Abitur, Humboldt-Gymnasium, Ulm, Baden-Wuerttemberg, 1957. Doctor of Philosophy, Tuebingen University, Muenster, Heidelberg, Tuebingen, 1963. Habilitation, Free University, West Berlin, 1970.
In 1970 he became professor at the Free University of Berlin. From 1972 to 1991 he was professor at the University of Freiburg. Since 1991 he has held a chair of modern history at the Humboldt University Berlin.
He is the author of a book detailing a comprehensive political history of the Weimar Republic, among others. During the Historikerstreit, Winkler was a leading critic of Ernst Nolte. In an essay first published in the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper on 14 November 1986, Winkler wrote of Nolte’s essay "The Past That Will Not Pass" that: “Those who read the Frankfurter Allgemeine all the way through to the culture section were able to read something under the title “The Past That Will Not Pass” that no German historian to date had noticed: that Auschwitz was only a copy of a Russian original-the Stalinist Gulag Archipelago.
For fear of the Bolsheviks’ Asiatic will to annihilate, Hitler himself committed an “Asiatic deed”. Was the annihilation of the Jews a kind of putative self-defence? Nolte’s speculation amounts to that.” Writing of Nolte’s claim that Weizmann’s letter was a “Jewish declaration of war”, Winkler stated that “No German historian has ever accorded Hitler such a sympathetic treatment”.
He then studied history, political science, philosophy and public law at Münster, Heidelberg and Tübingen. He is a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), and has ties to numerous prominent politicians within that party, including former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. "From Social Protectionism to National Socialism: The German Small-Business Movement in Comparative Perspective," The Journal of Modern History Vol.
Member Association German Historians (executive committee 1972-1980), Berliner Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft, Arbeitskreis fur moderne Sozialgeschichte.
Married Doerte Schnurr, July 19, 1974.