Zeev Sternhell: the historian whose work on French fascism caused academic uproar


The Israeli historian Zeev Sternhell, who died on June 21st, aged 85, and who spent some of his early years in France before moving to Israel, was one of the pre-eminent experts on fascism in the world of academia. His renowned 1983 work 'Ni droite ni gauche. L’idéologie fasciste en France' - published in English as 'Neither Right Nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France' – caused major controversy among French scholars because of his contention that French fascism was a real phenomenon with ideological roots in the society and culture of France. Antoine Perraud looks back on his extraordinary life and work.


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The Israeli historian Zeev Sternhell died on Sunday June 21st 2020, at the age of 85. Born into a Jewish family in the historic town of Przemyśl in south-west Poland, in April 1935, his life could have stepped out of the pages of a novel. At the age of seven, after his mother and sister had been killed by the Nazis, he was smuggled to the nearby city of Lwów – then in Poland, now called Lviv and in Ukraine – where he was brought up as a Catholic and was able to survive the rest of the war. After the end of World War II he went to live and study in France, attending school in Avignon in the south of France, before moving to the new state of Israel in 1951 when aged 16.