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Telegram Regarding the "Action against the Un-German Spirit"

Un-German Spirit
Bundesarchiv Berlin
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tags: activism humiliation politics of fear

type: Report

Immediately following Adolf Hitler's appointment as German Chancellor in 1933, a struggle for power emerged between students and professors for control over the education of the next generation of Nazi leaders. Although power in German universities was traditionally concentrated in the hands of professors, Nazi policies gave students a new level of control over university affairs.1 Tensions over those changes emerged around the "Action against the Un-German Spirit," an antisemitic campaign led by students at individual universities.2 

In the featured telegram, rector and professor of law Eduard Kohlrausch wrote to Hitler on April 28, 1933, to complain about "immature misguided idealists" who threatened to harm German universities and damage these "valuable German cultural assets." Kohlrausch objected to a nationwide plan from the Nazi-led student council to erect so-called shaming posts displaying the names and publications of their political opponents. Those public acts of shaming primarily targeted Jewish faculty members or faculty members considered to be socialists. Kohlrausch was already in conflict with the Nazi student groups after preventing them from displaying antisemitic materials on campus as part of the "Action against the Un-German Spirit."

Although he supported the Nazi Party, Kohlrausch represented a generation of older German professors who objected to radical student groups' aggressive actions. Kohlrausch resigned his position as rector in May 1933. Only days after his resignation, the student-led protest activities reached their peak, with mass book burnings at universities across Germany.3 This campaign divided German professors, many of whom strongly supported Nazism but, like Kohlrausch, disapproved of the students' tactics. As elsewhere in German society, Nazi leaders sought political benefit in promoting conflicts among rival groups.

For a portrait of the German professoriate on the eve of National Socialism, see Fritz K. Ringer, The Decline of the German Mandarins: The German Academic Community, 1890-1933 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1980). 

Hans-Wolfgang Strätz, "Die studentische 'Aktion wider den undeutschen Geist' im Frühjahr 1933" Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, vol. 16, no. 4 (1968): 347–372; Guenther Lewy, Harmful and Undesirable: Book Censorship in Nazi Germany (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 7–19.

In 1933, 93 book burnings took place across Germany from May to October. In Berlin, where the burning was accompanied by a speech from Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, students burned approximately 25,000 books. See Lewy, Harmful and Undesirable, 13.

Kohlrausch resigned the following month, May 1933.

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German Reich Postal Service

Telegram

?: Offenburg BF 42/41 1125 57

 

[Initials, etc.] [Initials, etc.]

 

Main Telegraph Office

REICH CHANCELLOR ADOLF HITLER

Berlin BERLIN –

RK. 4923  April 28, 1933

# S. Ang. V. 5/5

 

PRESS REPORTS PLANNED ERECTION OF MONUMENTS OF SHAME IN THE UNIVERSITIES BY STUDENT BODIES. I IMPLORE YOU TO HELP US; THE GERMAN UNIVERSITY AND THEREBY VALUABLE GERMAN CULTURAL ASSETS ARE THREATENED WITH RUIN BY IMMATURE MISGUIDED IDEALISTS.

PROFESSOR KOHLRAUSCH, RECTOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF BERLIN1

 

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Bundesarchiv Berlin
Source Number R43ii/936
Date Created
May 5, 1933
Author / Creator
Eduard Kohlrausch
Location
Berlin, Germany
Document Type Report
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