The Heidelberg myth : the Nazification and denazification of a German university, 1933-1957 / Steven P. Remy.
This is a study of academic culture in Germany during and after National Socialism. It is a case study of Ruprecht Karls Universitaet Heidelberg (“Heidelberg University”) and addresses the following questions: How did professors respond to National Socialism, and how did they recall it after 1945? In 1933, professors representing all faculties welcomed the Nazi regime enthusiastically and supported its policies in their publications and lectures. Resistance to the regime—organized or individual—by professors or students—was virtually non-existent. Further, the regime's efforts to promote “National Socialist scholarship” met with wide, if uneven, support. From an early point, therefore, Heidelberg's professors oriented their scholarship and teaching to the regime's goal of creating a racially pure Germany and to its planned war of territorial expansion. At the outset of the occupation in 1945, American officials encouraged the organization of a group of professors who would become the driving force in the university's reopening. This group sought to restore the university's pre-1933 traditions and was uninterested in institutional reform. Further, they and many of their colleagues resisted the American policy of “denazification.” Their resistance was based on what would prove to be a durable myth regarding the university's experience under National Socialism. The myth presented the university as an unwilling victim of the Nazis. Most professors, in this view, opposed the regime and its attempts to create “National Socialist scholarship.” In particular, the records of civilian “denazification” tribunals reveal that professors constructed elaborate narratives of defense and justification regarding their relationships to National Socialism. These narratives severed politics from scholarship and allowed compromised professors to present themselves as scholars who never deviated from the standards of “objective” Western science. The narratives provided an important element of the emerging culture of forgetting that marked the formative years of the Federal Republic.
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