Sybil Halpern Milton Memorial Book Prize
The Sybil Halpern Milton Book Prize honors the best book dealing with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust in its broadest context, covering every field represented in the German Studies Association, including history, political science and other social sciences, literature, art, and photography. The prize commemorates the life and legacy of the late Dr. Sybil Halpern Milton (1941-2000), one of the world's most distinguished experts on the Holocaust and an extremely active member of the German Studies Association. It also commemorates the life and legacy of her late husband, Professor Henry Friedlander (1931-2012), former GSA president and also one of the world's foremost experts on the Holocaust. This prize of $1,000, funded by private contributions, will be awarded to the best book on any aspect of the Holocaust published during the two years prior to the awarding. The prize is awarded in odd-numbered years. The next prize will be awarded in 2025.
2023 Recipient of the Sybil Halpern Milton Memorial Book Prize
2023 Prize Committee: Thomas Kühne (Clark University; Committee Chair), Daniel Magilow (University of Tennesee Knoxville), and Thomas Pegelow Kaplan (University of Colorado).
The 2023 Sybil Halpern Milton Memorial Book Prize for the best book in Holocaust Studies has been awarded to Professor Erin McGlothlin’s The Mind of the Holocaust Perpetrator in Fiction and Nonfiction (Wayne State University Press, 2021). Holocaust perpetrators have been the subject of research since the Holocaust, and the question what drove them, why did they do what they did, has been at the forefront of this research. In her groundbreaking study, McGlothlin asks us to take a step back and to consider how narrative strategies used in fictional as well as non-fictional representations shape how we look at and try to determine the mindsets of evildoers. In close readings of Hannah Arendt’s, Harry Mulisch’s and William L. Hull’s accounts of Adolf Eichmann, she shows how all three of them project their own values and preoccupations to perforate clichés of a monster perpetrator. Gitta Sereny’s famous “examination” of Franz Stangl’s “conscience” draws its fascination from being narrated as a detective story, as McGlothlin shows. In equally intriguing sections, the book zeroes in on known and less-known fictional accounts including those by Jonathan Littell, Edgar Hilsenrath, and Martin Amis. McGlothlin skillfully demonstrates how these fictional and non-fictional accounts rely on similar aesthetic and narrative features and need to be seen as “mutually informative and constitutive” rather than diametrically opposed, as some of the older scholarship has insisted. Thinking about the minds of Holocaust perpetrators is impossible without empathy, and yet, empathizing with perpetrators is a tricky endeavor that poses serious ethical challenges. While there is no easy way to avoid the pitfalls of exploring those minds, this book is an authoritative manual to reflect on them.
Previous recipients of the Sybil Halpern Milton Memorial Book Prize
2021 Winner Announced
The GSA is pleased to announce that the 2021 Sybil Halpern Milton Book Prize, awarded to the best book in Holocaust Studies published in 2019 or 2020, has been awarded to Lukasz Krzyzanowski (Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw) for his book Ghost Citizens: Jewish Return to a Postwar City (Harvard University Press, 2020, translated by Madeline G. Levine).
Here is the text of the committee's laudatio:
The 2021 Sybil Halpern Milton Memorial Book Prize has been awarded to Professor Lukasz Krzyzanowski (Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw) for Ghost Citizens: Jewish Return to a Postwar City, translated by Madeline G. Levine (Harvard University Press, 2020). Ghost Citizens: Jewish Return to a Postwar City is a bold, honest, and extremely important book. Drawing on an extraordinary collection of Jewish Committee documents from 1945-1950, plus archives in five countries, haunting photographs, and original interviews, Krzyzanowski analyzes the lived experience of Jewish Holocaust survivors in the Polish city of Radom. Every aspect of postwar existence was marked by Nazism and the Holocaust, he shows, and the distance between Christian Poles, and the small and increasingly closed community of Jews became a chasm. Krzyzanowski brilliantly develops the concept of “ghost citizens” and grounds it in specific archival moments that are all the more powerful because he lets the difficult material speak for itself. He focuses on familiar themes – violence, communal life, and restitution of property – yet his innovative approach, a blend of everyday, social, legal, and local histories with close attention to material culture and deep respect for his subjects as historical actors, reveals interconnections that cut across the many stories that could be told and keeps us reading and reflecting.
Krzyzanowski navigates very sensitive terrain, and he does not make any easy polemical moves. He situates himself in the narrative to powerful effect; Krzyzanowski grew up in Radom, and his intimate knowledge of the city and its people informs his study in significant ways. Originally published in Polish, this book brings into the light issues that remain controversial and timely for Poles, Germans, and anyone who cares about how people live on after destruction. Beautifully translated by Madeline Levine, Ghost Citizens is a tour de force of historical scholarship and a profound and deeply humane book.
2019 Winner Announced
The GSA is pleased to announce that the 2019 Sybil Halpern Milton Book Prize, awarded to the best book in Holocaust Studies published in 2017 or 2018, has been awarded to Professor Bradley W. Hart (California State University, Fresno) for his book Hitler's American Friends: The Third Reich's Supporters in the United States (Thomas Dunne Books/St Martin's Press, 2018).
Here is the text of the committee's laudatio:
Hitler's American Friends is an exceptionally timely and important book. It brilliantly restores a sense of contingency to the history of the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. Hart not only reminds us that Fascist and Nazi ideas once enjoyed considerable support in the U. S. but shows how, but for certain circumstances, they might have been even more dangerous than they ended up being. His study stands as a timely warning against reading history complacently in a teleological perspective. Hart's book is not only thoroughly researched, with important archival evidence drawn from some unexpected sources; it is also written in a clear, lucid style that makes it accessible to a broader public. This is especially important given the relevance of the topic for the current political situation. Hart makes a strong and compelling case for the significance and impact of the American pro-Nazi movement in the 1930s and 40s, uncovering material not previously studied. While Hart acknowledges the political climate in the US over the past several years, the book does not draw facile parallels, but rather paints a rich and nuanced picture of the underpinnings of Nazi ideology during the war and today. As Hart writes: “In an era in which Americans have once again seen swastikas carried alongside American flags in Charlottesville, Virginia, and other communities, the lessons learned from the first defeat of Hitler's American friends should once again be remembered” (17). Indeed, Bradley W. Hart's book is a major contribution to the fields of American, German, and Holocaust history, one that helps us navigate the complex past as well as the present moment. Prize Committee: Leslie Morris (University of Minnesota, chair), Darcy Buerkle (Smith College), Gavriel Rosenfeld (Fairfield University).
Previous Milton Book Prize recipients
2017: Two prizes were awarded:
- Wolf Gruner, Die Judenverfolgung im Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren. Lokale Initiativen, zentrale Entscheidungen, jūdische Antworten 1939-1945, Wallstein Verlag, 2016.
Gavriel D. Rosenfeld, Hi Hitler! How the Nazi Past is Normalized in Contemporary Culture, Cambridge University Press, 2015.
2015: Sara Berger, Experten der Vernichtung: Das T4-Reinhardt-Netzwerk in den Lagern Belzec, Sobibor und Treblinka, Hamburger Edition, 2013.
- Honorable Mention: Waitman Wade Beorn, Marching into Darkness: The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belarus, Harvard University Press, 2014.
2013: Two prizes were awarded:
- Laura Jockusch, Collect and Record!: Jewish Holocaust Documentation in Early Postwar Europe, Oxford University Press, 2012
- Jan Tomasz Gross and Irena Grudzinska Gross, Golden Harvest: Events at the Periphery of the Holocaust, Oxford University Press, 2012.
2011: Jeffrey Herf, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, Yale University Press, 2009.
Laudationes, Milton Book Prize
The GSA is pleased to announce that the 2017 Sybil Halpern Milton Book Prize, awarded to the best book in Holocaust Studies published in 2015 or 2016, has been awarded equally to two books. Professor Wolf Gruner (University of Southern California) wins for his book Die Judenverfolgung im Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren. Lokale Initiativen, zentrale Entscheidungen, jūdische Antworten 1939-1945, published by Wallstein Verlag in 2016. Professor Gavriel D. Rosenfeld wins for his book Hi Hitler! How the Nazi Past Is Normalized in Contemporary Culture, published by Cambridge University Press in 2015.
Here is the prize committee’s laudatio:
The Sybil Halpern Milton Book Prize for 2017 is awarded equally to two books: Wolf Gruner, Die Judenverfolgung im Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren. Lokale Initiativen, zentrale Entscheidungen, jūdische Antworten 1939-1945 (Wallstein Verlag, 2016) and Gavriel D. Rosenfeld, Hi Hitler! How the Nazi Past is Normalized in Contemporary Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2015).
In Die Judenverfolgung im Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren. Lokale Initiativen, zentrale Entscheidungen, jüdische Antworten 1939-1945, Wallstein Verlag, 2016, Wolf Gruner argues that the Czech Protectorate became a testing ground for Nazi policies implemented elsewhere. Gruner’s research convincingly revises the dominant view in the historical literature that the implementation of the Holocaust was organized centrally in Berlin. Gruner shows that occupied Czechoslovakia was a site of innovation and local initiative in the persecution of Czech Jews and that non-German antisemitism played a greater role than has been previously acknowledged. This groundbreaking and well researched book displays Gruner’s masterful command of the historiography on the Holocaust. Additionally, he challenges assumptions that Jews passively accepted their fate, by documenting their creative and tenacious struggle. Gruner’s book makes a major contribution to Holocaust research.
Gavriel D. Rosenfeld’s Hi Hitler! How the Nazi Past is Normalized in Contemporary Culture is an outstanding contribution to the study of the historiography, memory, and fictional representation of the Holocaust and Nazism in both high and low realms of our contemporary culture. Rosenfeld criticizes the term “normalization” as an impulse to domesticate history that forecloses a moral engagement with the history of National Socialism and the Holocaust. The focus of the book is on normalizing Nazi history and culture in Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Eastern Europe, and Israel in the 21st century. Rosenfeld’s extensive research covers the evolution of cultural memory across genres and moves deftly from trivial Internet memes to counterfactual historical narratives that bridge the historical and the literary. With its lively style, useful theoretical framework for analysis, and its illuminating presentation of novels, movies, and memes, the book should have a major impact on future scholarly studies and impact popular views of normalization, as well.
Prize Committee: Professors Donna Harsch (Carnegie Mellon University, chair), Jonathan Skolnik (University of Massachusetts--Amherst), and Reinhard Zachau (University of the South).
The GSA is pleased to announce that Professor Sara Berger (Fondazione Museo della Shoah, Rome) is the recipient of the 2015 Sybil Halpern Milton Book Prize, awarded to the best book in Holocaust Studies published in 2013 or 2014. Her book Experten der Vernichtung: Das T4-Reinhardt-Netzwerk in den Lagern Belzec, Sobibor und Treblinka was published by Hamburger Edition in 2013.
Here is the text of the committee's laudatio:
Dr. Berger’s wide-ranging study offers a novel interpretation of the organization of power in the Nazi extermination camps. Her book is a worthy successor to Henry Friedlander’s groundbreaking research where it highlights the complex imbrication of the murder of the disabled with the Shoah. Its analyses are most remarkable for the unflinching gaze they cast at that which has been hardest for historians to comprehend: the Operation Reinhardt camps. Dr. Berger’s work draws on an astonishing number of archival sources from no less than eight countries and in as many languages. Nearly every page is painfully evocative; where other books provide only few details she has compiled hundreds, all of which are presented with luminous eloquence and restraint.
The Prize Committee also awards Honorable Mention to Professor Waitman Wade Beorn (Virginia Holocaust Museum) for Marching into Darkness: The Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belarus, published by Harvard University Press in 2014.
Here is the text of the committee's laudatio:
Dr. Beorn’s research draws on an impressive array of archival and testimonial material, acquired during visits to Eastern Europe. His extraordinary book not only explores, in great detail and through use of examples, how the killers’ complicity grew over time, but it also analyzes the widespread myth of the Jewish Bolshevik partisan, propagated in order to inspire and legitimize the killings. Throughout the book, Dr. Beorn integrates evidence and reflection with notable fluidity, never avoiding the thorniest issues.
The GSA is pleased to announce that, for the first time, two books and three authors are sharing the 2013 Sybil Halpern Milton Prize, awarded every other year, and this year for the best book or books on the Holocaust published in 2011 or 2012. The co-winners of the 2013 Milton Prize are: Professor Laura Jockusch, for Collect and Record!: Jewish Holocaust Documentation in Early Postwar Europe (Oxford University Press, 2012); and Professors Jan Tomasz Gross and Irena Grudzinska Gross for Golden Harvest: Events at the Periphery of the Holocaust (Oxford University Press, 2012). This is the first time that the Milton Prize went to two works, but the Committee agreed that, in different ways, they were equally deserving of the award. The Committee was chaired by Professor Jeffrey Herf (University of Maryland, College Park), and included Professors Hilary Earl (Nipissing University) and Brad Prager (University of Missouri, Columbia). The GSA thanks the committee for its outstanding work, and congratulates Professors Jokusch, Gross, and Grudzinska Gross for their excellent achievement.
Here is the text of the committee's laudationes:
Laura Jockusch's Collect and Record draws on extensive archival work in French, German, Yiddish, Polish and English language sources to draw our attention to the heroic and tenacious efforts of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust to establish "historical commissions, documentation centers and projects for the purpose of documenting and researching the recent annihilation of European Jews" in postwar France, Poland, Austria and in the Displaced Persons Camps in Germany. Postwar Europeans often focused on the victimization of non-Jews by German occupiers and ignored or marginalized the fate of the Jews. The historians and researchers whom Jockusch brings to our attention in Collect and Record swam against this current both with passion and the innovative methods of social history. In so doing, they established a methodological and conceptual foundation and collected massive amounts of evidence on which subsequent generations of historians were able to expand on a history of the Holocaust from below, that is, from the perspective of its victims. Their work was crucial for the founding of institutions such as Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and the Centre Documentation Juive Contemporaine in Paris and the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. Collect and Record is a splendid and most welcome combination of deep archival research, comparative and trans-national analysis and acute analytical engagement in the discussions both of the Holocaust itself and of its postwar history and memory. It is and will be an important work in the ongoing effort to complement the now familiar accounts about its perpetrators not only with the testimony but also with the interpretations and research findings from its victims and survivors.
In Golden Harvest, Jan Tomasz Gross and Irena Grudzinksa Gross begin with examination of a photograph in which Poles are pictured "harvesting" gold and other valuables from the ashes of the Jews murdered in Treblinka. They then draw on archival work and on the impressive work of Polish historians in recent years to illustrate that this photographed greed, indifference and hatred after the Holocaust was a fitting successor to the depths of greed, indifference and hatred of "several hundred thousand Poles" who they argue actually participated in the murder of Poland's Jews. Their anecdotes and fine, powerful writing draw attention to the consequences of secular and religious anti-Semitism as well as to examples of theft of Jewish property, extortion of money from Jews desperate for a drink of water or protection from the Germans and to the multitude of acts of indifference and collaboration in the Polish countryside. They also comment critically on "the unanimous silence of the Catholic clergy about the martyrdom of the Jewish nation." In the past, some have famously asked what the Jews could or should have done in the face of the Nazis' assault. Jan Gross and Irena Gross ask more important, well-informed, empathetic and just questions about the many decisions and individual initiatives that were and were not made by "a multitude of individuals," that is, by non-Jews in Poland. Those actions, they argue, contributed to the Holocaust. Different actions could have saved "hundreds of thousands of Jewish lives." Golden Harvest is a book that should stimulate further research about the multiple motivations and the spectrum of involvement of those who collaborated in one way or another with Nazi Germany during the Holocaust.
The GSA is pleased to announce that Professor Jeffrey Herf (University of Maryland, College Park) is the recipient of the 2011 Sybil Halpern Milton Prize, awarded for the best book in Holocaust Studies published in 2009 or 2010. His book Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World was published by Yale University Press in 2009. The selection committee included Professors Doris Bergen (University of Toronto, chair), Amir Eshel (Stanford University), and Gavriel Rosenfeld(Fairfield University). The GSA thanks the committee for its outstanding work, and congratulates Professor Herf for his excellent achievement.
“This original and provocative book reveals how much can still be learned about National Socialism, the Holocaust, and World War II. Jeffrey Herf uses a wealth of previously untapped sources from archives in Germany and the United States to explore the massive print and radio campaign that Nazi propaganda experts directed at the Arab and Muslim populations of North Africa and Central Asia. By demonstrating empirically how Nazi antisemitism found an audience among Middle Eastern militants and meshed with their views during World War II, Herf effectively underscores the pivotal role of ideology in the perpetration of the Holocaust. His focus on the interplay between Nazi ideology and politics and non-European political agents helps us recognize the Holocaust as not only European but global in its dimensions.”
Sybil Halpern Milton Book Prize: Call for Nominations
2023 Prize Competition Announced
We are pleased to announce the Sybil Halpern Milton Memorial Book Prize, awarded in 2023 for the best best book published in 2021 or 2022* dealing with Nazi Germany and the Holocaust in its broadest context, covering every field represented in the association, including history, political science, and other social sciences, literature, art, and photography. There are no restrictions on the language or type of book, but it must be an original publication. There is also no restriction on the authors' citizenship or residence. Translations, editions, anthologies, memoirs, and books that have been previously published are not eligible.
*2021 or 2022 must be the year printed on the copyright page; titles published e.g. in late 2022 but with a copyright year listed as 2023 are eligible for the 2025 award cycle.
The submission deadline is May 31, 2023. The prize is awarded under German Studies Association rules by a GSA committee, and is presented during the banquet of the GSA Annual Conference, which in 2023 will take place in Montréal, Québec, Canada from Oct. 5 – Oct. 8, 2023.
Please send a hard copy of the book to be considered to each of the three committee members at the addresses provided below; direct any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Thomas Kühne (Committee Chair)
- Clark University, Strassler Center
- 950 Main St.
- Worcester MA 01610
- Daniel Magilow
- Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures
- 701 McClung Tower
- University of Tennessee, Knoxville
- Knoxville, TN 37996
- Thomas Pegelow-Kaplan
- Department of History, University of Colorado Boulder
- Hellems 219, Campus Box 234
- Boulder, CO 80309