annexed Austria in March 1938, the persecution of AustrianJews, especially in Vienna, outpaced the persecution in Germany, Friedlandersaid. "Public humiliation was more blatant and sadistic; expropriationbetter organized; forced emigration more rapid," and the Austrians"relished the public shows of degradation," he wrote.
Friedlander's other books include "History, Memory, and the Exterminationof the Jews" (1993), "Reflections of Nazism" (1984) and"When Memory Comes" (1979). He is the senior editor of the journalHistory and Memory.
The MacArthur Fellows Program identifies, celebrates and nurtures creativity,casting its net as broadly as possible in search of the most creative individuals.Other MacArthur Fellows selected have expertise in fields ranging fromart and architecture to chemistry and computer science to human rightswork. The MacArthur Foundation does not require or expect specific productsor reports from MacArthur Fellows.
Friedlander will receive a grant from the MacArthur Foundation of $375,000over five years. Individuals cannot apply for MacArthur Fellowships. Eachyear, the MacArthur Foundation invites more than 100 people to serve anonymouslyas nominators, or talent scouts, for the Fellows Program. Nominators areselected for expertise in their respective fields and their ability toidentify exceptional creativity. Their nominations are evaluated by a selectioncommittee which also serves anonymously and which makes its recommendationsto the MacArthur Foundation's Board of Directors. The program began in1981.
The 1999 MacArthur Fellows are "transforming and bridging fields,making major breakthroughs, illuminating responsibility for humanity'sinhumanities, solving persistent contemporary problems and expanding ourimagination about what is possible," said Adele Simmons, MacArthurFoundation president.
Previous UCLA MacArthur Fellows include Elinor Ochs (1998), professorof applied linguistics; Susan McClary (1995), professor of musicology;Rogers Brubaker (1994), professor of sociology; Richard Turco (1986), professorof atmospheric sciences and director of UCLA's Institute of the Environment;and Jared Diamond (1985), professor of physiology.