Harvard's seal sits atop a gate to the athletic fields at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts September 21, 2009.
Brian Snyder / Reuters

Stanley Hoffmann, who died last week at the age of 86, was both a magisterial scholar of the century of total war and a fugitive from it. Born of partial Jewish heritage in Vienna in November 1928, with a haunted childhood in Vichy France, his first political memory was at age five: His beloved mother read in a newspaper about the Nazi assassination of Austria’s Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss, turned to her son, and said this was the beginning of the end of Austria and her family. Hoffmann would go on to become a crucial member of an extraordinary generation of American scholars who escaped from Europe’s catastrophe. “It wasn’t I who chose to study world politics,” he wrote many decades later; “world politics forced themselves upon me.”

When France fell in June 1940, Hoffmann and his mother became “two small dots in that incredible and mindless mass of ten million people clogging the roads of France.” He remembered the crush of panicked people, the swirling rumors about German planes strafing the slow-moving refugees, and the maelstrom of cars, vans, trucks, and bicycles. The pair fled south from Paris, not far ahead of the Germans, and wound up in a tiny

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  • GARY J. BASS is Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University.
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