Academic Antisemitism: The Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen and the Jews

Tim Grady explores life for the teachers and students in a Bavarian university in the 1920s and 1930s.

'I will never forget this University’, proclaimed Adolf Hitler, ‘its youth were the first to declare their support for me’. The Friedrich-Alexander University’s declaration of support came in 1929, when it became the first university to elect a National Socialist student council. Some three-and-a-half years before the Nazis came to power, events in Erlangen marked the onset of a new era. 

Before 1933, Germany was renowned for its magnificent culture and great science, which were epitomised in its twenty-three universities. These great institutions, which included such historic seats of learning as Heidelberg and Göttingen, led the world in many scientific and humanistic fields. However, following the rise to power of the National Socialists the universities sacrificed, without a fight, their guiding principles of education, scientific research and academic freedom. This was all done in the name of racial purity. In 1933 alone, over 1,200 Jewish academics lost their university posts. By November 1938, all of Germany’s universities were ‘Judenfrei’.

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