On Sunday, August 27, 2017, family, friends, and colleagues said good-bye to Dr. Peter Bergman, who taught in the UF history department for ten years, before retiring in 2014. He died the previous Friday. His and Alice Freifeld’s sons, Max and Ben, delivered beautiful tributes to a packed chapel at Williams-Thomas Funeral Home. We are all sad to see him go. He will be remembered by the department as a most wonderful colleague, and by students as a superb and caring teacher. Below is an acknowledgement of his life, published in the Gainesville Sun.
BERGMANN, DR. PETER
Dr. Peter Bergmann was born as an American citizen in Japan after Pearl Harbor. At the age of seven, he traveled by seaplane to England where he attended boarding school until his parents resettled to San Francisco. When he was nine years old, he and his 13 year old brother travelled as unaccompanied minors by boat across the Atlantic and then across the United States by train to San Francisco where they were reunited with his parents. He attended UC Berkeley as an undergraduate and graduate student. In 1964, willing to risk his future for what he believed in, he was one of the 572 students arrested in the Free Speech Movement’s first mass arrest.
He approached his study of history as a moral imperative-to understand the catastrophe of World War II and German history. In his book, Nietzsche, the last antipolitical German, he revealed Nietzsche to be a man of his time, the Bismarckian era. He spent the next three decades exploring the relationship between German and American exceptionalism. Left unfinished is his manuscript, American Exceptionalism and the Problem of German Defeat, which he joyfully toiled upon for years until illness made it impossible to do so. His place was in the study where he consumed books and treated learning as an end in itself – a labor of love that he shared with his many students.
His career took him to many parts of the country and the world: Bates College in Maine, Colgate University in upstate New York, Wellesley college in Massachusetts, University of Nebraska, and University of Connecticut, where he was a tenured associate professor, as well as stays in Munich, East Berlin, and Budapest, Hungary. Peter commuted for 8 years to Gainesville, managing to be an attentive, loving father and husband even while working a thousand miles away. He taught in the History Department and Center for European Studies at UF for ten years, retiring in 2014. He was erudite but unassuming. Witty and gentle, able to make intellectual history accessible. He was recipient of the Graduate Teaching Award in History at UF.
His illness was debilitating and long, but Peter never complained, never. He was a scholar, an incredible father, and a loving husband. He will be deeply missed by his wife of 38 years Dr. Alice Freifeld; his three children, Sophia, Max, and Ben; his three grandchildren, Eli, Freya, and Sameer; his sister, Bettina; and extended family.
Funeral service will be held on Sunday, August 27, 2017 at 1 p.m. at WILLIAMS-THOMAS FUNERAL HOME DOWNTOWN, 404 North Main Street. Burial will be at the B’nai Israel cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Altrusa House in Gainesville, 2002 NW 36th Ave. Gainesville, FL 32605. Please visit his memorial page at
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION