Boaz Neumann, Noted Historian and Author, Dies at 43

The late historian wrote several books on modern Germany, including the award-winning 'Nazi Weltanschauung - Space, Body, Language.'

Avner Shapira
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Boaz NeumannCredit: Ilya Melinkov
Avner Shapira

Historian Boaz Neumann died on Saturday at the age of 43, after a lengthy battle with cancer. Neumann was a historian at Tel Aviv University, whose main focus of interest was modern Germany. He will be buried at his kibbutz of Shfayim at 6:00 P.M. on Sunday.

Neumann was born in 1971 and served as a tank commander between 1989 and 1992. He wrote his first book, an autobiography entitled "Good Soldier," dased on his experiences in Lebanon and during the first intifada.

His Ph.D. thesis, called “National Socialist Weltanschauung - Space, Body, Language," described Nazism as a worldview which established two separate worlds, one for Aryan Germans and another for Jews. Each of these was expressed as a space with its unique structure and language. The thesis was later converted into a prize-winning book.

In 2007, he published two more books on Nazism and the Weimar Republic. He posited a new approach to German history, avoiding the prevailing claim by which the roots of Nazism were to be found in the Weimar regime. His book focused on popular culture and the daily lives of Germans at that time, dealing with topics such as advertising, propaganda, psychoanalysis, radio, films, fashion, cosmetics, popular sports and the rise of "white collar" classes.

“I don’t judge them or give out marks when I write about them,” he told me in an interview in 2007. “I don’t accuse and certainly don’t forgive - I don’t try to diagnose them or determine if they were ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’, good or evil. I try to understand the values, concepts and language of the period in order to try and reconstruct the world as they perceived it.”

Another exceptional book he published was 2009's “Pioneering and Desire in Early Zionism,” which he labeled an existential history of Zionism. In the book, ge described the early pioneering passion as the driving force of Zionism.

His last book came out last year, dealing again with Germany on the cusp of the 20th century. In this book he claimed that the centrality of time in history had been ignored by historians. His thinking, based on the writings of philosophers Martin Heidegger and Walter Benjamin, led him to write about daily lives of Germans from the Second Reich to the Weimar Republic. In an interview to Haaretz he tried to link his writings to his battle with cancer, in which a catastrophe leads to a collapse and a stoppage of time.