Jeffrey Herf studies the intersection of ideas and politics in modern European history, specializing in twentieth century Germany. He has published extensively on Germany during the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, and on West and East Germany during the Cold War. In November 2009, Yale University Press published his book Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World. It examines the Third Reich's efforts to diffuse its ideology to North Africa and the Middle East during World War II. It is the recipient of the German Studies Association 2011 Sybil Halpern Milton prize awarded every second year for work on the Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, and of the 2010 Washington Institute for Near East Policy bronze book prize for work on the modern Middle East. The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II and the Holocaust (Harvard, 2006) examined the Nazi regime’s translation of radical anti-Semitism into the conspiracy theory that shaped its public narrative of World War II and its equally public defense of a policy of “exterminating” Europe’s Jews. It received the 2006 National Jewish Book Award for work on the Holocaust. Divided Memory: The Nazi Past in the Two Germanys (Harvard, 1997) traced the varieties of memory and avoidance about the Holocaust offered by West and East German political figures from the 1940s through the 1990s. It was one of the first works to make extensive use of the then recently opened East German Communist Party and government archives. It was a co-winner of the Fraenkel Prize of the Institute of Contemporary History and Wiener Library in London in 1996. In 1998 it received the George Lewis Beer Prize of the American Historical Association. Reactionary Modernism: Technology, Culture and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich (Cambridge, 1984), interpreted the simultaneous embrace of modern technology and rejection of liberal modernity by right-wing intellectuals. The work became a standard work and has been published in Greek, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish translations. War By Other Means: Soviet Power, West German Resistance and the Battle of the Euromissiles (Free Press, 1991) was a study of the connection between changing political culture within West Germany and the dispute over nuclear weapons between the Soviet Union and the Western Alliance during the 1980s.
Professor Herf teaches undergraduate and graduate courses that explore the connection between ideas and politics both within societies and between states. His courses include 20th Century Europe, Nazi Germany, Twentieth Century European Intellectual History, Europe Since 1945 and 20th Century Germany. His graduate students work on a wide variety of topics on German and European political and intellectual history in the 19th and 20th centuries. Recently completed PhDs have dealt with academics in Nazi Germany; the German engineers and scientists working on the Nazi missile program; and the Alternative Liste political party in 1980s Berlin. Current doctoral students are working on the memory of the Eastern Front in East and West Germany; radio and politics in West and East Berlin in the first decade of the Cold War; French policy towards African colonies in Vichy and in the postwar era; and the reception of American blues and the emergence and impact of British rockers in the 1960s. His students make extensive use of the National Archives (located next to campus), the Library of Congress, German Historical Institute, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and other institutions in the Washington area with important resources for research on modern European history.