Thomas Pegelow Kaplan


Ph.D., M.A. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
B.A. Eberhard Karls University Tübingen


My research focuses on histories of violence, language, and culture of Nazi Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe and the 1960s global youth revolts. My broader project is a linguistic history of comparative genocide in the modern world. I'm the author of The Language of Nazi Genocide: Linguistic Violence and the Struggle of Germans of Jewish Ancestry (Cambridge University Press), which explores how words preceded, accompanied, and made mass murder possible. This study explains how Nazi perpetrators constructed difference, race, and their perceived enemies; how state and Party agencies communicated to the public through the nation's press; and how Germans of Jewish ancestry received, contested, and struggled for survival and self against remarkable odds.

I am currently completing my second book on the interactions between leftist protest movements in West Germany and the United States from the 1950s until the early 1980s, their changing imageries of past and current mass crimes, and their impact on national and transnational memory cultures.

In addition, I am working on a study of trans-European Jewish petitioning practices during the Holocaust. Throughout German-controlled Europe, tens of thousands of Jewish community officials, ordinary members, Jewish converts to Christianity, and other men and women of partial Jewish heritage submitted entreaties to redress grievances and request support, for example, for an exemption from pending deportations. They approached ministerial bureaucracies in the capitals, regional administrative agencies, heads of state, leaders of ruling fascist parties, and even the Christian Churches. My work demonstrates how Jewish communities and families established widespread transnational networks that critically informed their petitions and played a crucial role in the petitioners' struggle for survival.

In recent years, I've been a visiting faculty member in the Department of Philosophy at De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines, and a visiting research fellow at the Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture at Leipzig University, the German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C., the Centre for Contemporary History (ZZF) in Potsdam, Germany, and the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.

As an ardent supporter of transatlantic scholarly exchanges, I have been active in a number of American and German professional organizations and networks. Currently, I am co-organizing the Seventh Annual Southeast German Studies Consortium Workshop that will bring together American and German Germanists in Davidson and Charlotte in March 2014. At Davidson College, I also take students – mostly in connection with my Holocaust seminar – on research excursions to archives, research centers, and genocide memorials in the United States, Germany, and Poland.


I teach upper-level classes in German and transnational history, as well as Holocaust and genocide studies. I also offer survey courses on modern European and Russian histories. My courses include:

  • HIS 122 Europe Since 1789
  • HIS 125 History of Modern Russia, 1855-2000
  • HIS 234 Historical Theory and the Practice of Modern European History
  • HIS 331 History of Germany in Global Context
  • HIS 335 Comparative Genocide in the 20th Century
  • HIS 433 The Holocaust: Interpretation, Memory, and Representation
  • HIS 434 The Global 1960s: Student, Youth, and Worker Protests and the Reshaping of the World
  • HIS 480 Senior Research Seminar
  • HUM 251 The 19th and 20th Centuries