The relationship between the National Socialist regime and German universities was uncomfortable. The Nazis had little interest in higher education, and yet they needed universities’ specialized research and education’s cultural prestige.
Most faculty members tended to share the anti-democratic stance of the new regime. They did not quite know, however, how and to what extent they should accommodate the new regime, anddrew on their expertise to navigate the new political circumstances. In a famous inaugural lecture, Karl Escherich, a world-renowned entomologist and one of the first university presidents to be directly appointed by the Nazi party, tried to compare both the Third Reich and the university to a termite colony: What could the new national and academic communities learn from social insects? Are termites the better Nazis, or are universities superior to anthills?
Explore the ways the fractured, and in many cases, contradictory policies of the Third Reich played out in higher education. Understand how universities were torn between ideological infiltration, military demands and the desire to keep on going as they had before. How did the university's government structure change? What should the ideal "Nazi university" look like? How sympathetic were students and faculty to the new regime? And to what extent were universities able to resist the dictatorship?
GEOFFREY WINTHROP-YOUNG, PhD, is professor and department head in the Department of Central, Eastern and Northern European Studies (CENES) at UBC. After graduating from UBC in 1991, he taught at the Universities of Manitoba and Waterloo before returning to UBC in 1995, where he teaches in the German and Scandinavian sections of CENES. He is a recipient of the UBC Killam Teaching Prize for excellence in teaching.