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  • The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower: Complicity and Conflict on American Campuses
  • Thomas Adam
The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower: Complicity and Conflict on American Campuses, by Stephen H. Norwood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. 339 pp. $29.00.

In this largely descriptive and overtly moralistic book, Norwood discusses the sympathies for Nazi Germany among university professors at various elite universities and colleges during the 1930s in the United States. According to Norwood, American higher education of the 1920s and 1930s was dominated by professors who were antisemitic, Germanophile, supportive of Germany in its desire to revoke the Treaty of Versailles, and largely unresponsive when it came to taking a stand against anti-intellectual, anti-feminist, and antisemitic policies in Nazi Germany. University administrators invited representatives of the new German government such as the German ambassador in Washington D.C., Hans Luther, and the famous Hitler friend and advisor Ernst Hanfstaengl and provided them a stage at public events. University presidents were reluctant to hire Jewish exiles from Germany. Columbia University even accepted funding from fascist Italy for collaborative projects such as the Casa Italiana. German departments, in particular, are singled out as homes for [End Page 200] intellectuals who justified the actions of the German government and were largely pro-fascist.

Professors who had been in Germany after Hitler became chancellor in January 1933 continued to praise the quality of higher education in Germany and largely considered Hitler's policies as justified. Student exchange programs with German universities were (until 1938) continued and brought German students who defended the Nazi version of events in Germany to American campuses. Little is said, however, about the experience of American students who went to Germany as part of these exchange programs. Impressionable and young American students were subject to the influence exerted by lecturers with favorable views of Nazi Germany, German-American exchange programs, public lectures given by representatives of Nazi Germany, and German students on American campuses who defended Nazi-Germany's policies. Norwood, however, seems not to be able to show that professors actually succeeded in brainwashing their students and in instilling their pro-Nazi world view in the minds of the next generation of American leaders. Evidence for the failure of these attempts might be the fact that it was the students who were exposed to the pro-Nazi professors who initiated protests against pro-German speakers on campuses and Nazi policies in general.

Although Norwood paints a rather dark picture of the American academic world in the 1930s, he refers to the financial constraints experienced by the country's universities as a result of the Great Depression. The reluctance to hire Jewish refugees should be seen in the light of these constraints. Money was scarce, and outside support was needed to accommodate a large number of refugees from Germany. Appointments of refugees were supported by grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced German Scholars. The financial support of both organizations allowed major universities to offer two-year contracts to academics who had been forced out of Germany. Norwood also alludes to the founding of the University in Exile in New York City which provided job opportunities for refugee scholars.

While this book undoubtedly represents a pioneering effort, the author sometimes seems to neglect contextualization. When he complains about the Harvard university professor William L. Langer's defense in 1936 of Hitler's "occupation" of the Rhineland, Norwood seems to have forgotten that English politicians at the same time agreed with Langer and saw Germany's actions legitimized since all Germany had done was to reclaim its own "backyard." While Western European politicians in the mid-1930s recognized that the Treaty of Versailles had been a mistake and attempted to pacify Hitler through appeasement policy (by allowing a slow but steady revocation of the [End Page 201] Treaty of Versailles), one should not accuse American academics of making similar arguments.

In general, the book would have benefited from a closer copy-editing, since a few facts are somehow misrepresented or simply inaccurate. The Night of Long Knives (Hitler's purge of the SA leadership on June 30, 1934) cost...


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