Manuela Achilles

Associate Professor of German and History
Director, European Studies Program
Director, Center for German Studies

Office Hours: On Leave

Field & Specialties

Transnational German History and Culture
European Studies
History and Theories of Fascism
Democracy Studies
Critical Theory
Cultural Studies
Historical Political Culture of Green Ideas and Practices
Holocaust and Genocide, Perpetrator Studies


M.A. Free University of Berlin, 1996

M.A. University of Michigan, 1996

Ph.D. University of Michigan, 2005


I am an associate professor of German and History with a joint appointment in the Department of German and the Corcoran Department of History. I addition to the Center for German Studies, I direct the European Studies Program at UVa. I hold a PhD in German and History from the University of Michigan, and an MA in German Literature, History, and Linguistics from the Free University of Berlin. My teaching includes classes on Weimar and Nazi Germany, Germans and Jews, Hitler in History and Fiction, Fascism in Global Perspective, Cultures of Memory, and Transatlantic Environmentalism.


Books and Journals

Environmental Sustainability in Transatlantic Perspective: A Multidisciplinary Approach, Co-edited with Dana Eley (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013 (Climate and Energy series).

Nationalism, Nativism, and the Revolt Against Globalization, Special Issue of EuropeNow (Journal of the Council for European Studies); co-edited with Kyrill Kunakhovich and Nicole Shea; February 2018.

Articles and Book Chapters

"Memory, Responsiblity, and Transformation: Antiracist Pedagogy, Holocaust Education, and Community Outreach in Transatlantic Perspective." Coauthored with Hannah Winnick (Heinrich Boell Foundation/Obama Foundation), Journal of Holocaust Research, 35/2 (April 2021). Special issue on “Confronting Hatred: Neo-Nazism, Antisemitism, and Holocaust Studies Today."

"Anchoring the Nation in the Democratic Form: Weimar Symbolic Politics beyond the Failure Paradigm”, in: German Modernities from Wilhelm to Weimar: A Contest of Futures, ed. Geoff Eley, Jennifer Jenkins, Tracie Matysik (London, New York, Bloomsbury, 2016), 259-281.

"Nuclear Power? No, Thank You!" Germany's Energy Revolution Post-Fukushima," in: Achilles and Elzey (eds.), Environmental Sustainability in Transatlantic Perspective, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 104-127.

"The Economy Under the Nazis: Keynesianism Avant La Lettre?", 2013, Darden Business Publishing, UVA-GEM 112 (with Peter Debaere).

"With a Passion for Reason: Celebrating the Constitution in Weimar Germany," Central European History, Volume 43, Number 4 (December 2010), Special issue on the Culture of Politics / Politics of Culture in the Weimar Republic.

"Reforming the Reich: Democratic Symbols and Rituals in the Weimar Republic," in Kathleen Canning, Kerstin Barndt, and Kristin McGuire (eds), Weimar Publics / Weimar Subjects: Rethinking the Political Culture of Germany in the 1920s (New York: Berghahn Books, 2010), 175-191.

"Nationalist Violence and Republican Identity in Weimar Germany," in David Midgley and Christian Emden (eds), German Literature, History and the Nation. Papers from the Conference: "The Fragile Tradition" (Cambridge 2002), Oxford 2004, 305-328.

"Blutdurst' und 'Symbolhunger': Zur Semantik von Blut und Erde", in Walter Delabar, Horst Denkler, Erhard Schütz (eds), Spielräume des Einzelnen: Deutsche Literatur in der Weimarer Republik und im Dritten Reich, Berlin 2000, 185-315.

Current Research

My research combines the historical study of German culture with theoretical analyses. I have published broadly on the political culture of Weimar democracy and am currently completing my manuscript, Invisible Fatherland: Constitutional Patriotism in Weimar Germany. Building on my earlier work on the discursive forms and symbolic practices of Weimar democracy, the study explores the republic as the birthplace of German constitutional patriotism. The metaphor of the “invisible fatherland,” coined by German law professor Gustav Radbruch in 1922, captures the challenge that faced the young democracy: namely to rally the nation around legally coded principles and ideas—such as equality and justice—that are as such are imperceptible to the senses. The republic’s symbolic politics endeavored to make these norms and ideals visible and concrete, thus drawing the contours of a liberal democratic alternative to the extremist politics the interwar period also engendered.

My second book project on "Hitler and the Holocaust: History, Responsibility, Legacy" (under contract with Bloomsbury Academic) provides a concise and adaptable survey of the German dictator and his genocidal regime within an interdisciplinary and transnational framework. The focus is on deeply intertwined processes of biographical and societal radicalization that culminated in the targeted murder of six million European Jews. Progressing from deeply contextualized historical biography to the societal normalization of hatred and genocide, the study shows that Hitler did not pursue his murderous politics on his own. Both his rise and regime depended on the support of ordinary German men and women as well as collaboration in allied territories. While there would have been no Holocaust without Hitler, understanding his role in the Holocaust requires us to broaden our perspective to the enablers and followers that empowered his rise and regime. The book concludes with a discussion of Hitler’s changing representations and legacies today.

My third research interest revolves around the idiom and culture of sustainability or Nachhaltigkeit. In the United States we sometimes struggle to imagine what it takes to become a more sustainable society. Germany is widely regarded as a frontrunner in environmental policy and practice. My edited volume on German environmental sustainability aims to engender a fruitful transatlantic discussion as to which of these interventions are transferable to the United States. The initial lecture series that produced this body of work was connected to a pilot undergraduate course offered in the German Department and the Department of Science, Technology, and Society. My own article in the edited book explores the German energy revolution with an eye to the country's decision to phase out nuclear power. I expect to develop this exploratory essay into a book-length historical study of the German culture of sustainability.

Courses Taught

Teaching is an enjoyable and rewarding component of my academic work. Neighbors and Enemies, one of my signature courses, explores the tension in Germany between a chauvinist belief in German racial or cultural superiority and moments of genuine openness to strangers. Drawing on a variety of different materials – from history and philosophy to film and literature – the seminar challenges students to consider the construction and deconstruction of images of the “enemy” from different angles. My seminars on German and Jews, Germany and the Environment, and Hitler in History and Fiction also practice the careful multi-disciplinarity that characterizes this course. My larger survey classes include German History, Nazi Germany, and Western Civilization. Together with Kyrill Kunakhovich, I am developing a new lecture course on Fascism in Global Perspective. In general, my teaching gravitates toward a co-creative style of instruction that pays particular attention to the representational regimes and affective logics that shape our understanding of the past. 

Media Appearances

I was a guest on Apropos of Something radio show on October 21, 2017. Co-hosted by Ellen Daniels in Charlottesville and Nancy Laurence in New York City, the interview revolved around German history and sliding from democracy into dictatorship more generally.

I introduced film director Terrence Malick's A Hidden Life (2019. USA, Germany) at the Virginia Film Festival in October 2019, and hosted a (virtual) discussion of the Belgian documentary film series The Offensive (Belgium. 2020) at the Virginia Film Festival in October 2020,