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Historian to Talk About Fighting on Eastern Front in World War II

(Posted March 22, 2004)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Ronald Smelser, a 1964 graduate of Juniata College and a noted historian of modern Germany, will lecture on ?The Myth of the Eastern Front: An American Perspective? at Juniata College at 7:30 p.m., Monday, March 29 in Alumni Hall in the Brumbaugh Science Center on the Juniata campus.

The lecture, which is part of the Delbert McQuaide Lectureship in history and is sponsored by the history department, is free and open to the public.

Smelser is professor of history at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah.
His lecture will focus on how, in the years after World War II, American policymakers accepted the views of former German officers to describe how the Nazi-Soviet war was fought. This perspective, which portrays the German Army (the Wehrmacht) in a more positive way as they fought against the Soviet Union (in contrast to the more brutal image of the Nazi SS). Smelser says this more positive view of German Army behavior on the Eastern Front has been accepted as fact in popular literature, movies and war-gaming. He also will discuss how the more positive ?spin? for the German Army made it easier for Americans during the Cold War to accept Germany, a former enemy, as an ally, and to treat the Soviet Union, an ally, as the enemy.

Smelser has been a prolific author on Nazi-era Germany. His books, as an author or editor, include ?The Sudeten Problem 1933-1938,? ?Robert Ley, Hitler?s Labor Front Leader,? ?The Nazi Elite? and ?Learning About the Holocaust: A Student?s Guide.? He is currently writing a book titled ?The Myth of the Eastern Front? for Cambridge University Press.

He earned a bachelor?s degree in history from Juniata and went on to earn a doctorate in history from the University of Wisconsin in 1970. In 1996, Juniata awarded him the Alumni Achievement Award.

The Delbert McQuaide Lectureship in History Series was established by Delbert McQuaide, a 1958 Juniata College graduate. He was a senior partner at McQuaide Blasko Law Offices in State College and served as general counsel for Penn State University and the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. He was president of the Centre County Bar Association, and a member of the Pennsylvania, and American Bar Associations and the National Association of College and University Attorneys. Mr. McQuaide was a member of the Board of Trustees from 1994 and served as chairman from 1996 until his death in 1997.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.