Claudia Koonz

Claudia Koonz

Peabody Family Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences

External address: 
226 Classroom Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Internal office address: 
Dept of History, Box 90719, Durham, NC 27708-0719
(919) 684-3941

How does it happen that citizens who consider themselves deeply moral can believe that some of their fellow citizens embody a danger so lethal that they must be eliminated? In "The Nazi Conscience," I examined public culture during the so-called normal years of the Third Reich (1933-1939) and identified the key role of popular racial science and expert opinion in convincing mainstream Germans that Jews, homosexuals, Roma (Gypsies) were so "alien" that they scarcely counted as human at all. In my current research I ask similar questions about contemporary Europeans' reactions to Muslim women who wear the headscarf, or "hijab." I am less concerned with fanatics' hate speech than with the subtle prejudices common in generally liberal milieus. Identifying visual and textual representations of the "hijab" in mass-market media, I analyze the production of ethnic panic in countries where immigration is economically essential, but immigrants are culturally marginalized. In my research and courses, I examine the formation of ethnic fears that endow the "us" with the conviction they have been summoned to rid the world of an evil "them."


  • Ph.D., Rutgers University 1969
  • M.A., Columbia University 1964
  • B.A., University of Wisconsin - Madison 1962