Gellately, Robert 1943-
Gellately, Robert 1943-
Born 1943, in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. Education: Memorial University of Newfoundland, B.A., B.Ed., M.A., Litt.D., 2006; London School of Economics and Political Science, Ph.D., 1974.
Office—Department of History, Florida State University, 401 Bellamy Bldg., P.O. Box 3062200, Tallahassee, FL 32306-2200. E-mail—[email protected]
Clark University, Worcester, MA, Strassler Professor in Holocaust History, 1998-2003; Florida State University, Tallahassee, Earl Ray Beck Professor of History, 2003—. Also taught at Cornell University and Huron College/University of Western Ontario, Canada. Oxford University, Bertelsmann Visiting Professor of Twentieth Century Jewish Politics and History, 2004-05.
Received grants from the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, senior fellowships from Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany, and other awards from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
The Politics of Economic Despair: Shopkeepers and German Politics, 1890-1914, Sage Publications (Beverly Hills, CA), 1974.
The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy, 1933-1945, Clarendon Press (Oxford, England), 1990.
(Editor, with Sheila Fitzpatrick) Accusatory Practices: Denunciation in Modern European History, 1789-1989, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1997.
Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2001.
(Editor, with Nathan Stoltzfus) Social Outsiders in Nazi Germany, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2001.
(Editor and author of introduction) Leon Goldensohn, The Nuremberg Interviews: An American Psychiatrist's Conversations with Defendants and Witnesses, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2004, new edition published as The Nuremberg Interviews: An American Psychiatrist's Conversations with the Defendants and Witnesses, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2007.
Historian Robert Gellately specializes in the study of genocide in Nazi Germany. In several volumes, including The Politics of Economic Despair: Shopkeepers and German Politics, 1890-1914, The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy, 1933-1945, and Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany, Gellately has chronicled the racial policies of Nazi Germany. He also studies genocides that took place in communist states in The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective and Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe.
Perhaps the most interesting—and the most disturbing—of Gellately's findings is that many of the people responsible for the mass killings of Jews and other internees were not (for the most part) motivated by adherence to Nazi racial values. The Gestapo and German Society concentrates on the province of Lower Franconia, part of the state of Bavaria in the southern part of the nation, looking at the surviving records kept by the Gestapo of the extermination of the Jewish population of the region. "Gestapo officials in the area could not have begun to enforce this policy in isolation; information from public figures and ordinary citizens was indispensable," stated Conan Fischer in the English Historical Review. "Professor Gellately observes that such denunciations were more often motivated by spite, personal animosity or even an atavistic sense of civic duty rather than by positive support for Nazi values."
One conclusion that can be drawn is that the German population was more responsible for the Holocaust than had previously been believed. In Backing Hitler, wrote Eric A. Johnson in H-Net Review, Gellately "has now provided us with a broad-ranging study of several of the most fundamental aspects of Nazi society, suggesting that ordinary Germans not only were prepared to turn on Jews, foreigners, and other persona non grata in Nazi Germany, but that they frequently turned on one another to the extent that the Gestapo in its everyday activity only needed to react to the information that the citizenry willingly provided it with. The Gestapo thus had no need of a spy network, which Gellately describes as ‘mythical.’" Even concentration camps, which many in the postwar world denied knowing about, Gellately shows, were common knowledge. "The existence, purpose, and—to a degree—regimen of these camps were not kept secret," declared Lawrence D. Stokes in the Canadian Journal of History. "By thoroughly searching the contemporary German press Gellately can show that information about the early concentration camps was widely disseminated. Further, the populace overwhelmingly acquiesced in this abrogation of personal liberty and welcomed the civic peace it seemed to ensure, although mention of the physical and psychological mistreatment many detainees experienced (including instances of plain murder) was carefully excluded from these reports." "His conclusions," declared Gilbert Taylor in Booklist, "dispel notions that ignorance and passivity characterized the German civilian's response to what state coercion was up to." Gellately's opus, opined Norman J.W. Goda in the Historian, remains an "essential work not only for students of the Third Reich, but also for those of all dictatorships. After all, the end of the Cold War made it clear that horribly unpopular regimes cannot last without either a preponderance of force or the support of the public. In the case of the Third Reich, equal measures of both were evident." Backing Hitler, wrote a Contemporary Review contributor, "will encourage the debate and increase our desire to understand fully the horrible things that happened to and in a civilised nation."
The Specter of Genocide examines the problem of mass murder in modern society. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the "Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide," with the avowed intention of preventing future mass murder on the scale of Nazi Germany. Although the Convention became part of international law in 1951, it was never really enforced until the war crimes trials surrounding the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and the ethnic violence in Rwanda at the same time. Part of the reason for this is that different countries define genocide in different ways, as do the scholars who contributed to The Specter of Genocide. "There is no consensus amongst the authors on these issues," declared Eric Langenbacher in his German Politics and Society review, "and opinions range from more stringent definitions (which might cover the Holocaust, Rwanda, and Bosnia) to the more permissive (which would include almost any case of state-sponsored deportation, ethnic cleansing, and mass murder, whether death was intended or not)." "This book," concluded John H. Barnhill in the Military Review, "is a starting point for those who wish to learn more about the complexities of the genocide debate."
In Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler, Gellately compares three of the great dictators of the twentieth century and suggests that they rank together as mass murderers. In fact, according to Philip H. Gordon in Foreign Affairs, "Gellately persuasively shows Lenin to be as willing as the other two dictators to employ any means necessary to achieve his political goals." Such an interpretation goes against received thinking. "I was taught at school that Lenin was decent, Stalin a mad butcher. This was Khrushchev's argument in 1956, and it became leftist orthodoxy," declared Simon Sebag Montefiore in the Washington Post. "We now know it's a lie." Gellately "places all three men in the context of a Europe shattered by the first world war," explained a reviewer writing for the Economist. "‘Before 1914 they were marginal figures,’ he writes, without ‘the slightest hope of entering political life.’ The whirlwind of destruction that started in 1914 turned their fantasies of racial purity and class dictatorship into reality, killing people on a scale unknown in human history." The book, concluded a Kirkus Reviews contributor, is "a solid contribution to the literature of World War II, totalitarianism and the bloody 20th century."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, April, 1992, review of The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy, 1933-1945, p. 575; February, 2003, review of Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany, p. 276.
Booklist, May 1, 2001, Gilbert Taylor, review of Backing Hitler, p. 1659; August, 2004, Jay Freeman, review of The Nuremberg Interviews: An American Psychiatrist's Conversations with the Defendants and Witnesses, p. 1879; August, 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe, p. 28.
Book World, August 12, 2007, "Killers with Ideologies: Was Lenin as Bad as Stalin and Hitler?," p. 6.
Canadian Journal of History, April, 1991, Lawrence D. Stokes, review of The Gestapo and German Society, p. 123; December, 2002, Lawrence D. Stokes, review of Backing Hitler, p. 565; April, 2004, Sean Kennedy, review of Social Outsiders in Nazi Germany, p. 160; April, 2005, Norman M. Naimark, review of The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective, p. 172.
Central European History, February, 1995, Peter Black, review of The Gestapo and German Society, p. 403.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, April, 2002, W. Smaldone, review of Backing Hitler, p. 1487; January, 2004, C.E. Welch, review of The Specter of Genocide, p. 953.
Contemporary Review, June, 2001, review of Backing Hitler, p. 379.
Economist, August 11, 2007, "Compare and Contrast; Communism and Nazism," p. 75.
English Historical Review, April, 1994, Conan Fischer, review of The Gestapo and German Society, p. 528; November, 2002, Jill Stephenson, review of Backing Hitler, p. 1382.
European History Quarterly, January, 1993, Geoff Stoakes, review of The Gestapo and German Society, p. 128; January, 2003, Lisa Pine, review of Backing Hitler, p. 137.
Foreign Affairs, November-December, 2007, Philip H. Gordon, review of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler.
German Politics and Society, fall, 2004, "Comprehending Trauma and Its Aftermath."
German Studies Review, February, 2003, Russel Lemmons, review of Social Outsiders in Nazi Germany, p. 195; October, 2004, Jamiel L. Wraight, review of The Specter of Genocide, p. 647.
Historian, spring, 2004, Norman J.W. Goda, review of Backing Hitler.
History: The Journal of the Historical Association, February, 1992, Peter D. Stachura, review of The Gestapo and German Society, p. 168.
History Today, December, 1990, W. Carr, review of The Gestapo and German Society, p. 51.
H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, January, 2005, Meredith Hindley, review of The Specter of Genocide.
International History Review, March, 2004, review of The Specter of Genocide, p. 89.
International Social Science Review, September 22, 2006, Harold M. Green, review of The Nuremberg Interviews, p. 178.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, summer, 2006, Joyce Freedman Apsel, review of The Specter of Genocide.
Journal of Modern History, December, 1993, Geoffrey J. Giles, review of The Gestapo and German Society, p. 905.
Journal of Peace Research, November, 2004, Ellen Stensrud, review of The Specter of Genocide, p. 757.
Journal of the History of Ideas, July, 1991, review of The Gestapo and German Society, p. 528.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2004, review of The Nuremberg Interviews, p. 671; June 1, 2007, review of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler,
Library Journal, July, 2003, Zachary T. Irwin, review of The Specter of Genocide, p. 104; July 2004, Frederic Krome, review of The Nuremberg Interviews, p. 97.
Military Review, May 1, 2004, John H. Barnhill, review of The Specter of Genocide, p. 77.
National Post, September 1, 2007, George Walden, review of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler, p. 12.
Newsweek, October 18, 2004, "Monsters on the Couch; A Psychiatrist's Interviews with the Nazi Defendants," p. 68.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette, August 12, 2007, Len Barcousky, "20th Century's Despots Left Few Victims Alive."
Political Quarterly, October 1, 2004, review of The Specter of Genocide.
Publishers Weekly, April 30, 2001, review of Backing Hitler, p. 68; April 21, 2003, review of The Specter of Genocide, p. 48; July 12, 2004, review of The Nuremberg Interviews, p. 52; May 28, 2007, review of Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler, p. 48.
Reference & Research Book News, May 2005, Leon Goldensohn, review of The Nuremberg Interviews, p. 209.
Shofar, spring, 2005, Glenn Sharfman, review of The Specter of Genocide.
Times Literary Supplement, March 8, 1991, review of The Gestapo and German Society, p. 20; October 5, 2001, Jeremy D. Noakes, review of Backing Hitler, p. 32.
Washington Post, August 12, 2007, Simon Sebag Montefiore, "Killers with Ideologies: Was Lenin as Bad as Stalin and Hitler?"
Department of History, Florida State University Web site,http://www.fsu.edu/ (February 26, 2008), "Robert Gellately."
Gazette,http://www.mun.ca/ (February 26, 2008), Shane O'Dea, "Oration Honouring Robert Gellately."
H-Net Review,http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/ (February 26, 2008), Eric A. Johnson, "Hitler's Willing Backers."
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