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< All Fellows and Scholars

Dr. Michelle Lynn Kahn

Michelle Kahn
William J. Lowenberg Memorial Fellow on America, the Holocaust, and the Jews

“Neo-Nazis in Germany and the U.S.: An Entangled History of Hate, 1945-1990s”

Professional Background

Dr. Michelle Lynn Kahn is Assistant Professor of Modern European History at University of Richmond. She received her PhD and MA in History from Stanford University, with a PhD Minor in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She completed her BA in History and Government at Claremont McKenna College.

Dr. Kahn’s research situates post-Holocaust Germany in its global and transnational contexts, focusing on migration, racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, Holocaust memory, far-right extremism, gender, and sexuality. Her current research and second book project, which she will work on at the Mandel Center, examines the transatlantic networks of Neo-Nazis in Germany and the United States in historical perspective, from 1945 through the 1990s. Confronting the long taboo subjects of race and racism after Hitler, this new project builds on her first book manuscript, tentatively titled Foreign at Home: Racism, Return Migration, and the Making of the Germanized Turk,” which traces the process by which (West) Germany’s largest ethnic minority, Turkish guest workers and their families, came to feel dually estranged—as “foreign” in Germany and as “Germanized” in Turkey. The centerpiece is the little-known story of the over 250,000 men, women, and children (a remarkable 15% of the Turkish immigrant population) who returned to Turkey amid the anti-Muslim racism of 1980s West Germany, only to encounter parallel difficulties reintegrating in their own homeland.

Dr. Kahn has published her scholarship in The Journal of Modern History, The Journal of Holocaust Research, Central European History, and The Bulletin of the German Historical Institute. She was awarded the 2019 Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize of the German Historical Institute, and her work has been generously supported by the American Historical Association, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Central European History Society, and Stanford University’s Europe Center and Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies. She has served as a Research Associate at the Documentation Centre and Museum of Migration to Germany (DOMiD e.V.), as a Guest Scholar at University of Cologne, and on the Editorial Board of The New Fascism Syllabus.

Fellowship Research

Dr. Kahn was awarded a 2021-2022 fellowship at the Mandel Center for research toward her second book project, Neo-Nazis in Germany and the U.S.: An Entangled History of Hate, 1945-1990s. The project intervenes into historical studies of racism, antisemitism, and Holocaust memory in postwar Germany by investigating the transatlantic connections between East and West German and American Neo-Nazis from the fall of the Third Reich through the reunification of divided Germany and the rise of the Internet era.

In tracing Neo-Nazism beyond German borders, the project unearths an underacknowledged reality, which reshapes our understanding of the global far right today: the strengthening of German Neo-Nazism was not the homegrown or inevitable successor to the Third Reich, but rather owed in large part to mutual American influence. In the decades after Hitler, when the East and West German governments struggled to suppress Nazism, American Neo-Nazis exploited the U.S. right to free speech and the increasing ease of global communications to circumvent German censorship laws, ship propaganda across the Atlantic Ocean, and galvanize a younger generation of German Neo-Nazis who turned their hatred not only against Jews but also against the immigrants, asylum seekers, and “foreigners” who arrived amid the postwar mass migration to Europe. Overall, the project reconsiders the triumphalist Cold War narrative of America’s democratizing influence on post-fascist Germany and reveals that the global forces of hate—though a seemingly new phenomenon—have a long, dark, entangled history.

Residency Period: March 1 through April 30, 2022