Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Transatlantic Migration

The rise of Nazism forced many professors and other intellectuals to leave Germany, generally for the English-speaking countries. The Austrians came soon after. There were smaller contingents from Hungary, Italy, and France. I have a personal interest in this matter because by and large these are the brilliant individuals who educated me.

Recently the fructifying effect of this elite migration has been the subject of a good many monographs. Generally, these are organized on a disciplinary basis. An exception, casting a wider net is Mitchell G. Ash and Alfons Söllner, eds., Forced Migration and Scientific Change: Emigré German-speaking Scientists and Scholars after 1933, Cambridge, 2002 (Publications of the German Historical Institute). Among the topics included in this book are these: physics, life, and contingency: Born, Schrödinger, and Weyl in exile; the impact of German medical scientists on British medicine: a case study of Oxford, 1933–45; emigré psychologists after 1933: the cultural coding of scientific and professional practices; psychoanalysis: from Oedipus to culture; dismissal and emigration of German-speaking economists after 1933; the Vienna Circle in the United States and empirical research methods in sociology; from public law to political science.

Here is a new classification, emphasizing disciplinary cross-overs.

THE HUMANISTS.  The operated in a whole array of fields, including history, classics, literary studies, art history, musicology, political theory, and traditional philosophy (e. g. Theodor Mommsen, WernerJaeger, Erich Auerbach, Erwin Panofsky, Manfred Bukofzer, Hannah Arendt, and Ernst Cassirer). These scholars sought to provide more searching and precise interpretations of traditional culture, without intending to rock the boat.

THE SUBVERSIVES. Most prominent were the Marxists (Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno), though they had to tread carefully because of anticommunism. Then there were the logical positivists (Rudolf Carnap, Hans Reichenbach) who sought to demolish all earlier philosophy, replacing it with a new model ostensibly more suited to a scientific age. In art, the surrealists and abstractionists wanted to replace earlier art with their own creations, as did modernist architects such as Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Finally, the Freudians and other psychotherapists practiced subversion on the individual level.

THE SCIENTISTS and MATHEMATICIANS allied with them. Here Albert Einstein is the iconic figure. However, there were also crack mathematicians such as Kurt Gödel and John von Neumann. For their part, Enrico Fermi, Edward Teller and others were instrumental in creating the atomic bomb.

THE PERFORMING ARTISTS.  They sought to raise standards in their own field.  Conductors included Julius Rudel and Bruno Walter; composers, Paul Hindemith and Arnold Schoenberg.  Hollywood and Southern California welcomed directors like Ernst Lubitsch and Billie Wilder, and also writers like Bertold Brecht and Thomas Mann.


Blogger Thomas Kraemer said...

Both my father and Grandfather Elmer Kraemer (See Wikipedia) were living in Germany when Magnus Hirschfeld's gay research library was being literally burned by the Nazis in he 1930's. The reason my grandfather was lecturing at a university in Germany was because he considered Germany to be the home of the world's greatest scientists and he knew it was the best way to promote the invention of nylon that he had led at the DuPont Company in America. I clearly recall my family's accepted reasons why they left Germany was because Hitler hated Jews and Germany had become politically unstable, however, it was not until decades later I learned from a reputable German scholar that Magnus Hirschfeld was specifically targeted for being gay, similar to how Republicans, such as George W. Bush and Sen. Joe McCarthy, attacked gay men for political gains in the 1950's and in 2004 with the anti-gay marriage legislation.

11:55 AM  

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