Gordon A. Craig (1913–2005) was a Scottish-American historian of Germany. He taught at both Princeton and Stanford, where he was named the J.E. Wallace Sterling Professor of Humanities in 1979.

The Goblin at War

In June 1940, after Germany’s defeat of France, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, chief of the Wehrmacht Supreme Command, referred to Adolf Hitler as the Grösster Feldherr aller Zeiten (Greatest Warlord of All Times). When the fortunes of war began to wane, Hitler’s generals transformed this into the shorter Gröfaz, a …

Talking All the Way

Of the four leaders who dominated international politics during the Second World War, Winston Churchill had the greatest amount of military experience. Adolf Hitler was a common soldier and an intrepid dispatch carrier during the First World War. Franklin Roosevelt served briefly as assistant secretary of the Navy after the …

The Magic Circle

In June 1849, in the last days of the revolutionary German National Assembly, the vice-president, Gabriel Riesser, one of its seven Jewish members, addressed the body during a debate on civil rights. Speaking of the inequality from which he and his fellows suffered, he brought thunderous applause from his audience …

Hitler’s Pal

Until the Nuremberg trial of the major war criminals, the name Albert Speer had made little impression on the Western world compared with those of other Nazis like Hermann Goering, Joseph Goebbels, and Heinrich Himmler. The revelations during the trial of the extent of his powers as minister of armaments …

Whose War Is It?

After the Gulf War was over, President George H.W. Bush, who had presided over it, wrote with some satisfaction: [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] Colin Powell, ever the professional, wisely wanted to be sure that if we had to fight, we would do it right and not take …

Great Scots!

The Scottish Enlightenment had two centers, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Unlike London and Paris, the only cities that could compete with it as an intellectual capital, Edinburgh’s cultural life was not dominated by state or aristocracy, but by its intellectuals and men of letters. It was a remarkably democratic society, in which there were no intellectual taboos and virtually all ideas could be debated freely. Herman writes that it was “like a gigantic think tank or artists colony, except that unlike most modern think tanks, it was not cut off from everyday life.”

‘A Very Strange Machine’

In November 1917, at Cambrai, three hundred British tanks broke through the supposedly impregnable Hindenburg trench system on a front of seven miles and, for a loss of four thousand men, captured eight thousand terrified German prisoners. It was a penetration equal to that which had taken three months and …

Racing with the Moon

In his time, the name of Dr. Hugo Eckener was as well known in the history of aviation as that of Charles Lindbergh. If this is no longer true, it is because the instrument of his fame, the Zeppelin, has disappeared from the skies and from the commercial and military …

Founding Father

In the fall of 1944, in the wake of the bomb plot against Hitler, Konrad Adenauer was arrested by the Gestapo on the mistaken assumption that he had been an accomplice and was taken to a prison at Brauweiler. After he had been deprived of his braces, shoe laces, necktie, …

Keeping Germany Fat

If it can be said that Germany was a world power before it began to act like one, this was largely because of its banks. In the remarkable extension of German interests around the globe in the nineteenth century the chief agents were the great banking institutions, particularly the so-called …

The X-Files

In 1938, at a time when there was much discussion about opening American frontiers to refugees from Nazi Germany, General George Van Horne Moseley gave a speech before a meeting of medical reservists at Tulane University in which he expressed the opinion that America should take no risk of having …

Fate & the Führer

In 1950, appalled by the flood of books and articles about National Socialism that was pouring from the printing presses, a German journalist wrote, “He has played a trick on us. This Hitler, I think he’ll remain with us until the end of our lives.” Fifty years later, the situation …

Not Wholly Holy

Between May and October of the current year, half a million people will have traveled to the village of Oberammergau in the Bavarian Alps to attend performances of the best known of the world’s surviving Passion plays. Now in its fortieth season, the play originated during the Thirty Years’ War …

Mission Possible

In small towns across America, in the months following the end of the Second World War, you were apt to discover, if you went into a saloon on a Saturday morning, a row of neatly dressed young men sitting at the bar, each with a shot of whiskey and a …

The End of the Golden Age

The last four years of the reign of William II of Germany—that is, those that stretched from the outbreak of the First World War until the Emperor’s abdication—were of such tragic weight and consequence that they have tended to obscure the twenty-six years that preceded them. As a result, when …

The War Against War

The military history of the first half of the nineteenth century was marked by a curious discrepancy between the heightened destructiveness of warfare and the lack of attention paid to means of controlling its human costs. As armies adopted infantry weapons like the breech-loading Dreyse needle gun and the French …

‘Working Toward the Führer’

In the introduction to his book about the popular appeal of National Socialism, Peter Fritzsche tells how in 1930, in a café in Munich, the photographer Heinrich Hoffmann showed Adolf Hitler the pictures he had taken of the excited crowd that had assembled before the Feldherrnhalle on the first day …

Destiny in Any Case

One of the most remarkable studies of National Socialism in the early postwar years was a small volume entitled LTI (Lingua tertii imperii), which appeared in 1947. Written by a professor of the Technical University of Dresden named Victor Klemperer, it was a brilliantly conceived philological analysis that sought to …

The Good, the Bad & the Bourgeois

In the first half of the nineteenth century, the curriculum of Rugby School in England was dominated, as was true of other public schools, by instruction in Greek and Latin. In addition, however, all students from the first to the sixth grade read history, both ancient and modern, which was …

How to Think About the Swiss

In the modern history of Switzerland, the heroic days were those of 1847 and 1848. It was then that the Swiss liberals founded a new nation by defeating an attempted secession of the Catholic cantons in a short but crucial conflict, the Sonderbundskrieg, and then by providing the restored union …

The Other Mann

After the end of World War II, Thomas Mann wrote of his brother Heinrich, On his way home with his niece Erika, my oldest daughter, he once said, “Politically, I really do get along quite well with your father now. He is just a little more radical than I.” It …

Man of the People?

We are now approaching the end of another century, an event that always arouses the liveliest excitement among inhabitants of the Western world, to whom it seems important as a way station in their passage through time, a significant pause convenient for assessing the past and projecting the future, an …

Among the Missing

Spoliation has been the concomitant of war since earliest times. It was standard practice long before Mighty Caesar, thund’ring from afar, Seeks on Euphrates Banks the Spoils of War or Napoleon Bonaparte paraded the horses of San Marco on the Champs de Mars in Paris in 1798.[^1] It …

Becoming Hitler

We are understandably reluctant to attribute world-shaking events to trivial causes. In our historical explanations we are biased in favor of great impersonal forces and long-term trends and dominant political and cultural developments, and are uneasy with the contingent, the unexpected, and the accidental. Thus, in trying to understand Adolf …

Prophets

In March 1841, commenting on his acquaintance with the Paris banker James Rothschild, Heinrich Heine wrote that he liked to visit him in the office of his countinghouse, because it afforded the best view of the exaggerated forms of respect that his person elicited from his visitors, “a wriggling and …

The Drama of Gottfried Semper

Since the onset of modernism, there has been a tendency to depreciate the art of the previous age, Hermann Muthesius in 1902 going so far as to dismiss the whole of the nineteenth century as “the inartistic century.” Nineteenth-century architecture in particular has been the object of criticism, and it …