Alan S. Brown Scholar Series

Michael Geheran – Comrades Betrayed: Jewish World War I Veterans under Hitler

Thursday, February 4, 2021, 3:00 PM ET

Michael Geheran joins us to discuss his book Comrades Betrayed.

At the end of 1941, six weeks after the mass deportations of Jews from Nazi Germany had begun, Gestapo offices across the Reich received an urgent telex from Adolf Eichmann, decreeing that all war-wounded and decorated Jewish veterans of World War I be exempted from upcoming “evacuations.” Why this was so, and how Jewish veterans at least initially were able to avoid the fate of ordinary Jews under the Nazis, is the subject of Comrades Betrayed.

Michael Geheran deftly illuminates how the same values that compelled Jewish soldiers to demonstrate bravery in the front lines in World War I made it impossible for them to accept passively, let alone comprehend, persecution under Hitler. After all, they upheld the ideal of the German fighting man, embraced the fatherland, and cherished the bonds that had developed in military service. Through their diaries and private letters, as well as interviews with eyewitnesses and surviving family members and records from the police, Gestapo, and military, Michael Geheran presents a major challenge to the prevailing view that Jewish veterans were left isolated, neighborless, and having suffered a social death by 1938.

Tracing the path from the trenches of the Great War to the extermination camps of the Third Reich, Geheran exposes a painful dichotomy: while many Jewish former combatants believed that Germany would never betray them, the Holocaust was nonetheless a horrific reality. In chronicling Jewish veterans’ appeal to older, traditional notions of comradeship and national belonging, Comrades Betrayed forces reflection on how this group made use of scant opportunities to defy Nazi persecution and, for some, to evade becoming victims of the Final Solution.

Michael Geheran is author of Comrades Betrayed: Jewish World War I Veterans under Hitler. He is Assistant Professor of History and Deputy Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Eugene R. Fidell – Current Issues in Military Justice

Thursday, November 19, 2020, 3:00 PM

Join us for a conversation with military law scholar Eugene Fidell. He’ll address the relationship between civilian government and military law. He’ll also discuss the Orders Project which provides volunteer lawyers to military personnel who question the legality of orders.

Eugene R. Fidell is an Adjunct Professor at NYU Law School (Fall 2020), Senior Research Scholar at Yale Law School, and of counsel at the Washington, DC firm Feldesman Tucker Leifer Fidell LLP. He graduated from Queens College and Harvard Law School and served as a judge advocate in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1969 to 1972.

He graduated with honor from the Naval Justice School and has represented personnel in every branch of the armed forces as well as the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service and NOAA.

Mr. Fidell is a life member of the American Law Institute, president emeritus of the National Institute of Military Justice, and former chair of the Committee on Military Justice of the International Society for Military Law and the Law of War. Since 2014 he has edited the Global Military Justice Reform blog, His books include Military Justice: Cases and Materials (3d ed. 2020) (co-author) and Military Justice: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford 2016).

He has served on a variety of U.S. advisory boards, including, most recently, the Executive Review Panel for the comprehensive Review of Navy and Marine Corps Uniformed Legal Communities.

George E. Johnson – When One’s Duty and the Right Thing are not the Same: A Vietnam Memoir

Thursday, November 5, 2020, 3:00 PM

George E. Johnson discusses the moral journey that began as a Jewish Army officer serving in Vietnam.

George E. Johnson is a Washington-based lawyer and writer. Since 2013, he has been a Senior Editor of Moment Magazine, a large-circulation independent American Jewish magazine. In April 2020, Moment published “When One’s Duty and the Right Thing Are Not the Same“, in which Johnson, an observant Jew, looks back 50 years on how his Vietnam service as an Army intelligence officer living among Vietnamese villagers changed his life. The article is an excerpt from his Vietnam memoir. Johnson’s Jewish Word columns have appeared periodically in Moment, as have his symposium interviews of dozens of famous Jews, ranging from great rabbis and novelists to concert pianists and Israeli leaders. His symposium-based e-book, What Will the Jewish World Look Like in 2050? was published in 2017. Johnson’s articles on Jewish life also have appeared in The Journal of Jewish Ideas and Ideals, Conservative Judaism, Bnai Brith Magazine, Midstream, and Sh’ma, and have been quoted in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. In addition to his Jewish publications, Johnson practiced law in the energy field for 35 years, retiring from practice in 2011. Along the way, he also served as Research Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Planning and Research of the Synagogue Council of America, authoring numerous studies on Jewish public policy issues.

David Frey – Holocaust Education at West Point, the Armed Forces and beyond

Sunday, March 8, 2020, 1:00 PM

David Frey joins us to discuss Holocaust education at West Point and his work to increase understanding of of genocide in the Armed Forces.

David Frey is a Professor of History and the founding Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He is the author of Jews, Nazis, and the Cinema of Hungary: The Tragedy of Success, 1929-44 (I.B Tauris, 2017), which won the Hungarian Studies Association biennial Book of the Year Award in 2019. At West Point, where he won the 2010 History Department Teaching Excellence Award and was nominated for an Academy innovation award in 2014, he teaches a range of courses on Genocide, the Holocaust, Fascism, Modern German history, Modern Central European history, African history, and the History of Race, Nation, Ethnicity & Gender. He is co-creator and co-Chair of West Point’s new Diversity and Inclusion Minor. He serves as Co-Chair of the Academy’s Civilian Faculty Senate. As Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Dr. Frey has spearheaded efforts to increase the Academy’s and US Armed Forces’ awareness and understanding of the phenomenon of genocide, its history, and means of prevention. He has won national awards for his work. Among his many initiatives, he convenes, in collaboration with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, annual workshops for service academy students to present their research on genocide, and for scholars and faculty to create atrocity-related curricular materials for military constituencies.

Pamela Nadell – America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today

Wednesday, June 12, 2019, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM

Pamela Nadell joins us to discuss her new book America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today.

What does it mean to be a Jewish woman in America? In a gripping historical narrative, Pamela S. Nadell weaves together the stories of a diverse group of extraordinary people―from the colonial-era matriarch Grace Nathan and her great-granddaughter, poet Emma Lazarus, to labor organizer Bessie Hillman and the great justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to scores of other activists, workers, wives, and mothers who helped carve out a Jewish American identity. This includes women connected to the military and wartime from Abigail Minis in the Revolution to Abigail Eugenia Levy Phillips serving the Confederate cause to WWII WACs like Doris Brill.

The twin threads binding these women together, she argues, are a strong sense of self and a resolute commitment to making the world a better place. Nadell recounts how Jewish women have been at the forefront of causes for centuries, fighting for suffrage, trade unions, civil rights, and feminism, and hoisting banners for Jewish rights around the world. Informed by shared values of America’s founding and Jewish identity, these women’s lives have left deep footprints in the history of the nation they call home.

Pamela Nadell is the author of America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today, published in 2019 by W.W. Norton. A professor and Patrick Clendenen Chair in Women’s and Gender History at American University in Washington, DC, she is a recipient of the university’s highest faculty award, Scholar/Teacher of the Year. Her other books include Women Who Would be Rabbis: A History of Women’s Ordination, 1889-1985, a finalist for a National Jewish Book Award. Past president of the Association for Jewish Studies, she has also received the American Jewish Historical Society’s Lee Max Friedman Award for distinguished service to the profession. She and her husband, parents of two grown children, live in North Bethesda, Maryland.

Free! Please register in advance!

Jessica Cooperman – Making Judaism Safe for America in WWI 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Jessica Cooperman joins us to discuss her new book Making Judaism Safe for America: World War I and the Origins of Religious Pluralism. Program is co-sponsored by the JWB Jewish Chaplains Council with introduction from Rabbi Irving Elson, Director.

In 1956, the sociologist Will Herberg described the United States as a “triple-melting pot,” a country in which “three religious communities – Protestant, Catholic, Jewish – are America.” This description of an American society in which Judaism and Catholicism stood as equal partners to Protestantism begs explanation, as Protestantism had long been the dominant religious force in the U.S. How did Americans come to embrace Protestantism, Catholicism, and Judaism as “the three facets of American religion?”Historians have often turned to the experiences of World War II in order to explain this transformation. However, World War I’s impact on changing conceptions of American religion is too often overlooked.

This book argues that World War I programs designed to protect the moral welfare of American servicemen brought new ideas about religious pluralism into structures of the military. Jessica Cooperman shines a light on how Jewish organizations were able to convince both military and civilian leaders that Jewish organizations, alongside Christian ones, played a necessary role in the moral and spiritual welfare of America’s fighting forces. This alone was significant, because acceptance within the military was useful in modeling acceptance in the larger society.

The leaders of the newly formed Jewish Welfare Board, which became the military’s exclusive Jewish partner in the effort to maintain moral welfare among soldiers, used the opportunities created by war to negotiate a new place for Judaism in American society. Using the previously unexplored archival collections of the JWB, as well as soldiers’ letters, memoirs and War Department correspondence, Jessica Cooperman shows that the Board was able to exert strong control over expressions of Judaism within the military. By introducing young soldiers to what it saw as appropriately Americanized forms of Judaism and Jewish identity, the JWB hoped to prepare a generation of American Jewish men to assume positions of Jewish leadership while fitting comfortably into American society.

Jessica Cooperman is Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion Studies and Director of Jewish Studies at Muhlenberg College.

Leah Garrett – Young Lions: How Jewish Authors Reinvented the American War Novel

Thursday, October 18th, 2018, 7:00 pm

Professor Leah Garrett joins us to discuss her book Young Lions: How Jewish Authors Reinvented the American War Novel.

Young Lions: How Jewish Authors Reinvented the American War Novel shows how Jews, traditionally castigated as weak and cowardly, for the first time became the popular literary representatives of what it meant to be a soldier and what it meant to be an American. Revisiting best-selling works ranging from Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead to Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, and uncovering a range of unknown archival material, Leah Garrett shows how Jewish writers used the theme of World War II to reshape the American public’s ideas about war, the Holocaust, and the role of Jews in postwar life. In contrast to most previous war fiction these new “Jewish” war novels were often ironic, funny, and irreverent and sought to teach the reading public broader lessons about liberalism, masculinity, and pluralism.

Leah Garrett is Director and Professor of Jewish Studies at Hunter College.


Steven Ossad – Omar Nelson Bradley: America’s GI General

Sunday, November 4th, 2018, 1:00 pm

Author Steven Ossad joins us to discuss the remarkable career of Omar Bradley including his interactions with famed Jewish officers Maurice Rose and Mickey Marcus.

Omar Bradley rose to the pinnacle of the American military establishment and was the last of the major World War II military leaders to pass from the scene. Usually included as the last and youngest of the “five stars,” he had the most combat experience of the three American Army Group commanders in Europe during World War II and was our most important ground commander. Bradley’s postwar career ensures his legacy as one of the architects of U.S. Cold War global strategy. These latter contributions, as much as Bradley’s demonstrable World War II leadership, shaped U.S. history and culture in decisive, dramatic, and previously unexamined ways.

Steven L. Ossad is an independent historian and retired Wall Street technology analyst focused on leadership, command, and adapting military technology for executive management training.

He is the author (with Don R. Marsh) of Major General Maurice Rose: World War II’s Greatest Forgotten Commander. In 2014, he received a General and Mrs. Matthew Ridgway Research Award from the Army War College for his work on Omar Bradley. In 2003 he was presented an Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Writing Award. His article “Out of the Shadow and into the Light: Col. David ‘Mickey’ Marcus and U.S. Civil Affairs in World War II,” published in Army History, was a runner up for that same award in 2016.