Raffael M. Scheck

The John J. and Cornelia V. Gibson Professor of History

Box 5331

Phone: 207-859-5331
Fax: 207-859-5340
Mailing Address:
5331 Mayflower Hill
Waterville, Maine 04901-8853
Office Hours:
MTWThF, 11-12:30
Scheck, Raffael M.


Universität Basel (Switzerland) Habilitation in Modern History, April 2003.

Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts Ph.D. in Comparative European History in May 1993.

Universität Zürich (Switzerland) Lizentiat (equivalent to the M.A.), May 1988.

Konservatorium und Musikakademie Zürich Musical training as a cello student, 1980-1981.

Areas of Expertise

  • Prisoners of War in World War II (specifically French colonial prisoners)
  • Crimes against French Black African soldiers in World War II
  • German political history 1914-1945
  • German history and literature
  • Modern European history and politics

Courses Currently Teaching

CourseCourse Title
HI112 AEurope Since the Seventeenth Century
HI120C ASpotlight on History: Genocide in Modern Europe
HI222 AEurope and the Second World War
HI224 AGermany and Europe, 1871-1945
HI322 AEurope and the Second World War
HI421 AResearch Seminar: Debating the Nazi Past

Other Courses Taught

CourseCourse Title
HI 321The First World War
HI 322Europe and the Second World War
HI 323Yugoslavia: Emergence to Dissolution

Professional Information

I have published five books and many articles on German history at the time of the world wars. My third book Hitler's African Victims (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006 [hardcover] and 2008 [paperback]) was translated into French (2007) and German (2009). The book sparked an investigation by the German office for Nazi crimes, and I was interviewed for the documentary “Les 43 tirailleurs” (by Mireille Hannon) in 2010 and by C-SPAN’s book tv program in September 2012. My fifth book, French Colonial Soldiers in German Captivity during World War II (Cambridge University Press, December 2014), deals with French colonial prisoners of war in German POW camps, 1940-45, examining the conditions of their captivity, the struggle of the German and French authorities for the loyalty of these prisoners, and the influence of the prisoners' experiences on the postwar move toward independence in the colonies. My next project deals with forbidden love relations of French prisoners of war and German women during the Second World War as well as with larger issues concerning POWs and civilian internees (legal, social, diplomatic, economic). In 2011, I identified an anonymous manuscript of a Senegalese soldier in German captivity as having been written by Léopold Sédar Senghor, the eminent French-Senegalese poet, cultural philosopher, and first president of the Republic of Senegal (1960-1980). The French newspaper Le Monde and the magazine Jeune Afrique interviewed me about this discovery, as did the Colby Magazine and French journalist Ivan Amar (for Radio France Internationale). I was born in Freiburg im Breisgau (Germany) and grew up in Germany, Israel, and (mostly) in Switzerland (first in Geneva, later near Zürich). I started out as a cello student at the conservatory in Zürich but then decided to study History at the University of Zürich and Brandeis University (USA). I have a Habilitation Degree from the University of Basel (2003). I am a German citizen (I point this out because French newspapers discussing my book on the massacres of black French soldiers often argued that it took an “American” historian to uncover this crime). Since 1994, I have taught modern European and German history at Colby College, where I also served as chair of the History Department for seven years (2000-2003, 2005-2008, 2014/15) and as director of the Jewish Studies program (2011-14, 2016/17).

Current Research

Trials against western prisoners of war in Nazi Germany for forbidden love affairs with German women, insulting the German authorities, poaching, and others. This project provides a transnational microhistory of wartime Germany and probes the conflict between international humanitarian law protecting the prisoners and Nazi law.


Hitler's African Victims (Cambridge University Press)

"This is a well-written tale of how ordinary men become brutal killers and how racism can corrupt their moral sensibilities." Martin Klein, University of Toronto

"This elegant, slender volume describes a forgotten war crime: the murder by the German soldiers of thousands of Black African soldiers in the French Army in June 1940." Jonathan Steinberg, University of Pennsylvania

"Professor Scheck has provided a great service by carefully researching this vile episode and also placing it into the context of a military descending step by step into an abyss of ever worse criminality." Gerhard Weinberg, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (emeritus)

"Professor Scheck's excellent and original study details instances during the French campaign of 1940 when German Army and Waffen SS units killed French colonial troops after they had surrendered ..." Charles W. Sydnor, Jr.

Mothers of the Nation - Right-Wing Women in Weimar Germany

What role did right-wing women play in the Nazi rise to power? Mothers of the Nation analyzes the work of women in the German People's Party and the German National People's Party - parties that covered the range from the moderate to the radical right. Looking at politics on both the local and national level, the author discusses issues ranging from social welfare to foreign policy. He shows that right-wing women, in keeping with the tradition of the German bourgeois women's movement, refused to stand up primarily for women's interests and instead invoked the Volksgemeinschaft (community of the people), a vision of harmony and cooperation of the groups involved in production.

"In this excellent study, Raffael Scheck explores a series of fateful paradoxes that imperiled Weimar democracy: attachments to household and motherhood propelled women into the public arena; the mobilization of female voters strengthened the nationalist, anti-democratic Right; the effort to imbue middle-class parties with the virtues of the people's community only helped the Nazis; and the campaign to protect Christianity legitimized eugenic legislation. Scheck's great contribution is to trace so well the seams of Germany's political culture between 1918 and 1933."
Peter Fritzsche, author of Reading Berlin 1900 and Germans Into Nazis.

Alfred von Tirpitz and German Right-Wing Politics, 1914-1930 (Atlantic Highlands, 1998)
In a skillful combination of biographical case study and contextual anaylsis, Raffael Scheck presents a readable, often thrilling, account of German right-wing politics in the two decades before the rise of the Nazis and the role played in them by Great Admiral von Tirpitz. In examining that, he explains the predicament of the conservatives during the period.

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