Peter Gay: To Deliver Klutznick Lecture

Historians in the News

American historian and writer Peter Gay -- who as a young boy watched in horror as the Nazis rounded up Jews, ransacked Jewish homes and shops and burned down synagogues on that fateful November evening in 1938 known as Crystal Night -- will deliver the 2007 Klutznick Lecture in Jewish Civilization Tuesday, April 17, at Northwestern University.

Born Peter Joachim Frohlich, the eminent cultural historian and prolific writer will speak at 7:30 p.m. at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive, on Northwestern's Evanston campus. His lecture, titled "Gunter Grass and My German Question -- Again," is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

Gay escaped Germany with his family in 1939 for Cuba before ultimately arriving in the United States two years later. Had his parents left Germany aboard the ocean liner SS St. Louis, as planned, he and they would likely have been sent back and killed as were many Jewish passengers when the United States rejected their visas.

Instead, Gay wound up teaching history at Yale University and, in 1990, was awarded the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters' Gold Medal for History. Its only prior recipients were George F. Kennan, Barbara Tuchman and Henry Steele Commager. He retired in 1993 as Yale's Sterling Professor of History Emeritus.

In his Northwestern lecture, Gay will discuss last year's self-revelation by Nobel Prize winning author Gunter Grass -- arguably Germany's greatest living writer -- that Grass had served in the Waffen SS. The SS started as Hitler's private police force and ultimately ran the death camps responsible for the murder of millions.

After Grass' admission, Gay wrote in the New York Times that the question raised was not why the drafted 17-year old served in the SS but why the esteemed writer for more than 60 years was silent about his involvement....
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