Thursday, August 6, 2009

Stephen H. Norwood's "The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower"

Stephen H. Norwood is a history professor at the University of Oklahoma and the author of a number of books, including Strikebreaking and Intimidation: Mercenaries and Masculinity in Twentieth-Century America, Labor’s Flaming Youth: Telephone Operators and Worker Militancy, 1878-1923, which won the Herbert G. Gutman Award in American Social History, and Real Football: Conversations on America’s Game.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower: Complicity and Conflict on American Campuses, and reported the following:
Page 99 of my book The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower focuses on Columbia University president Nicholas Murray Butler’s expulsion of Robert Burke for leading a student protest against his sending a delegate to Germany to celebrate Heidelberg University’s 550th anniversary, a carefully orchestrated Nazi propaganda festival. Despite a vigorous student protest campaign on his behalf, Columbia never readmitted Burke.

The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower examines how America’s preeminent institutions of higher learning, including Harvard, Columbia, Yale, and the Seven Sisters colleges, along with state universities and Catholic schools, forged friendly ties with Nazi Germany during the 1930s, enhancing its image in the West. By warmly receiving top Nazi officials on campus, university administrators signaled to the Hitler regime that savage beatings of Jews, and the expulsion of Jews from universities and the professions, were not their concern.

I demonstrate that from the very beginning, the Hitler regime made clear its determination to eliminate Germany’s Jews through forced migration and economic strangulation. Even in 1933 and 1934, many Americans suggested that the Nazis’ ultimate intention was the wholesale extermination of Jews. I contrast the significant American grassroots protest against Nazism that began as soon as Hitler assumed power with campus quiescence.

Burke’s expulsion is symptomatic of the pervasive indifference in American higher education during the 1930s to Nazi persecution of the Jews. President Butler praised Hitler’s ambassador Hans Luther after German universities had staged massive book burnings, but refused to meet Gerhart Seger, who had escaped from Oranienburg concentration camp, when a student group invited him to campus. Harvard’s administration warmly welcomed Hitler’s foreign press chief, Ernst Hanfstaengl, to campus, invited Nazis to its tercentenary celebration, and was among over twenty American colleges and universities to send a delegate to Heidelberg. Felix Frankfurter accused Harvard of “tying a tail to the Nazi kite” when its Law School Dean formally accepted an honorary degree from the Nazified University of Berlin, presented by Hitler’s ambassador on the Harvard campus. MIT welcomed cadets of the Nazi warship Karlsruhe to campus.

The Seven Sisters colleges spearheaded student exchanges with Germany’s Nazified universities, which they continued until the onset of World War II. Their students often returned home as apologists for the Hitler regime. The Seven Sisters colleges in turn enrolled German students sent as Nazi propagandists.
Read an excerpt from The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower, and learn more about the book at the Cambridge University Press website and from "Higher Ed and the Third Reich."

--Marshal Zeringue