UVA history professor explores origins of Nazi animus toward Jews

Historians in the News
tags: Jews, Nazi



UVA professor Alon Confino is intrigued with the stories Nazis told themselves to justify mass extermination.

“We all tell stories about our past,” said Confino, a native of Jerusalem and a history professor at the University of Virginia and at Ben Gurion University in Israel. “These stories are usually a combination of facts, embellishments, repressions and lies – not what really happened. We need stories to affirm our identities. We tell these stories not in order to get the facts right, but in order to understand our world.”

Confino’s latest book, “A World Without Jews: The Nazi Imagination from Persecution to Genocide,” published this fall by Yale University Press, traces how the Nazis imagined the Jews as a symbol of historical time that had to be erased for Aryan civilization to arise. According to this story, the Nazis constructed a new German, European and Christian history that owed nothing to the Jews.

He said that societies tell their stories to give meaning to their world, as a way of shaping their present.

“Societies tell different stories that change from generation to generation,” he said. “How the United States looked at the issue of slavery in the 1930s is different from how it looks at it now.”

The Nazis devised a narrative to justify evil...




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