Marcuse majored in physics at Wesleyan University (B.A. 1979, magna cum laude) in Middletown, Connecticut. He earned an M.A. in art history from the University of Hamburg in 1987, with a thesis about a 1949 memorial dedicated "to the Victims of National Socialist Persecution and the Resistance Struggle".
In 1985, Marcuse co-produced a photographic exhibition on monuments and memorials commemorating events of the Nazi and World War II periods. In 1986, he entered the Ph.D program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, to write a dissertation about the post-1945 history of the (former) Dachau concentration camp that examined the legacies of Dachau. Marcuse says that since the end of World War II, much art, literature and public debate in Germany have revolved around the issues of resistance, collaboration and complicity with the Third Reich.
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