Nazis in the Ivory Tower

Carl Spitzer WinBlows at LAVABIT.COM
Mon Dec 14 20:40:17 MST 2009
by Steven Plaut
On October 26, 2009

Over the past two decades we have witnessed the emergence of a mass
movement of political extremism and support for totalitarianism on
Western college campuses. Large numbers of university professors and
administrators today advocate politically extremist positions that
combine support for totalitarian Islamofascism and its terrorism with
deep hatred of Israel and anti-Americanism. The dimensions of the
phenomenon vary by campus and also by academic discipline. Middle East
Studies is arguably the worst. The pro-totalitarian ideology and the
hostility towards Israel and the United States have been documented for
years by campus monitoring watchdogs like Campus-Watch [1] in the United
States and by Isracampus [2] in Israel, as well as by web magazines,
notably FrontPage [3]. 
Reading the exposes about campus political extremism today is numbingly
shocking. No doubt many a reader responds bewilderingly by asking how
such behavior and fanaticism could have been invented in the early
twenty-first century. Actually, it was not. It was around many decades
Campus radicalism, support for totalitarianism, and general political
extremism are not new on Western campuses. Indeed some of the worst
political extremism in academic history took the form of enthusiastic
support on American campuses for Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. This is
a disgraceful chapter in American academic history and one largely
unknown. Its story is the topic of a new book [4], “The Third Reich in
the Ivory Tower,” by Stephen H. Norwood [5] (Cambridge University Press,
2009). The author is a professor of history at the University of
Oklahoma and holds a PhD from Columbia University (of all places;
Columbia University is one of the schools whose ties with Nazism [6] he
documents carefully). Norwood is an accomplished writer and researcher,
but I believe that this volume will turn him into an American household
name. It is based on five years of his intensive research efforts. And
it is already flaming controversies [7] and debate
None of what follows is my own original research. All of it is taken
from Norwood’s seminal study and he deserves all the credit for
uncovering these things. The simple lesson from examining the behavior
on American universities in the 1930s is that that the appeasement, the
support for totalitarian aggression and terror, the academic bigotry,
and the anti-Semitism that today fill so many American universities were
all predominant forces on many campuses in the 1930s, especially at
America’s elite schools, including on much of the Ivy League. The
Chomskies, Coles, Beinins and Massads of today could easily be fit into
the campus atmosphere of the 1930s. 
Norwood sums up the situation at American universities in the 1930s
“The leaders of American colleges and universities remained for the most
part uninvolved as others in this country forcefully protested the
Nazis’ barbaric treatment of Jews. The Nazis anti-Semitic terror in 1933
precipitated demonstrations and boycotts (of Germany) on an
unprecedented scale… But although academicians were the Americans most
conversant with European affairs, few engaged in public anti-Nazi
protest…. American universities maintained amicable relations with the
Third Reich, sending their students to study at Nazified universities
while welcoming Nazi exchange students to their own campuses. America’s
most distinguished university presidents willfully crossed the Atlantic
in ships flying the swastika flag, openly defying the anti-Nazi boycott,
to the benefit of the Third Reich’s economy. By warmly receiving Nazi
diplomats and propagandists on campus, they helped Nazi Germany present
itself to the American public as a civilized
 nation, unfairly maligned in the press.” (Norwood, page 34) 
Norwood’s book is a must-read, but also a sad and uncomfortable read. He
details the reactions of America’s professors and universities to the
rise of Hitler. The responses on American campuses ranged from complete
indifference and refusal to join in campaigns against Nazi Germany to
widespread support for German Nazism, including for German atrocities
committed against Jews. This was not mere Yankee provincial ignorance of
what was happening outside the country. 
Starting in 1933 anti-Hitler mass protests were being held throughout
the United States. Americans of all creeds joined in. So did labor
unions, political parties, and others. Perhaps the most memorable
anti-Nazi sign from the marches was that of the Undertakers Union, “We
want Hitler!” American streets were filled with anti-Nazi protests every
week. At the same time, “College and university presidents and
administrators did not convene protest meetings against Nazi
anti-Semitism on the campuses, nor did they urge their students and
faculty members to attend the nationwide mass rallies held on March 27,
1933.” (Norwood, page 15). 
Some leading German Jewish scientists and professors managed to make it
to the United States. The most famous was of course Albert Einstein.
Some American schools went out of their way to hire these refugees.
Harvard and Yale (which has a Hebrew slogan on its official coat of
arms) were NOT among those! Yale’s President James Rowland Angell said
he was “only superficially concerned with the plight of the German
refugees” and reluctant to commit resources to finding them jobs.
Harvard refused to hire refugees even when the Rockefeller Foundation
offered to cover half their salaries, not even as curators at the campus
Germanic Museum (pages 32-33).  In contrast, the Nazi Professor
Friedrich Schoenemann from the University of Berlin went on a speaking
tour of American campuses in 1933 to great acclaim, where his talks were
titled, “Why I Believe in the Hitler Government.”  He had taught at
Harvard during and after World War I. 
Some academics condemned those calling for a boycott of Germany in
response to the atrocities committed against on Kristallnacht. They
insisted it would be “hypocritical” on the part of those protesting the
boycott of German Jews by Nazis to call for a boycott of Nazi Germany.
This is worth noting because one hears the exact same claim today. Those
today calling for boycotts of the anti-Israel academics that lead the
“divestment” movement demonizing Israel are similarly denounced; they
are accused of supposedly exhibiting “hypocrisy.” In other words, one
must not oppose the evil use of boycotts to achieve evil totalitarian
aims, especially not through a campaign against them of boycotts to
achieve just and democratic aims, lest one be guilty of
Harvard University stood out above the rest in its moral failure and in
its collaboration with Nazism. Many of the faculty members at Harvard
were openly anti-Semitic, including Harvard’s president James Bryant
Conant. Later, after the war, Conant served as US Ambassador to Germany
and worked feverishly to get Nazi war criminals paroled and hired (pages
243-256). He lobbied for appointments of Nazis to various public posts
in Europe and at the United Nations. Harvard’s law school Dean, Roscoe
Pound, was openly sympathetic to Hitler, vacationed in Germany and
attended anti-Semitic events there (pages 56-7). Harvard history
professor William L. Langer strongly defended Hitler’s reoccupation and
remilitarization of the Rhineland, which was the first step in launching
World War II. More generally he served as a sort of academic apologist
for the Nazis (pages 41-2). 
Harvard went out of its way to host and celebrate Nazi leaders. The high
Nazi official Ernst (Putzi) Hanfstaungl was invited as the Harvard
commencement speaker in 1934. The wealthy Hanfstaungel had been one of
Hitler’s earliest and most important backers. He was on record insisting
“the Jews must be crushed,” and describing Jews as “the vampire sucking
German blood.”  Hanfstaungel was invited by a Harvard medical professor
to serve as the honored speaker in the Harvard commencement ceremony and
class reunion of 1934 and used the occasion for anti-Semitic incitement
(page 49). (He also showed up in [9] Harvard at the 50th class reunion
after the war in 1959.) He openly advocated the mass arrest or worse of
German Jews. The student paper, the Harvard Crimson, defended
Hanfstaungel (pages 49-50). Harvard called in the Boston police to
arrest Jews and others protesting the visit, and they were charged with
“illegally displaying signs” (page
 52). When Hanfstaungel returned to Germany from Harvard, he was
personally greeted by Hitler (page 55). 
Harvard maintained warm intimate relations with many Nazi institutions,
in particular the University of Heidelberg, even after it proclaimed
proudly that it had expelled all its Jews and began promoting what it
called “Aryan Physics” (page 62). Harvard’s warm relations with German
universities were used by Nazi propagandists, including Joseph Goebbels,
to lull the world into accepting and legitimizing the Nazi regime. In
1937 Harvard’s president was still saluting Nazi universities as playing
a legitimate part of the “learned world” (page 70). Harvard President
Conant pursued collaborative relations with Nazi universities throughout
the 1930s and right up to the outbreak of war. 
In 1935 the German consul in Boston was invited by Harvard to lay a
wreath with a swastika on it in the campus chapel. Nazi officials were
invited to Harvard’s tercentenary celebrations in 1936, held
intentionally on the Jewish High Holidays as a slap in the face of
Jewish faculty and students (page 39). A mock student debate held in
1936 was presided over by Harvard professors as judges. They acquitted
Hitler of most of the mock charges (condemning him only for having a
German general killed) and declared that German persecution of Jews was
simply irrelevant (pages 40-41).  The Harvard Crimson, the student paper
[9], ran numerous pro-Hitler articles. Its editors were among those
coming out to celebrate the visit of a German ship with Nazi officials
on board. MIT also helped host the ship. The Nazi “Horst Wessel”
marching song was played by student bands. Meanwhile, the campaign to
boycott German goods was condemned by rally speakers. 
Yale was only marginally less friendly to the Nazis than Harvard.
“President James Rowland Angell of Yale University refused the request
by Rabbi Edgar E. Siskin to speak on March 27, 1933 at a community-wide
mass meeting in New Haven called to voice ‘dismay and indignation at the
anti-Semitic excesses now being carried out in Germany’” (page 15). Yale
and Harvard presidents welcomed a delegation of Italian fascists to both
campuses in October of 1934 (page 57). The student newspapers at both
schools warmly approved.  Fascist Italy’s diplomats were often welcomed
by Harvard. 
Other parts of thee New England academic elite expressed similar
sentiments. A protest rally against German anti-Semitism was planned for
the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for March 30, 1933. It drew
only a small number of protesters after MIT President Karl Compton
intervened to oppose it. Compton also opposed the sending of petitions
to the German government signed by MIT faculty and students. Some MIT
professors came out vocally in support of Hitler and Nazi Germany,
including mechanical engineering professor Wilhelm Spannhake (page 16).
His son Ernst was a student at the time at MIT; the son insisted that
the Nazis had committed no atrocities at all and he defended the Nazi
boycott of German Jews and Jewish businesses. 
Professor Thomas Chalmers of the history department at Boston University
publicly demanded a “hands off “ policy regarding Hitler and opposed
American denunciations of Nazi Germany (page 17).  Public efforts were
made to recruit leading university presidents to refuse to travel on
German ships flying the swastika flag, and to refuse to attend German
“academic” conferences, but most refused. Among those who demonstrably
insisted on traveling on Nazi ships was Nicholas Murray Butler,
president of the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace, and
Harvard’s President Conant. President Robert Maynard Hutchins of the
University of Chicago insisted on traveling on the same ships until the
summer of 1937 (Pages 17-18). After the war the University of Chicago
hired one of the leaders of the Romanian genocidal fascist organization
“Iron Guard” as a faculty member. 
Norwood’s own alma mater of Columbia University is a major target in his
book (pages 75-102). Columbia was an active collaborator with Nazi
Germany in many ways. Months after Germany started book burning,
Columbia’s President Nicholas Murray Butler went out of his way to
welcome Nazi Germany’s ambassador to the US for a lecture circuit at the
school, and praised the Nazi emotionally as a gentleman and a
representative of “a friendly people” (page 76).  Shortly afterwards,
when a man who had escaped from a Nazi concentration camp lectured on
campus, Butler refused to attend (pages 77-8). Butler frequently praised
Germany and Fascist Italy. He would have approved of Joseph Massad [10]
getting tenure this year at Columbia. 
Columbia University itself had been officially discriminating against
Jewish students since the beginning of the century. A Columbia Dean
named Thomas Alexander praised Hitler’s Nazism sycophantically and
visited Germany himself (page 83). He especially approved of the Nazi
policy of forced sterilizations. More than one Columbia faculty member
was fired for taking an anti-Nazi stand. These included a Jewish
professor of fine arts, Jerome Klein, who dared to protest the campus
visit of the Nazi ambassador. Columbia built and maintained extensive
connections with Fascist Italy. Things changed only after 1936 when
Edward R. Murrow took over as president. 
Many other universities were little better. The “Seven Sisters,” meaning
the seven elite women’s colleges in America, were decidedly unwilling to
take any anti-Nazi stands (pages 103-132). Professors and students
served as apologists for Nazism. So did some of the college presidents.
Collaboration with the Nazis continued at some campuses even after
Germany invaded Czechoslovakia and Poland. The oppression of women in
Nazi Germany made no more impression upon them than the oppression of
women in Islamic societies does on today’s campus extremists and
Freedom of speech was selectively defended on campuses in the 1930s, as
it is again today in the 21st century. The President of Queens College
prohibited an anti-Nazi speaker from giving a lecture on campus as late
as spring 1938 (pages 223-46). Harvard suppressed student efforts to aid
Jewish refugees from Germany. For many years Catholic universities in
the United States were strongly pro-fascist (pages 196-219). 
Phony symmetry, the condemnation of fascism together with condemning
Western democracies, is not the innovation of the past decade’s campus
campaign to defend Islamic terror. In the 1930s academics and university
presidents signed statements that protested German behavior but at the
same time gave it legitimacy. For example, in one attempt at
“even-handedness,” a petition claimed that Nazi actions were “in large
part the result of the lack of fair play to Germany” on the part of
Western countries and their “slighting of German rights and needs.”  It
added that “minorities are suppressed and discriminated against to some
degree in every land.” They knew so well – at the time most Ivy League
universities and many other colleges officially and openly discriminated
against Jewish applicants. (They still do under affirmative action
Does all of the above sound familiar? It does to Norwood, who says he
sees frightening similarities [11] between what has been happening in
American campuses since the early 1990s and what transpired in the

Article printed from FrontPage Magazine: 
URL to article:
URLs in this post: 
[1] Campus-Watch: 
[2] Isracampus: 
[3] FrontPage: 
[4] a new book: 
[5] Stephen H. Norwood: 
[6] ties with Nazism: 
[7] controversies: 
[8] debate: 
[9] showed up in: 
[10] Joseph Massad: 
[11] says he sees frightening similarities: 
[12] Image:


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