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Ira Katznelson Reflections on the New School’s Founding Moments, 1919 and 1933 FROM ITS VERY BEGINNING, THE NEW SCHOOL HAS WRESTLED WITH the consequences of unfreedom, fear, and insecurity, working to advance John Milton’s ringing affirmation of 1643: “Give me liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.” It has tried to emulate Thomas Huxley’s call, when he was installed as rector of Aberdeen University in 1874, that “universities should be places in which thought is free from all fetters, and in which all sources of knowledge and all aids of learning should be accessible to all comers, without distinction of creed or countiy, riches or poverty.” This singular university has touched many lives through its active values. It certainly has touched mine, offering the special privilege of serving as dean of the Graduate Faculty at a moment of transition, opportunity, and growth. I arrived in the 1983-1984 academic year. The distance of a half century from the founding made it impossible for me to know the earliest members of the faculty, with one exception: the sociologist Hans Speier, the youngest and last surviving founder of the University in Exile, who had been a member of the Graduate Faculty from 1933 to 1942 before serving in the Office of War Information and the State Department’s Occupied Areas Division. Professor Speier kindly conveyed a sense of what the first decade had been like. I also benefited from conversations with members of the second and third waves of émigré faculty and students, who shared their histories and expertise social research Vol 76 : No 2 : Summer 2009 395 with warmth and generosity. These colleagues included the Austrian jurist and political scientist Erich Hula, who arrived soon after the 1938 Anschluss, and the Stuttgart-born Adolph Lowe, a veteran of the First World War who joined the Graduate Faculty as professor of economics and as the director of a new Institute for World Affairs in 1940, having come from the University o f Manchester, where he first had found refuge. I also enjoyed conversations with the Italian New School student Franco Modigliani, who completed his PhD under Jacob Marschak’s supervision in 1944 and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1985, and with Hans Jonas, who served as Alvin Johnson Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Faculty from 1955 to 1976 and who first had met Hannah Arendt when they both were graduate students of Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger in Marburg in the mid-1920s, before Heidegger reminded the world in 1933 that even the greatest of minds were susceptible to the blandishments of National Socialism. One of the grand opportunities I experienced as dean was the chance to address the two fiftieth-anniversary celebrations that marked the 1933-1934 founding of the University in Exile. These gatherings were convened by Jonathan Fanton in April and December 1984 at the First Presbyterian Church on Fifth Avenue, and in Berlin’s strik­ ing Staatsbibliothek, in the large hall named for Otto Braun, the Social Democrat who served as prime minister of Prussia from 1920 to 1932 and who him self emigrated to Switzerland in 1933 when Hitler came to power. The New York gathering awarded the Doctor of Humane Letters degree to Hans Speier and to six exceptional contributors to human rights, including South Africa’s Helen Suzman; the Marylcnoll Sisters, for their courageous work in Central America; and Poland’s Adam Michnilc. Erich Hula and Adolph Lowe served as honorary marshals. The Berlin ceremony and commemorative seminar included a memorable talk byJurgen Habermas on German academic culture and the impact of the absence of a once-vibrant Jewish intellectual and cultural presence, and a moving account of personal and scholarly duress and renewal by Aristide Zolberg, the first holder of the New School’s University in Exile Chair, awarded by the city of Berlin. 396 social research The commemoration’s highlight was an address by Richard von Weizsäcker, who received an honorary degree for his commitment, as the citation said, “to the ideals exemplified by the University in Exile: the freedom of intellectual inquiry, the defense of human...


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