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Walter Laqueur, Scholar of Terrorism and the Holocaust, Dies at 97

Category: Art & Culture,Books

In the late 1960s he was critical of the counterculture, so much so that Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, a combative conservative voice in the Nixon administration, quoted Mr. Laqueur approvingly when he wrote in Commentary magazine that “the cultural and political idiocies perpetuated with impunity in this permissive age have gone clearly beyond the borders of what is acceptable for any society, however liberally it may be structured.”

What Mr. Agnew neglected to quote, however, was Mr. Laqueur’s next sentence, which was hardly flattering to conservatives: “No one knows whether the right-wing backlash, so long predicted, will in fact make its dreadful appearance.”

In 1982, Norman Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary, wrote that Mr. Laqueur “spoke for most neoconservatives when he made the mordant observation that even Lenin, who allegedly predicted that one day we capitalist countries would out of the lust for profits compete to sell the Communists the rope with which to hang us, could never have imagined that we would rush to give them the money to buy the rope.”

Walter Louis Laqueur was born into a Jewish family on May 26, 1921, in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw in Poland). His father, Fritz, manufactured overalls. His mother, Elsa (Berliner) Laqueur, was a homemaker. Both were murdered in the Holocaust.

In 1938, when he was 17, Walter fled just a few days before Kristallnacht, the November pogrom against Jews by uniformed Nazis and their civilian sympathizers. He found his way to Palestine, where he was known as Ze’ev.

Later, in his writings, he would reduce decades of Middle East discord to a conflict between basic impulses: that of Arabs for pride and dignity and that of Jews for survival, with the Jewish struggle requiring Israel’s neighbors to accept its statehood.


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