David Hackett, Historian and Holocaust Expert, Dies at 80

David Hackett, Historian and Holocaust Expert, Dies at 80

“I think it was the ultimate puzzle for him,” Ms. Hackett said of her father’s work. “How could a country that produced Goethe, Mozart and Beethoven also be responsible for the horrors of the Holocaust? He wanted to understand it because it was so incomprehensible.”

David Hackett was born David Andrew Welper on Jan. 29, 1940, in Rensselaer, Ind. His father, Andrew Dale Welper, an engineer, died of sepsis when David was 4. His mother, Margaret (Jenkins) Welper, a homemaker, married Clarence G. Hackett, a child psychologist, and the family eventually settled in El Paso. David graduated from Austin High School there in 1958.

After graduating from Earlham College in Indiana with a B.A. in history, he received his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. His Ph.D. dissertation, which ran 457 pages long, was titled “The Nazi Party in the Reichstag Election of 1930.”

As a Fulbright scholar, he lived in a tiny flat in Munich, where his strict landlady brought him crusty rolls each morning for breakfast. In his spare time, he attended the opera and skied in the Bavarian Alps.

When he returned to the United States and needed a new car, he opted for a green Volkswagen Beetle. Soon he was driving it to his first teaching job, at Pittsburg State University in Kansas.

Professor Hackett joined the history department of the University of Texas at El Paso in 1971. He served a term as chairman in the late 1990s and retired in 2014. A few years later, Parkinson’s disease started to affect his mobility.

In addition to his daughter Mary-Elizabeth, he is survived by his wife, Anne Hackett; another daughter, Caroline Hackett; a son, Michael; a brother, Don; his stepmother, Helen; two stepbrothers, James and John Macayel; two half sisters, Peggy Heinrichs and Susan Murray; a stepsister, Jennifer Eveler; and six grandchildren.

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