Donna Harsch

Professor of History
Ph.D.: Yale University, 1987
Department Member Since: 1990


Donna Harsch is a political and social historian of twentieth-century Germany. Her first book, German Social Democracy and the Rise of Nazism (University of North Carolina Press, 1993) analyzes the ways in which the organizational structures and political culture of the Social Democrats shaped their struggle against Nazism during the final crisis of the Weimar Republic. Revenge of the Domestic: Women, the Family, and Communism in the German Democratic Republic, her second book, appeared in 2007 with Princeton University Press. Revenge of the Domestic offers a history of the relationship between ordinary women and the Communist state in East Germany from 1945 to the early 1970s. Its chapters cover women as citizens, waged workers, mothers, wives, and consumers in a society devastated by the Third Reich and World War II, and then radically reconstructed by a Stalinist dictatorship. Based on archival research in Berlin, Potsdam, Leipzig, Merseburg, and Chemnitz, it traces the evolution of Communist policies and examines women's reactions to those policies during the early decades of the German Democratic Republic. Professor Harsch has recently begun research on a new project that will compare popular health cultures, professional medicine, and public health policies in the two Germanys from the 1940s through the 1970s. Its focus will be on basic health (infant and maternal mortality), contagious disease (TB and polio), and health-risking behaviors (alcohol and tobacco consumption).

selected Publications

“Approach/Avoidance: Communists and Women in East Germany, 1945-1949,” Social History Vol. 25, No. 2, May 2000.
“Codes of Comradeship: Class, Leadership, and Tradition in Munich Social Democracy,” Central European History (Fall, 1998).
“Society, the State, and Abortion in East Germany, 1950-1972,” American Historical Review (February, 1997).
“The Iron Front: Weimar Social Democracy between Tradition and Modernity,” in Between Reform and Revolution: Studies in the History of German Socialism and Communism from 1840 to 1990 (Berghahn Publishers, 1997).
German Social Democracy and the Rise of Nazism (University of North Carolina Press, 1993).

Courses Taught

20th Century Europe
20th Century Germany
Germany and the Second World War
The German Occupation of Europe, 1939-1944

Contact Info

Department of History
Baker Hall 228-D
P: 412.268.2865
F: 412.268.1019