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Manfred Messerschmidt (born 1926) is a German historian who specialises in the history of Nazi Germany and World War II. He was the long-term research director at the Military History Research Office (MGFA) who conceived of and launched the seminal series Germany and the Second World War from the MGFA.

Manfred Messerschmidt

Born1926 (age 92–93)
OccupationHistorian, author, editor
Academic background
Alma materUniversity of Münster
University of Freiburg
Academic work
Era19th and 20th centuries
InstitutionsMilitary History Research Office (MGFA)
Main interestsModern European history, military history, historiography
Notable worksGermany and the Second World War

Messerschmidt is one of the most important military historians of Germany after 1945 and is considered to be the founder of modern military history in Germany. He is an expert on the international military law and an author of multiple books on German military history of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Education and careerEdit

Born in 1926 in Dortmund, Messerschmidt grew up in Nazi Germany. From May 1944 till the end of World War II he served in anti-aircraft auxiliary forces in the engineering corps. Following the war, Messerschmidt studied the University of Münster and the University of Freiburg. He completed his doctorate under the guidance of historian Gerhard Ritter and earned his PfD in 1959. From 1970 to 1988 he was chief historian at the Military History Research Office (MGFA). In 1987 to 1988 he was a member of the Waldheim Commission that investigated the Waldheim Affair, involving the alleged Nazi past of Kurt Waldheim, the newly elected President of Austria. Messerschmidt was the deputy chairman of the German Holocaust Museum Foundation [de].[1]

Military historian of Nazi GermanyEdit

At the end of 1971, Messerschmidt took over the scientific management of the MGFA. He launched the ten-volume history Germany and the Second World War, which focused on the interdependent relationship between military events and society. The first four volumes were set against the backdrop of the Cold War, and the German debate on rearmament in view of the catastrophic military past. The studies, which were designed and conceived in the Messerschmid era, continue to set the trend for a society-oriented military history.[1]

Messerschmidt is a recognised expert on the international military law who has been called upon to testify in high-profile court cases pertaining to World War II war crimes. He has been described as "the doyen of modern German military history" by Der Spiegel.[2]


In EnglishEdit

In GermanEdit

  • Die Wehrmacht im NS-Staat. Zeit der Indoktrination (= Truppe und Verwaltung Bd. 16). Von Decker, Hamburg 1969.
  • Militärgeschichte. Probleme, Thesen, Wege. Im Auftrag des Militärgeschichtlichen Forschungsamtes aus Anlass seines 25-jährigen Bestehens ausgewählt und zusammengestellt von Manfred Messerschmidt. DVA, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-421-06122-X.
  • Die Wehrmachtjustiz im Dienste des Nationalsozialismus. Zerstörung einer Legende. Nomos, Baden-Baden 1987, ISBN 3-7890-1466-4. with Fritz Wüllner
  • Militärgeschichtliche Aspekte der Entwicklung des deutschen Nationalstaates. Droste, Düsseldorf 1988, ISBN 3-7700-0775-1.
  • Was damals Recht war… NS-Militär und Strafjustiz im Vernichtungskrieg. Klartext, Essen 1996, ISBN 3-88474-487-9.
  • Die Wehrmachtjustiz 1933–1945. Schöningh, Paderborn u.a. 2005, ISBN 3-506-71349-3.