Walter Laqueur

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Walter Zeev Laqueur (born 26 May 1921) [1] is a German/Polish born historian, political commentator, terrorologist and Zionist, who escaped the Nazi's and fled to Palestine in 1938, later living and working in the UK and US.

Walter Laqueur in a photo from his own website

Early life

Laqueur was born on 26 May 1921 in Breslau, Germany (modern Wrocław, Poland) to a Jewish family. He attended local schools in Breslau, and graduated from Johannes Gymnasium (St John's High School) in February 1938. That November he left Germany for the British Mandate of Palestine. His parents, Fritz and Else Laqueur, who were unable to leave, later died in the Holocaust. He lived in Palestine/Israel 1938-53 and since then in the UK and USA. [2]


Laqueur left Israel in 1955, going first to London and then to the US.

In Israel and Paris

Laqueur attended the Hebrew University, Jerusalem in 1938/9. He then joined a Kibbutz, and worked as an 'agricultural laborer' from 1939-1944. [3] From 1944-53 he moved to Jerusalem and worked as a journalist 1944-1953, covering 'Palestine and, for several years, other Middle Eastern countries.'[4] The book notes on his Autobiography state that 'After the war, he reported firsthand on the founding of Israel and the bloody siege of Jerusalem that followed. He knew everyone of note in the small state of Israel - Weizmann, Ben-Gurion, Sharett, Meir.' [5]

In 1953 Laqueur became involved with the Congress for Cultural Freedom, a CIA front group which had been set up to spread anti-communist propaganda amongst European intellectuals. Laqueur writes that he 'visited the headquarters of the Congress for Cultural Freedom in Paris for the first time in May 1953.' According to Laqueur, he had ‘been recommended by George Lichtheim', who had told the head of the Congress Michael Josselson that he was 'some latter-day Rastignac, a young man from the provinces, unpolished, a self-made man but of a certain promise, eager to continue his education in Europe.’ [6] Laqueur's cousin Nicholas Nabokov was also Josselson’s ‘nominal boss’. [7]

That summer Josselson introduced Laqueur to the political and intellectual figures around the Congress including the philosopher Raymond Aron and the anti-communist trade unionist Irving Brown. Laqueur then accepted Josselson's offer that he become the Congress's corespondent in Israel. [8]

A 1956 article in the Guardian states that Laqueur ‘first made his mark as a political commentator under the name 'Mark Alexander’, suggesting that he used that pseudonym in this period. [9]

In London

In 1955 Laqueur moved to London, where he edited the Congress funded journal Soviet Survey (which later became just Survey) which was dedicated to scrutiny of the Soviet Union. He was later joined as co-editor by the London based anti-communist polemicist Leopold Labedz. [10] In 1957 he was appointed a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University. [11]

In 1964, after editing Survey for nine years, Laqueur became Director of the Wiener Library, the world's oldest Holocaust memorial institution. Laqueur replaced the library's founder Alfred Wiener, who died in February 1964. According to the library's website, 'Laqueur's priority was to gain the funding necessary to support the work of the Library. He also set up the Journal of Contemporary History and organised many events, conferences and seminars.' [12] Laqueur established the Journal of Contemporary History with fellow historian George Mosse. He also set up the Institute of Contemporary History. [13][14]

According to Fred Landis, during his time in London, Laqueur was also the 'principal director' of a Congress funded propaganda operation called Information Bulletin Ltd. Information Bulletin Ltd was the first of a series of CIA funded propaganda opertions. It later became Forum Information Services, which then became Forum World Features. [15] Laqueur's involvement is not mentioned in his account of his career on his own website.[16]

In the US

In 1967 Laqueur moved to the United States where he appointed Professor of the History of Ideas at Brandeis University, a position he held until 1971. [17] In 1969 he was appointed a member of the International Research Council of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) at Georgetown University. [18]

During the 1970s Laqueur became one of a small group of 'terrorism experts' who formed the nucleus of what was to become a highly influential, and arguably highly compromised, academic field.

Voices of Terror, 2004

Laqueur's academic interest in terrorism appears to date back to the mid-1970s. In 1975 he published an article in the Journal of Contemporary History called 'Origins of Guerrilla Doctrine',[19] and in 1976 his book Guerrilla was published. In 1976 he also wrote two articles for Harpers on the subject of terrorism. [20]

In 1977 he wrote a further article on terrorism in the Journal of Contemporary History [21] and his book Terrorism was published. The book has been highly influential in its field. One study found it to be the second most cited book on the subject. Interestingly the same study found that its influence has grown dramatically in recent years, finding that it had moved from being the tenth most cited publication in 1983 to the second most cited in 2003. [22]

Laqueur’s contribution to the field is generally said to be historical. One author notes that, ‘Laqueur’s contribution is generally appreciated because he has place terrorism in an historical context. His work on terrorism is only part of his enormous productivity in many areas.’ [23]

In September 1977 it was announced that Laqueur had been appointed university professor in the Department of Government at Georgetown University. The report stated that Laqueur was at that time head of CSIS's Research Council, a position he held until 2001. [24]

Views and Major Writings


His main works deal with European history in the 19th and 20th century, especially the Russian history , German history and the Middle East. He written on many topics from the German Youth Movement, Zionism, Israeli history, the cultural history of the Weimar Republic and Russia, Communism, the Holocaust, fascism and diplomatic history of the Cold War. His books have been translated into many languages and he was one of the founders of the study of political violence, guerrilla warfare and terrorism. His comments on international affairs have appeared in many American and European newspapers and periodicals. He wrote the foreword to Wilhelm Wulff's book Zodiac and Swastika.

Definition of Terrorism

In the mid 1980s researchers wrote to 200 terrorism researchers asking them to comment on a particular definition of terrorism. Laqueur was the only respondent who ignored the question. Instead he stated that in response that: ‘Ten years of debates on typologies and definitions have not enhanced our knowledge of the subject to a significant degree,’ adding that, ‘the study of terrorism can manage with a minimum of theory.’ [25]

(Official) Biography in Brief

Born Breslau (Germany at the time) May 26,1921

Primary and Secondary education Breslau, Graduated Johannes Gymnasium
February 1938. Left Germany November 1938.
Hebrew University, Jerusalem 1938/9. Joined Kibbutz , agricultural laborer
1939-1944. Moved to Jerusalem, worked as a journalist 1944-1953, covered Palestine and, for several years, other Middle Eastern countries.
London from 1955. Editor SURVEY. 1955-1964.
Director Wiener Library 1964- 1993. Founder and and Editor (with George Mosse) of Journal of Contemporary History (retired from from Journal 2005)
Visiting professor Johns Hopkins (1957). University of Chicago, Fellow Harvard Russian Research Center and Middle East Research Center. Visiting professor Harvard (1976/7). Two Guggenheim fellowships.
Professor (History of Ideas) Brandeis University 1967-1971. Appointed member, later chairman International Research Council, CSIS Washington 1969-2001. Founder Washington Papers and Washington Quarterly
Frequent travels to Soviet Union, Eastern and Western Europe. West Africa.
Visiting professor (History) Tel Aviv University (1972-1982)
University Professor Georgetown University (1980-1991)
Several honorary doctorates. Various literary awards. Festschrifr on the occasion of his 70th birthday: “The impact of Western Nationalisms”
An extensive list of publications, books and articles in “Walter Laqueur, a bibliography of his work” published by CSIS May 1986 ISBN-0-87840-443-0.
Married Naomi (Barbara nee Koch) 1941 (d. 1995). Two daughters, four grandchildren, two great grandchildren. Married 1996 Christa Wichmann (nee Gentzen) Further biographical details: Thursday's Child has far to go (autobiography) New York 1992.
Joyce Nakamura, “Contemporary Authors”, autobiography series. Vol. 19, pp. 207-227, Detroit, 1994.
Who's Who (UK), Who's Who (US), International Who's Who, Who's Who in the World etc.


Resources, Affiliations, Publications, Notes




  • Communism and Nationalism in the Middle East, London, Routledge & Paul 1956.
  • Nasser's Egypt, London : Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1957.
  • Co-edited with George Lichtheim The Soviet Cultural Scene, 1956-1957, New York : Praeger, 1958.
  • The Middle East in Transition : Studies in Contemporary History, New York : Praeger, 1958.
  • The Soviet Union and the Middle East, London, Routledge K. Paul 1959.
  • Co-edited with Leopold Labedz Polycentrism : the New Factor in International Communism, New York : Praeger, 1962.
  • Young Germany : a History of the German Youth Movement, New York : Basic Books, 1962.
  • Neue Welle in der Sowjetunion : Beharrung und Fortschritt in Literatur und Kunst, Wien : Europa Verlag, 1964.
  • Russia and Germany; A Century of Conflict, London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1965.
  • Co-edited with George L. Mosse 1914: The Coming of the First World War, New York, Harper & Row 1966.
  • Co-edited with George L. Mosse Education and Social Structure in the Twentieth Century, New York : Harper & Row, 1967.
  • The Fate of the Revolution : Interpretations of Soviet History, London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1967.
  • The Road to Jerusalem; The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1967, New York, Macmillan 1968.
  • The Road to War, 1967 : the Origins of the Arab-Israel Conflict, London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1969.
  • Co-written with George Mosse Linksintellektuelle zwischen den beiden Weltkriegen, München : Nymphenburger Verlagshandlung, 1969.
  • The Struggle for the Middle East : the Soviet Union in the Mediterranean, 1958-1968, London : Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969.
  • Europe Since Hitler, London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1970.
  • A Dictionary of Politics, London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1971 ISBN 0-297-00091-8.
  • Out of the Ruins of Europe, New York : Library Press, 1971 ISBN 0-912050-01-2.
  • Co-edited with Bernard Krikler A Readers Guide to Contemporary History, London : Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1972, ISBN 0-297-99465-4.
  • A History of Zionism, London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1972.
  • Neo-Isolationism and the World of the Seventies, New York: Library Press, 1972 ISBN 0-912050-38-1.
  • Confrontation : the Middle-East War and World Politics', London : Wildwood House, 1974 ISBN 0-7045-0096-5.
  • Co-edited with George L. Mosse Historians in Politics, London : Sage Publications, 1974 ISBN 0-8039-9930-5.
  • Weimar, a Cultural History, 1918-1933, London : Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1974 ISBN 0-297-76574-4.
  • (Editor) Fascism : a Reader's Guide : Analyses, Interpretations, Bibliography, Berkeley : University of California Press, 1976 ISBN 0-520-03033-8.
  • Terrorism, Boston : Little, Brown, 1977 ISBN 0-316-51470-5.
  • Guerrilla : a Historical and Critical Study, London : Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1977 ISBN 0-297-77184-1.
  • (Editor) The Guerrilla Reader : a Historical Anthology, Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 1977 ISBN 0-87722-095-6.
  • (Editor) The Terrorism Reader : a Historical Anthology, Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 1978, ISBN 0-87722-119-7.
  • Co-edited with Barry Rubin The Human Rights Reader, Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 1979 ISBN 0-87722-170-7.
  • A Continent Astray : Europe, 1970-1978, New York : Oxford University Press, 1979 ISBN 0-19-502510-5.
  • The Missing Years : a Novel, Boston : Little, Brown, 1980 ISBN 0-316-51472-1.
  • The Terrible Secret : Suppression of the Truth about Hitler's "Final Solution", Boston ; Toronto : Little, Brown, 1980 ISBN 0-316-51474-8.
  • The Political Psychology of Appeasement : Finlandization and Other Unpopular Essays, New Brunswick, N.J. : Transaction Books, 1980 ISBN 0-87855-336-3.
  • "Hollanditis: A New Stage in European Neutralism" from Commentary, August 1981.
  • (Editor) The Second World War : Essays in Military and Political History, London : Sage Publications, 1982 ISBN 0-8039-9780-9.
  • America, Europe, and the Soviet Union : Selected Essays, New Brunswick, N.J. : Transaction Books, 1983 ISBN 0-87855-362-2.
  • (Editor) The Pattern of Soviet Conduct in the Third World, New York, N.Y. : Praeger, 1983 ISBN 0-03-063944-1.
  • Looking Forward, Looking Back : a Decade of World Politics, New York : Praeger, 1983 ISBN 0-03-063422-9.
  • Co-edited with Barry Rubin The Israel-Arab Reader : a Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict, New York, N.Y. : Penguin Books, 1984 ISBN 0-14-022588-9.
  • Germany Today : A Personal Report, Boston : Little, Brown, 1985 ISBN 0-316-51453-5.
  • A World of Secrets : the Uses and Limits of Intelligence, New York : Basic Books, 1985 ISBN 0-465-09237-3.
  • Co-edited with Robert Hunter European Peace Movements and the Future of the Western Alliance, New Brunswick, U.S.A. : Transaction Books, 1985 ISBN 0-88738-035-2
  • Co-written with Richard Breitman Breaking The Silence, New York : Simon and Schuster, 1986 ISBN 0-671-54694-5.
  • The Fate of the Revolution : Interpretations of Soviet History from 1917 to the Present, New York : Scribner's, 1987 ISBN 0-684-18903-8.
  • Co-edited with Brad Roberts America in the World, 1962-1987 : a Strategic and Political Reader, New York : St. Martin's Press, 1987 ISBN 0-312-01318-3.
  • The Age of Terrorism, Boston ; Toronto : Little, Brown, 1987 ISBN 0-316-51478-0.
  • The Long Road to Freedom: Russia and Glasnost, Collier Books, 1989, ISBN 0-02-034090-7.
  • Soviet Realities : Culture and Politics from Stalin to Gorbachev, New Brunswick, U.S.A. : Transaction Publishers, 1990 ISBN 0-88738-302-5.
  • Stalin : the Glasnost Revelations, New York : Scribner's, 1990 ISBN 0-684-19203-9.
  • Co-written with John Erickson Soviet Union 2000 : Reform or Revolution?, New York : St. Martin's Press, 1990 ISBN 0-312-04425-9.
  • Thursday's Child Has Far to Go: A Memoir of the Journeying Years, Scribner, 1992 ISBN 0-684-19421-X.
  • Europe In Our Time : A History, 1945-1992, New York : Viking, 1992 ISBN 0-670-83507-2.
  • Black Hundreds : the Rise of the Extreme Right in Russia, New York : HarperCollins, 1993 ISBN 0-06-018336-5.
  • The Dream That Failed : Reflections on the Soviet Union, New York : Oxford University Press, 1994 ISBN 0-19-508978-2.
  • Fascism : Past, Present, Future, New York : Oxford University Press, 1996 ISBN 0-19-509245-7.
  • Fin de Siècle and Other Essays on America & Europe, New Brunswick, N.J. ; London, UK : Transaction Publishers, 1997 ISBN 1-56000-261-1.
  • Guerrilla Warfare: A Historical and Critical Study, Transaction Publishers, 1997 ISBN 0-7658-0406-9.
  • Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind, Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1998 ISBN 0-943875-89-7.
  • The New Terrorism : Fanaticism and the Arms of Mass Destruction, New York : Oxford University Press, 1999 ISBN 0-19-511816-2.
  • Generation Exodus : the Fate of Young Jewish Refugees From Nazi Germany, Hanover, NH ; London : University Press of New England [for] Brandeis University Press, 2001 ISBN 1-58465-106-7
  • Co-edited with Judith Tydor Baumel The Holocaust Encyclopedia, Yale University Press, 2001 ISBN 0-300-08432-3.
  • No End to War : Terrorism in the Twenty-first Century, New York : Continuum, 2003 ISBN 0-8264-1435-4.
  • Voices of Terror: Manifestos, Writings and Manuals of Al Qaeda, Hamas, and Other Terrorists from Around the World and Throughout the Ages, Sourcebooks, Inc, 2004 ISBN 1-59429-035-0.
  • "Dying for Jerusalem": The Past, Present and Future of the Holiest City, Sourcebooks, Inc, 2006 ISBN 1-4022-0632-1.
  • The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism: From Ancient Times to the Present Day, Oxford University Press, 2006 ISBN 0-19-530429-2.


  • Co-edited by Jehuda Reinharz and George L. Mosse The Impact of Western Nationalisms : Essays Dedicated to Walter Z. Laqueur on the Occasion of his 70th birthday, London : Sage, 1992 ISBN 0-8039-8766-8.
  1. Walter Laqueur Biography,, accessed 26 March 2009
  2. Walter Laqueur Biography,, accessed 26 March 2009; ‘LAQUEUR, Walter’, Who's Who 2009, A & C Black, 2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2008 accessed 26 March 2009
  3. Walter Laqueur Biography,, accessed 26 March 2009
  4. Walter Laqueur Biography,, accessed 26 March 2009
  5. Thursday's Child Has Far to Go: A Memoir of the Journeying Years, accessed 26 March 2009
  6. Walter Laqueur, Fin de siècle and other essays on America & Europe (Transaction Publishers, 1997) p.235
  7. Walter Laqueur, Fin de siècle and other essays on America & Europe (Transaction Publishers, 1997) p.235
  8. Walter Laqueur, Fin de siècle and other essays on America & Europe (Transaction Publishers, 1997) p.236
  9. Guy Wint, ‘Arab Intelligentsia’, Guardian, 17 July 1956; p. 4
  10. Walter Laqueur, Fin de siècle and other essays on America & Europe (Transaction Publishers, 1997) p.246
  11. Walter Laqueur Biography,, accessed 26 March 2009
  12. Wiener Library, A short history of the Wiener Library (accessed 26 March 2009)
  13. CSIS Walter Laqueur, accessed 26 March 2009
  14. Walter Laqueur Biography,, accessed 26 March 2009
  15. Fred Landis, 'Georgetown's Ivory Tower for Old Spooks', Inquiry, 30 September 1979
  16. Walter Laqueur Biography,, accessed 26 March 2009
  17. ‘LAQUEUR, Walter’, Who's Who 2009, A & C Black, 2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2008 accessed 26 March 2009
  18. Walter Laqueur Biography,, accessed 27 March 2009
  19. W. Laqueur, 'Origins of Guerrilla Doctrine', Journal of Contemporary History Vol: 10 Issue: 3 pp: 341-382 1975
  20. W. Laqueur, 'Futility of Terrorism', Harpers, Volume: 252 Issue: 1510 1976; W. Laqueur, 'Continuting Failure of Terrorism' Harpers, Volume: 253, Issue: 1518 1976
  21. W. Laqueur, 'Interpretations of Terrorism - Fact, Fiction and Political-Science, Journal of Contemporary History Volume: 12 Issue: 1 Pages: 1-42 Published: 1977
  22. Edna F. Reid, Hsinchun Chen, ‘Mapping the contemporary terrorism research domain’, International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 65 (2007) 42–56
  23. Alex Peter Schmid, A. J. Jongman, Michael Stohl, Political Terrorism (Transaction Publishers, 2005) p.181
  24. Washington Post, 29 September 1977; ‘LAQUEUR, Walter’, Who's Who 2009, A & C Black, 2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2008 accessed 27 March 2009
  25. Alex Peter Schmid, A. J. Jongman, Michael Stohl, Political Terrorism (Transaction Publishers, 2005) pp.2-3
  26., Biography (accessed 26 March 2009)

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