In Memoriam: A Human Rights Scholar and Advocate – Dr. Eric D. Weitz

by mcjonsey

The 20th century saw amongst the worst atrocities committed against mankind including instances of human rights violations across the globe. Dr. Eric D. Weitz, Distinguished Professor of History at City College, spent his academic career investigating such events, like genocides, to understand the origins and balance between issues of race, nationalism, and mass violence. Dr. Weitz passed away on July 1, 2021.

Dr. Weitz’s book A World Divided: The Global Struggle for Human Rights in the Age of Nation-States (2019) is part of a 17-book series titled Human Rights and Crimes Against Humanity, and examined the origins of many of today’s crises, from the existence of more than 65 million refugees and migrants worldwide to the growth of right-wing nationalism. Dr. Weitz also served as Editor of this series.

Another of Weitz’s works, Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy (2007, third edition 2018) profiled the German government that ruled between the end of World War I until the rise of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party. It was a New York Times Book Review “Editor’s Choice” and a Financial Times “Best Book of the Year”.

In his engaging readings of these works, Weitz forgoes abstruse analysis,” a New York Times Book Review from 2007 said. “Instead, he presents them as fresh attempts to make sense of a world in which reliable beliefs about authority and order, class and gender, wealth and poverty, no longer held.”

Dr. Weitz’s oeuvre also includes Creating German Communism, 1890-1990: From Popular Protests to Socialist State (1997), A Century of Genocide: Utopias of Race and Nation (2003, reprint 2015), and countless other scholarly articles published in distinguished journals.

Dr. Weitz received a BA in History from Binghamton University and his MA and Ph.D. in Modern European History from Boston College. Afterward, he had stints as an Associate Professor at St. Olaf College and a Professor at the University of Minnesota. While there, he also became Chair of the Department of History, Director of the Center for German and European Studies, and Chair in the College of Liberal Arts, before moving to City College in 2013. He also was the recipient of many awards from organizations including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, and others.

Raised in Bayside, Queens, Dr. Weitz had ties to CCNY long before becoming the Dean of Humanities and Arts in 2013, as both his father and brother earned degrees from the school. After 25 years living in the Midwest and studying and teaching at other distinguished universities, Dr. Weitz returned to New York City.

City College is an institution with a great history that is becoming even better,” Dr. Weitz said when he became the CCNY Dean of Humanities and Arts in 2012. “I want to support the research and creative efforts of our faculty and enhance the student experience in and out of the classroom while articulating the importance of the humanities and the arts for all students of the College.”

During his time as the Dean of Humanities and Arts, Dr. Weitz developed programs for students to gain educational experience beyond the five boroughs, encouraged interdisciplinary collaboration and discourse within the school’s departments, and partnered with Stanford University to create programming for students from both institutions.

At the start of 2016, Dr. Weitz stepped down as the Dean of Humanities and Arts, but remained as a distinguished Professor of History, teaching courses with his extensive knowledge of international human rights and modern European history.

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