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Times reviews two Northwestern history books in same issue

Peter Hayes dispels myths about holocaust, Robert Lerner’s book on medieval scholar

Riffling through The New York Times on a recent Sunday in January was a particularly good experience for Northwestern colleagues. Two new books by Northwestern historians, Peter Hayes (on the holocaust) and Robert Lerner (on medieval history), received acclaim in the same issue of The New York Times Book Review.

“Why? Explaining the Holocaust” (W.W. Norton & Company, 2017), by Hayes, the Theodore Zev Weiss Holocaust Educational Foundation Professor of Holocaust Studies Emeritus, offers “a bold new exploration” that dispels many misconceptions and answers some of the most basic -- yet vexing -- questions that remain about one of the darkest and most unimaginable chapters in history.

In “Ernst Kantorowicz: A Life” (Princeton University Press, 2017) medieval historian Robert E. Lerner, Peter B. Ritzma Professor in the Humanities Emeritus at Northwestern, “presents a richly illuminating study of the German-Jewish scholar he calls ‘perhaps the most influential medieval historian of all time,’” wrote Times reviewer George Prochnik.

More from review of Peter Hayes “Why? Explaining the Holocaust”

 “With his judicious, thoughtful and balanced answers to difficult and often inflammatory questions, Hayes has provided an intellectually searching and wide-ranging study of the Holocaust in a modest, didactic form,” wrote Times reviewer Nicholas Stargardt.

“He provides just enough thumbnail narrative to frame his very thoughtful answers for a lay audience, as each chapter of the book addresses a particular question — Why the Jews? Why murder? Why didn’t more Jews fight back more often?”

From review of Robert Lerner’s “Ernst Kantorowicz: A Life”

Lerner’s new book is the first complete biography of Kantorowicz (1895–1963), “an influential and controversial German-American intellectual whose colorful and dramatic life intersected with many of the great events and thinkers of his time.” He is most famous for two books -- the 1927 biography of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II and “The King’s Two Bodies” (1957), a classic study of medieval politics.

Lerner “offers a timely meditation on the vicissitudes of abstract, purist ideals under the pressure of savage real-world events,” wrote Prochnik. “Sometimes the loftiest convictions prove the most politically fungible.”

Both book reviews were published in the Times’ Sunday Book Review on Jan. 8. In addition, the Chicago Tribune ran a profile of Hayes this week with information on his book signing Jan. 23

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