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  • In the Eyes of Others:The Impact of the New School's Refugee Intellectuals in the United States
  • Judith Friedlander (bio)

in april 1933, alvin johnson came up with the idea of creating at the New School a university in exile. Classes began the following October, taught by a group of refugee scholars, in heavily accented English, who had arrived in New York only a few weeks before. What Johnson accomplished in less than six months would have astonished people in affluent times, but Johnson pulled it off in the depths of the Depression, at an academic institution burdened with debts, just two years after it had moved into an expensive new building. Nothing was going to stop Johnson. It took him less than a month to raise enough money to launch the rescue campaign and to persuade the US government to issue special visas to his exiled professors and their families. He did this, moreover, at a time when the country was shamefully turning refugees away and its universities were imposing quotas on the number of Jews they accepted as students and faculty members.

The speed with which Johnson acted in 1933 demonstrates what an academic leader with conviction can do when circumstances demand it. May he serve as a model to university presidents today, as they face a world crisis of similar magnitude that threatens once again—to speak like Johnson—the life of democracy, and civilization itself. [End Page 873]


MAX ASCOLI Formerly professor of jurisprudence in several Italian universities; for two years a Rockefeller Fellow in America.

KARL BRANDT Formerly professor of agricultural economics in the Agricultural College in Berlin, director of the Institute for Agricultural Marketing, and editor of the Blätter für Landwirtschaftliche Marktforschung.

ARNOLD BRECHT Formerly lecturer in the Hochschule für Politik in Berlin, director in the Prussian State Ministry and Finance Ministry; earlier Director for Constitution, Administration and Civil Service in the Imperial Ministry of the Interior. Member of the German senate and reporter on the budget.

GERHARD COLM Formerly professor at the University of Kiel and head of the research department of the Institute for World Economics, Kiel. Authority on public finance and world economics.

ARTHUR FEILER Formerly professor of the College of Commerce at Königsberg, writer on world affairs for the Frankfurter Zeitung. Widely traveled and well known in America for his authoritative writings on international topics.

EDUARD HEIMANN Formerly professor (of economics) at the University of Hamburg and editor of Neue Blätter für den Sozialismus.

HORACE KALLEN Philosopher. He had been teaching at the New School since 1919. No biographical sketch given of him in report.

HERMANN KANTOROWICZ Formerly professor of jurisprudence at the University of Kiel. Dr. Kantorowicz was committed to the London School of Economics but joined the University in Exile for the initial year.

ALVIN JOHNSON President of the New School.

EMIL LEDERER Formerly professor (economics and sociology) at the Universities of Heidelberg and Berlin, and editor of the Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitick.

HANS SPEIER Formerly lecturer in the Hochschule für Politik in Berlin. One of the most brilliant of the younger German sociologists. (Johnson's report to the trustees did not mention, as the Times did, that Speier had also been a privatdozent at the University of Berlin).

ERICH VON HORNBOSTEL Formerly professor at the University of Berlin, anthropologist, and the world's greatest authority on comparative music. Editor with C. Stumpf of Sammelbände für vergleichende Musikwissenschaft.

MAX WERTHEIMER Formerly professor of psychology at the Universities of Berlin and Frankfurt; founder of the Gestalt school of psychology, which is now coming to play an increasing role in American educational and social psychology. Editor of Psychologische Forschung.

FRIEDA WUNDERLICH Formerly professor at the Berlin Training College and editor of Soziale Praxis, the leading German journal of social work.

Source: Alvin Johnson's 1935 Report to the Board of Trustees of the New School for Social Research. [End Page 874]

Although the story is well known, Johnson's rapid-fire response to the rise of Hitler bears retelling. On January 30, 1933, Hitler became the chancellor of Germany. On...


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