Historian to advise Nuremberg on what to do with Nazi terrain

March 04, 2001

Chapel Hill -- Dr. Gerhard L. Weinberg, William Rand Kenan Jr. professor of history emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will receive an honorary doctor of philosophy degree March 15 from the University of Hanover in Germany.

Then he will help another famous German city deal with a problem that dates back to the Nazi era. As the sole U.S. representative on an international committee formed by the city of Nuremberg, Weinberg will offer advice on what to do with more than 200 acres of land the Nazis used to stage massive party rallies in the 1930s. The site was made famous in the Nazi propaganda film "Triumph of the Will" and has been largely untouched since the war ended except for a museum built there. "Nuremberg established an international competition in December to come up with ideas about what to do with this terrain," Weinberg said. "Our committee will meet March 19 and again at the end of July to examine the entries and come up with recommendations."

The city wants to put the land to good use while avoiding negative publicity that might arise if the international community objects to the plans, the historian said. Among Nazi structures still standing there is a massive reviewing stand with a great hall beneath it. Another, which Weinberg said eventually would have made the Roman Coliseum "look like a shack," was the unfinished Congress Hall. Between them is a vast parade ground.

"It's a bit of a hot potato issue," he said.

Weinberg chairs the U.S. Army's history advisory committee and a group established by Congress and former President Clinton to review and oversee release of U.S. records on Nazi war crimes. He was born in Hanover in 1928. Because his family was Jewish, they fled Germany for England just before World War II in 1938.

The retired UNC professor will present several lectures while in Germany, including a public talk in Hanover and a talk at the German-American Institute in Nuremberg on past efforts to reunify Germany. Weinberg will receive the honorary doctorate for writing "The Foreign Policy of Hitler's Germany," "A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II" and other works and for his other World War II-related activities. He received prizes from both the American Historical Association and the German Studies Association for the former. The Society for Military History presented its 1995 Distinguished Book Award to him for the global history, which both the Book-of-the-Month Club and the History Book Club offered members.

After spending the first year of the war in England, Weinberg emigrated to this country and later served in the U.S. Army occupying Japan. He worked on Columbia University's War Documentation Project from 1951 to 1954 and directed the American Historical Association's project for microfilming captured German documents from 1956 to 1957.

He also found and edited Adolph Hitler's second book, and as a special consultant to Newsweek, urged caution when the magazine was considering buying rights to the dictator's diaries, which later turned out to be forgeries.

Between 1996 and 1998, Weinberg served as president of the German Studies Association, and in 1999, the German government honored him for improving relations between Germany and the United States.
Note: Between March 5 and March 12, Weinberg can be reached at home at 919-563-4224.

Contact: David Williamson, 962-8596.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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