David Schoenbaum

David Schoenbaum

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David Schoenbaum is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 social scientist
Social Scientist
Social Scientist is a New Delhi based journal in social sciences and humanities published since 1972....

 and historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...


He was teaching as a professor of History at the University of Iowa
University of Iowa
The University of Iowa is a public state-supported research university located in Iowa City, Iowa, United States. It is the oldest public university in the state. The university is organized into eleven colleges granting undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees...

 until 2008. Schoenbaum received his BA at the University of Wisconsin–Madison
University of Wisconsin–Madison
The University of Wisconsin–Madison is a public research university located in Madison, Wisconsin, United States. Founded in 1848, UW–Madison is the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin System. It became a land-grant institution in 1866...

. In 1965, he was awarded a D.Phil at Oxford University
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...


Schoenbaum is best known for his 1966 social history
Social history
Social history, often called the new social history, is a branch of History that includes history of ordinary people and their strategies of coping with life. In its "golden age" it was a major growth field in the 1960s and 1970s among scholars, and still is well represented in history departments...

 book, Hitler’s Social Revolution, where Schoenbaum challenged the then prevailing notion that the National Socialist regime
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 was a backwards looking, reactionary anti-modernizing dictatorship, and instead argued that, in effect at least, the Nazi regime was a modernizing dictatorship. Schoenbaum argued that the Nazi revolution was a "double revolution...of means and ends". In order to accomplish its foreign policy goals, namely war, the Nazi regime was forced to encourage modernization
In the social sciences, modernization or modernisation refers to a model of an evolutionary transition from a 'pre-modern' or 'traditional' to a 'modern' society. The teleology of modernization is described in social evolutionism theories, existing as a template that has been generally followed by...

 and industrialization, despite the anti-modernist nature of Nazi ideology. Schoenbaum wrote that "The revolution of ends was ideological—war against bourgeois and industrial society. The revolution of means was its reciprocal. It was bourgeois and industrial since in a industrial age, even a war against industrial society must be fought with industrial means and bourgeois are necessary to fight the bourgeoise".

In Schoenbaum's view, there were two sorts of social realities, namely "objective" and "interpreted social reality". By "objective social reality", Schoenbaum argued the Nazi regime had achieved greater degree of industrialization and urbanization, while by "interpreted social reality", the Nazi regime was able to break down the traditional lines of class, religion and regional loyalties to achieve an unparalleled degree of unity amongst the German people. In particular, Schoenbaum argued that the Nazi regime was able to destroy the traditional class barriers that had divided German society, and for most Germans, the increased social mobility offered by the Nazi regime was sufficient compensation for the destruction of democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

. Schoenbaum's book proved to be highly influential, and set off an important debate about both the intentions and the effects of Nazi social policies, and the nature of social change during the Nazi period. Some historians such as Ian Kershaw
Ian Kershaw
Sir Ian Kershaw is a British historian of 20th-century Germany whose work has chiefly focused on the period of the Third Reich...

 have criticized Schoenbaum's work for placing too much reliance on what Kershaw considers to be subjective and impressionistic evidence.

Schoenbaum has written books about other aspects of modern German history. In 1968, Schoenbaum published a book about the Spiegel Affair
Spiegel scandal
The Spiegel Affair of 1962 was one of the major political scandals in Germany in the era following World War II.The scandal involved a conflict between Franz Josef Strauss, then Federal Minister of Defense, and Rudolf Augstein, owner and editor-in-chief of Der Spiegel magazine, Germany's leading...

 scandal of 1962, in which he sought to set the affair into the context of the history of the Federal Republic and the wider context of German history. His 1982 book Zabern 1913 concerned the political fall-out from the Saverne Affair
Saverne Affair
The Saverne Affair was a crisis of domestic policy which occurred in the German Empire at the end of 1913. It was caused by political unrest in Saverne in Alsace, where two battalions of Prussian Infantry Regiment 99 were garrisoned, after a second lieutenant insulted the Alsatian population...

 in 1913. Schoenbaum argued that the affair revealed different aspects of the Second Reich, and argued that the Zabern Affair was the exception that proved that the rule that the Second Reich was no more or less liberal or illiberal then other Western nations. In 1996, Schoenbaum wrote a highly critical book review in the National Review
National Review
National Review is a biweekly magazine founded by the late author William F. Buckley, Jr., in 1955 and based in New York City. It describes itself as "America's most widely read and influential magazine and web site for conservative news, commentary, and opinion."Although the print version of the...

 of Daniel Goldhagen
Daniel Goldhagen
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen is an American author and former Associate Professor of Political Science and Social Studies at Harvard University. Goldhagen reached international attention and broad criticism as the author of two controversial books about the Holocaust, Hitler's Willing Executioners and...

's bestseller Hitler's Willing Executioners
Hitler's Willing Executioners
Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust is a book by American writer Daniel Goldhagen that argues that the vast majority of ordinary Germans were as the title indicates "willing executioners" in the Holocaust because of a unique and virulent "eliminationist antisemitism"...

 where he charged Goldhagen with grossly simplifying the question of the degree and virulence of German Antisemitism, and of only selecting evidence that supported his thesis. Furthermore, Schoenbaum complained that Goldhagen did not take a comparative approach with Germany placed in isolation, thereby falsely implying that Germans and Germans alone were the only nation that saw widespread anti-semitism. Finally, Schoenbaum argued that Goldhagen failed to explain why the anti-Jewish boycott of April 1, 1933 was relatively ineffective or why the Kristallnacht
Kristallnacht, also referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, and also Reichskristallnacht, Pogromnacht, and Novemberpogrome, was a pogrom or series of attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on 9–10 November 1938.Jewish homes were ransacked, as were shops, towns and...

 needed to be organized by the Nazis as opposed to being a spontaneous expression of German popular anti-semitism. Using an example from his family history, Schoenbaum wrote that his mother-in-law, a Polish Jew who lived in Germany between 1928–1947, never considered the National Socialists and the Germans synonymous, and expressed regret that Goldhagen could not see the same.

One of Schoenbaum's few works outside of German history is The United States And The State of Israel, a diplomatic history
Diplomatic history
Diplomatic history deals with the history of international relations between states. Diplomatic history can be different from international relations in that the former can concern itself with the foreign policy of one state while the latter deals with relations between two or more states...

 of relations between Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 from 1948 to 1993.


  • with Elizabeth Pond, The German Question and Other German Questions, New York: St. Martin's Press, Oxford: In association with St. Antony's College, 1996, ISBN 0312160488.
  • "Ordinary People?" pages 54–56 from National Review, Volume XLVIII, Issue #12, July 1, 1996.
  • The United States And The State of Israel, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, ISBN 0195045777.
  • Review of The German Gymnasium, 1780-1980 by Margret Kraul pages 132-133 from The American Historical Review, Volume 91, no. 1 February 1986.
  • "Review: The Wehrmacht and GI Joe: Learning What from History?: A Review Essay", Review of Fighting Power: German and U.S. Army Performance, 1939-1945 by Martin van Creveld
    Martin van Creveld
    Martin Levi van Creveld is an Israeli military historian and theorist.Van Creveld was born in the Netherlands in the city of Rotterdam, and has lived in Israel since shortly after his birth. He holds degrees from the London School of Economics and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he has...

     pages 201-207 from International Security, Volume 8, Issue #1, Summer, 1983.
  • Zabern 1913: Consensus Politics in Imperial Germany, London: George Allen & Unwin, 1982, ISBN 0049430254.
  • Reply to John J. Mearsheimer, "Clausewitz and the British Generals," pages 223-229 from International Security, Volume 6, no. 3 Winter, 1981-1982.
  • "Dateline Bonn: Uneasy Super Ally" pages 176-191 from Foreign Policy, no. 37, Winter, 1979-1980.
  • Review of Hitler aus nächster Nähe: Aufzeichnungen eines Vertrauten, 1929-1932 by Henry Ashby Turner
    Henry Ashby Turner
    Henry Ashby Turner, Jr. was an American historian of Germany who was a professor at Yale University for over forty years...

    page 1082 from The American Historical Review, Volume 84, no. 4, October 1979.
  • "Passing the Buck(s)" pages 14–20 from Foreign Policy, no. 34 Spring, 1979.
  • "... Or Lucky? " Pages 171-181 from Foreign Policy, no. 10, Spring 1973.
  • Review of The Nazi Persecution of the Churches, 1933-45 by JS Conway pages 458-461 from The Journal of Modern History, Volume 42, no. 3, September 1970.
  • Review of labor service in Germany, plans and forms to achieve the introduction of compulsory labor service in 1935 by Henning Köhler & Wolfram Fischer pages 113-114 from The Journal of Modern History, Volume 42, Issue #1, March 1970.
  • "Elections in West Germany" pages 265-271 from Polity, Volume 3, no. 2, Winter, 1970.
  • Review of Revolutionary Hamburg: Labor Politics in the Early Weimar Republic by Richard A. Comfort pages 637-638 from The Journal of Modern History, Volume 41, Issue #4, December 1969.
  • Review of The Outlawed Party: Social Democracy in Germany, 1878-1890 by Vernon L. Lidtke pages 702-704 from The Journal of Economic History, Volume 28, Issue # 4, December 1968.
  • The Spiegel Affair, Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1968.
  • Hitler's Social Revolution: Class and Status in Nazi Germany, 1933-1939, Garden City, NY Doubleday, 1966.

External links