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Frank Biess

I am historian of Modern Europe with an emphasis on 20th Century Germany. I started my academic training at the Universities of Marburg and Tübingen in Germany. I came to the US in 1991, first as an exchange student at Washington University in St.Louis, then as a graduate student at Brown University, where I earned my Ph.D. in 2000. Most of my research thus far has focused on the post-1945 period. My first book Homecoming. Returning POWs and the Legacies of Defeat in Postwar Germany (Princeton, 2006) explored the ways in which both German societies coped with the ongoing legacies of war and defeat. By focusing on the prolonged return of German POWs to East and West Germany, the book highlights the nature of East and West German societies as distinct postwar societies, which shared many important characteristics that were located beneath the ideological antagonisms of the Cold War. I then became interested in the history of emotions, and my current project focuses on the history of fear and anxiety in postwar West Germany. By analyzing recurring cycles of political fears (broadly conceived) in West Germany, the book aims at a new narrative of the postwar period that takes seriously contemporary Germans’ sense of insecurity and fear. In so doing, the book also seeks to relate the history of postwar democratization to the history of fear. I am also interested in the history of German colonialism, and I am currently in the process of developing a new project that analyzes the Weimar Republic as a post-colonial state.


  • German Angst? Fear and Democracy in the Federal Republic Germany (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2020)
  • Die Republik der Angst. Eine andere Geschichte der Bundesrepublik (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 2019), Second Edition March 2019; Special Edition Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, May 2019.
  • Explorations and Entanglements. Germans in Pacific Worlds from the Early Modern Period to the World War I. Ed.with Hartmut Berghoff and Ulrike Strasser (New York: Berghahn Books, 2018).
  • Science and Emotions after 1945. A Transatlantic Perspective. Ed. with Daniel Gross, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014)
  • Histories of the Aftermath: The Legacies of the Second World War in Europe. Ed. with Robert Moeller (New York: Berghahn Books, 2010)
  • Conflict, Continuity, and Catastrophe in Modern Germany. Ed. with Hanna Schissler and Mark Roseman (New York: Berghahn Books, 2007)
  • Homecomings. Returning POWs and the Legacies of Defeat in Postwar Germany (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006).

Articles and Chapters:

  • Introduction: Why Do We Need New Narratives for the History of the Federal Republic?” (with Astrid Eckert) Central European History 52/1 (2019): 1-18.
  • Introduction: Pacific Histories, German Histories” (with Ulrike Strasser and Hartmut Berghoff) in Germans in the Pacific Worlds. From the Early Modern Period to the First World War. Ed.with Hartmut Berghoff and Ulrike Strasser (New York: Berghahn Books, 2018), 1-32.
  • “Two Wars in One? World War I and the History of 20th Century Violence” in Kai Evers and David Pan, eds., World War I and the Crisis of Universalism (Candor, NY: Telos, 2018), 272-93.
  • “Gendering the Memories of World War II and the Holocaust in Europe and in the United States,” in Karen Hagemann et al, eds., Oxford Handbook. Gender, War, and the Western World since 1650 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, in press).
  • Introduction: “Science and Emotions after 1945 – A Transatlantic Perspective.,” co-authored with Daniel Gross, in Frank Biess and Daniel Gross, eds, Science and Emotions after 1945. A Transatlantic Perspective (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014)
  • “The Concept of Panic in Postwar Germany: Military Psychiatry and Emotional Preparation for Nuclear War in the West German Army,” in Frank Biess and Daniel Gross, eds, Science and Emotions after 1945. A Transatlantic Perspective (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014)
  • “Moral Panic in Postwar Germany: The Abduction of Young Germans into the Foreign Legion and French Colonialism in the 1950s,” Journal of Modern History 84 (2012): 789-832.
  • “Thinking after Hitler: The New Intellectual History of the Federal Republic of Germany,” History and Theory 51/2 (2012): 212-45.
  • "Feelings in the Aftermath: Toward a History of Postwar Emotions" in Biess and Moeller, ed., Histories of the Aftermath. The Legacies of the Second World War in Europe (New York: Berghahn Books, 2010), 30-48.
  • "'Everybody Has a Chance'." Civil Defense . Nuclear Angst , and the History of Emotions in Postwar Germany" in German History 27/2 (2009), 215-43.
  • "Die Sensibilisierung des Subjekts: Angst und "neue Subjektivität" in den 1970er Jahren,” in Werkstatt Geschichte 49 (2008): 51-72.
  • "Men of Reconstruction, the Reconstruction of Men. Returning POWs in East and West Germany," in Home/Front. The Military, War, and Gender in Twentieth Century Germany. Eds. Karen Hagemann and Stephanie Schüler-Springorum (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2002), 335-58.
  • "Survivors of Totalitarianism: Returning POWs and the Reconstruction of Masculine Citizenship in West Germany, 1945-1955," in The Miracle Years Revisited. A Cultural History of West Germany. Ed. Hanna Schissler (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 57-82.
  • "'Pioneers of a New Germany'. Returning POWs from the Soviet Union and the Making of East German Citizens, 1945-1950," in Central European History 32 (1999): 143-180.
  • "Vom Opfer zum Überlebenden des Totalitarismus: Westdeutsche Reaktionen auf die Rückkehr der Kriegsgefangenen aus der Sowjetunion, 1945-1955," in Kriegsgefangenschaft im Zweiten Weltkrieg. Eine vergleichende Perspektive. Eds. Günter Bischof and Rüdiger Overmans (Ternitz-Pottschach: Verlag Gerhard Höller, 1998), 365-389.

Lower Division:

  • MMW 15: The Making of the Modern World: The 20th Century and Beyond

Upper Division:

  • HIEU 154: Modern Germany: From Unification to Nazism
  • HIEU 119: Modern Italy: From the Risorgimento to the Present
  • HIEU 128: Europe since 1945
  • HITO 133: World War II/War and Society
  • HITO 140: History of Emotions

Freshmen Seminars:

  • The Americanization of Europe
  • Critics of Communism: Reading Eastern European Dissidents
  • The German Resistance against Hitler

Undergraduate Seminars:

  • Germany before Hitler: The Weimar Republic
  • Democracy and Dictatorship in 20th Century Germany
  • History and Memory
  • Nazi Germany
  • Nazi Europe: Occupation, Collaboration, and Resistance
  • The Two Germanies since 1945

Graduate Seminars:

  • HIGR 200: History and Theory
  • HIGR 222: The Literature of European History, 1850-present
  • HIGR 224: Readings in Modern German History: 19th/20th Century
  • HIGR 231: Research Seminar in Modern European History