Universities

   Whether old and esteemed (e.g., Heidelberg and Leipzig) or newly organized (Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Cologne), Germany's thirty uni-versities and Technische Hochschulen set the stage for sustained unrest and were a stronghold for antidemocratic forces during the Weimar era. The domain of a semiaristocratic elite known as the Bildungsburgertum, the universities, while hardly altered by the November Revolution,* saw their traditional role threat-ened by the eclipse of the Kaiserreich. Thus professors and students alike, fear-ing for status and security, spurned the democratic principles of the Republic.
   Germany's new state governments, especially in Prussia,* hoped to reshape higher education to mirror new realities. But reform was bitterly resisted. The Corporation of German Universities (Verband der deutschen Hochschulen), founded in 1920, nurtured nostalgia for the Kaiserreich and contested almost every effort at innovation. Although some—for example, Ernst Troeltsch* and Friedrich Meinecke*—were ultimately recast as Vernunftrepublikaner,* the large majority of Germany's full professors remained contemptuous of the Re-public.
   Such contempt was bolstered by a structure, inherited from the Kaiserreich, that ensured that academia remain a bastion of tradition. A postdoctoral hurdle required to lecture in a German university, the Habilitation is the true stepping-stone to an academic career, while the doctorate, a degree more commonly held in Germany than the United States, is often crucial to advancement in nonaca-demic professions. Moreover, the Habilitation is by no means the final hurdle to academic success. After successfully presenting this thesis to a specific faculty for examination, the candidate presents a trial lecture. If one habilitiert sich, appointment as a Privatdozent—analogous to instructor or assistant professor in the United States—follows. During the Weimar era the Privatdozent was not salaried, but was entitled to fees paid by students. By creating a reputation through publication, the Privatdozent manifested his (rarely "her") competence to advance. Thus, without private means, the life of a Privatdozent—especially amidst economic chaos—was bitter if not desperate. The next step, that of aus-serordentlicher Professor (associate professor), included a small salary, but did not include tenure. Only with advancement to ordentlicher Professor (full pro-fessor) was tenure and a meaningful salary assured. The faith that this ensconced professorate placed in the old regime's arrogant style was not broken by defeat; indeed, it was bolstered by the apparent disdain in which the Republic was held internationally. While few republican officials suffered the professors' enmity as much as Carl Becker,* the Prussian Cultural Minister, it is instructive that President Friedrich Ebert* was told by Berlin's* rector that he was unwelcome to address the university.
   Most tragically, the Republic failed to win student support. Although profes-sors, albeit generally antidemocratic, retreated to nonpolitical simplicity and warmed only rarely to the NSDAP, students were invariably drawn to the Nazis' radicalism. There were clear social and economic underpinnings for the allure. From 1923 employment prospects became progressively worse. As most stu-dents had middle-class pedigrees, they became agents of a cohort embittered by the impoverishment stemming from inflation* (1922-1923) and currency reform (1923-1924). They naturally linked their indignation to the Versailles Treaty,* the Dolchstosslegende,* and the Ruhr occupation.* Gradually recognizing that an education would not ensure their future, they blamed their predicament on the reparations* due the Allies and on the Republic's policy of fulfillment.* More ominously, they increasingly identified with a völkisch ideology deemed more revolutionary than the nation-oriented philosophy of their elders.
   German students were organized into a complex web of overlapping affilia-tions. Fraternities, with traditions more than one hundred years old, continued to dominate student politics after the war. The Republic's more than 1,500 fraternities (Corporationen or Verbindungen) had nationwide affiliations and were split into dueling orders, which cultivated a tradition of settling issues of honor with swords, and nondueling orders, which included the Catholic* cor-porations. In 1928-1929 more than half of the male students were fraternity members (by 1931 women* accounted for about 15 percent of the 138,000 students). Meanwhile, a national student league, the Deutsche Studentenschaft,* was formed in 1919 to give students a unified voice. Soon gravitating to the Right, the Studentenschaft formed German-Aryan chambers at universities in Austria* and Czechoslovakia and was so anti-Semitic by 1927 that it lost gov-ernment recognition. Finally, to the great detriment of student politics, radicals organized the National Socialist German Students' League (NSDStB) in 1926. Politically naïve, none of the groups was loyal to the Republic. Condemning the Constitution* and the Versailles Diktat, they also promoted the need for a Fuhrer.
   Although students were moved by similar issues throughout the Weimar era, their character had markedly changed by 1930. The students of 1930, born just before the war, had only vague memories of imperial Germany. As the depres-sion* deepened, universities attracted more students who were apathetic about academics and shared an interest in radical solutions to their problems. The NSDStB gained majorities in Studentenschaft elections at eight universities in 1929. Thereafter violence became endemic to the academy as NSDStB leaders displayed contempt for decorum and tradition. In 1931 the Studentenschaft's national conference was led by a Nazi. By May 1933, when scores of students burned library books, a law had restored recognition to the Studentenschaft while restricting membership to students of Aryan blood.
   REFERENCES:Giles, Students and National Socialism; Laqueur, Weimar; Fritz Ringer, Decline of the German Mandarins; Steinberg, Sabers and Brown Shirts; Zorn, "Student Politics."

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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