The Swastika Epidemic

The Swastika Epidemic: Global Antisemitism and Human Rights Activism in the Cold War 1960s

May 11, 2015 // 4:00pm — 5:30pm

6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center

It is common knowledge today that antisemitism is on the rise today in Europe and around the world, but there is no consensus about how the global community should respond. In this talk, drawn from his forthcoming book, scholar James Loeffler offers a historical perspective on this debate by looking back on the first major episode of global antisemitic violence after World War II, the “Swastika Epidemic” of 1960. Using newly uncovered archival sources, he traces the drama of how international Jewish organizations, Western, Soviet, and Israeli diplomats all converged on the United Nations in pursuit of a legal solution. What went wrong in the 1960s offers sobering lessons for the political discussion about antisemitism today.

James Loeffler is Associate Professor of History at the University of Virginia. In the spring of 2015 he is serving as Robert A. Savitt Fellow at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He received his AB from Harvard and his MA and PhD from Columbia University. A specialist in Jewish and European history, and the history of human rights, his publications include The Most Musical Nation: Jews and Culture in the Late Russian Empire (2010) and “The Conscience of America”: Human Rights, Jewish Politics, and American Foreign Policy at the 1945 United Nations San Francisco Conference,” Journal of American History (2013).

The seminar is sponsored jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Wilson Center. It meets weekly during the academic year. See for the schedule, speakers, topics, and dates as well as webcasts and podcasts. The seminar thanks the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations and the George Washington University History Department for their support.

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