Fritz Stern is University Professor Emeritus and the former provost of Columbia University, with which he has been associated since the 1940s. His many books include The Politics of Cultural Despair (1963), Gold and Iron: Bismarck, Bleichroder, and the Building of the German Empire (1977), Einstein’s German World (1999), and Five Germanys I Have Known (2006). And he is the author most recently of No Ordinary Men: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi, Resisters Against Hitler in Church and State with Elisabeth Sifton.

How We Got to Where We Are

‘Twelfth-Night Cake for Kings and Emperors’; French lithograph, 1898
In 1903, in his Maxims for Revolutionists, George Bernard Shaw wrote, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” In his stunning book on the history of the nineteenth century, …

The Tragedy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi

Dietrich Bonhoeffer with his twin sister Sabine in London, just after his return from America and before his final return to Germany, July 1939
Hitler had no greater, more courageous, and more admirable enemies than Hans von Dohnanyi and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Both men and those closest to them deserve to be remembered and honored. Dohnanyi summed up their work and spirit with apt simplicity when he said that they were “on the path that a decent person inevitably takes.” So few traveled that path—anywhere.

The Common House of Europe

I would maintain that great historic upheavals are the result of conjunctions, when several and seemingly self-contained processes emerge, distort, and reinforce one another; and these processes—what modern historians often call the great anonymous forces of history—usually find representative figures or leaders. All of this is happening in Europe today, destroying old orthodoxies, old certainties, and leaving Europe with new hopes, new visions, and the sense that the future is blessedly, dangerously, open.

Remembering the Uprising

INTRODUCTION Timothy Garton Ash On this year’s anniversary of the June 17, 1953, uprising in East Germany, Fritz Stern, the Seth Low Professor of History at Columbia University, delivered the speech published here to a ceremonial session of the Bundestag in Bonn. The speech is remarkable for several reasons. First, …

Fink Shrinks

Pathology afflicts every society, and in the first half of this century, Germans excelled in exemplifying it. They have also excelled in producing thinkers and scholars who analyzed this pathology. Twice in the era of the Great Wars, Germans, driven by dreams and terrified by reality, sought power and redemption.