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

—for Bronislaw Geremek Since the unread Hegel is popular these days, I use his terminology to say that the “world spirit” has once again found a temporary home in Europe—or, to put it more prosaically, Europe is in the throes of a world-historical upheaval. During the last three months …

Remembering the Uprising

center 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.