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A Controversial History Examined

At this year’s annual German Studies Association conference, held in San Diego from October 4 to 7, Jonathan Zatlin, a College of Arts and Sciences assistant professor of modern European history, was the commentator for the panel Recent Studies of the Economic History of the Third Reich, which discussed the role of economics in the Nazi regime. Three scholars presented papers arguing that the Nazi Party rose to power through economic policy rather than through anti-Semitic propaganda.

Zatlin believes that the reexamination of genocidal policies is a positive addition to historical scholarship, without concurring with the presentations. “There have been certain kinds of controversies from trying to understand genocide and World War II, and none have come from an economic standpoint,” he says. “It’s a controversy that spilled into the mainstream newspapers in Britain and Germany about how racist the war was and the extent to which Germany profited from the war.”

Zatlin presented a paper at the conference as well, part of the panel Jews on Trial: The Criminalization of Economic Activity in Germany, 1945–1951. His paper, Ignatz Bubis in Dresden: Jewish “Speculators” and Communist Courts, 1945–1951, focuses on Holocaust survivors in Soviet-occupied Germany after World War II.

Rebecca McNamara can be reached at ramc@bu.edu.