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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Back to 1938? Nazis in the Ivory Tower

We've seen it all before. So concludes Steven Plaut after reviewing The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower by Stephen H. Norwood (Cambridge University Press, 2009). What we've seen on American college campuses since the early 1990's is remarkably similar to what went on at American college campuses in the 1930's. Harvard, Yale, Columbia - Norwood covers them all and Plaut reviews them all (Hat Tip: Ashan).
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 thus:

“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.
Read the whole thing.

And if anyone can get me a review copy of the book, I'd be grateful.


At 1:27 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Its not really surprising. The brightest people also supported Communism right up to the time it collapsed. Its not the external enemies the open society has to fear. Its the enemy from within.

At 4:29 AM, Blogger Ron said...

I'm so glad I'm no longer in acdemia (Columbia U). It was obviously a cesspool of appeasement even in the 80s.


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