A Lecture by Prof. Jeffrey Herf, University of Maryland

At War with Israel: East Germany and the West German Radical Left, 1967-1989

June 8, 2015 - a lecture by Jeffrey Herf at the Wiener Library at 16:30


At War with Israel: East Germany and the West German Radical Left, 1967-1989

The lecture is a history of the antagonism to Israel from the late 1960s to the end of the Cold War in 1989-90. The East German government declared itself a “peace state” (Friedenstaat) and never formally declared war on Israel. Nevertheless its passionate public engagement for the Arab states and the Palestine Liberation Organization went far beyond the minimum required of members in the Warsaw Pact. Within those narrow limits, East Germany became an eager and enthusiastic, not reluctant collaborator. It combined the famous public denunciations of Israel with secret programs of military training and weapons deliveries both to the Arab states at war with Israel and to the various member organizations of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The West German leftist terror organizations, such as the Red Army Fraction and the Revolutionary Cells, freed of the responsibility of governing dispensed with any pretenses to be advocates of peace. They proudly declared their willingness to participate in the “armed struggle” against Israel. Though they had less impact on the Israeli-Arab-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East, in Entebbe and elsewhere, they backed up radical rhetoric and violent actions.


 Research in the public documents and in the archives has produced further evidence that the second German dictatorship of the twentieth century and the West German leftist terrorist organizations were at war with Israel. To be sure, their destructive intent was not genocidal but if successful, their policies would have produced massive death and suffering for the people of Israel. The work of historians in various archives has made it possible to document the policies which the East German parliamentarians rightly rejected in 1990.



Prof. Jeffrey Herf studies the intersection of ideas and politics in modern European history, specializing in twentieth century Germany. He has published extensively on Germany during the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, and on West and East Germany during the Cold War. His research interests now focus on the Nazi period and German and European history in post World War II decades up to the collapse of Communism and the end of the Cold War in 1989.

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