Late turned the Austrian Academy of Sciences itself to its Nazi history: The Learned Society was more deeply involved than it seemed. More than half of its members were party members.
By Marianne Enigl and Christa Zöchling
At its inception in 1847, the Academy of Sciences should be a haven of free thought, research and publishing. The complete independence the imperial family had guaranteed. The Oriental Studies and the Natural Sciences soon acquired a reputation beyond the borders of the Habsburg empire. Here worldwide the first institute was established to study the radioactivity.
With the end of the monarchy became the illustrious circle, who had been appointed by the Emperor, the Republic of Scholars, which chose its members.
All this abandoned the professors in 1938. On 18 March they sent Hitler a telegram of submissivity. As the scholars the "leader" five days after the German invasion insured their loyalty in the noble halls of their Vienna’s city palace, SA, SS and Gestapo had already begun mass arrests.
For the 75th Anniversary of the so-called "Anschluss" is the Austrian Academy of Sciences for the first time based keeping track its history in the National Socialism. profile there has present the as yet unpublished study, which will be presented on 11th March 2013. ("The Academy of Sciences in Vienna from 1938 to 1945," edited by Feichtinger/ Matis/ Sienell/ Uhl, Austrian Academy of Sciences, 2013, the exhibition catalog)
Many Academy members had for years offered their servises as illegal Nazis the new rulers. The highest administrative staff of the Academy, in which all the threads of the learned society came together, had been as "Old Fighter" since 1933 in the NSDAP.
Their high level of education put the men assiduously in the service of Nazi policies. Just a year before, in 1937, they had discussed in a joint meeting with the German Academies on the exclusion of Jewish colleagues.
Under its new president, the historian and admirer of Adolf Hitler Heinrich Srbik, in 1939 they were "free of Jews", as noted in a log. The Vienna Academy had 21 of their most respected members excluded. Among them three Nobel Prize winners.
Absolutely thrilled, anthropologists, historians, geographers, biologists, medical physicists put themselves into the service of the Nazis, wanted the racial fanatism, the conquests, the enslavement of the "Easterners" "scientifically substantiate". For the "racial science" and measurement of prisoners of war, the scientists had even actively applied.
Only the mounting of a Hitler Bust, the Academy offered, she refused. For cost reasons.
When the war ended in 1945, more than half of the members of the Academy of Sciences were National Socialist Party members . A denazification was practically non-existent. Even an SS-Sturmbannführer was recorded "resting" after a few years of membership.
What the German historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler noted for society as a whole, was especially valid for the circle of top scholars: "Not Hitler’s individual psychopathology is the real problem but the condition of a society that had him ascended and ruled till April 1945".
Who moved with the time
Henry Knight of Srbik: (1878-1951), whose ancestors had been poor Czech peasants in spite of his proud name, which throughout his life he tried to hide, was up in the sixties considered as one of the most important Austrian historians. The passage of time can be seen in his attitude. The imperial period, he conducted research – towards the Habsburgs friendly disposed – ober the dominions, after the collapse of the monarchy, he published essays, which suggested a closeness to social democracy. In time for the seizure of power by the National Socialists in Germany, he published his major work "The German unity", a witness of German megalomania an a plea for German living space. The time of Nazi rule were Srbiks best years. In May 1938 his application for membership to the Nazi Party, in which he had introduced himself as "the founder of the all-German conception of history", was approved. Srbiks anti-Semitism was based on the belief in the superiority of the German "race". He got honorary a low member number of the NSDAP to which otherwise only illegal members had been entitled. For president of the Academy of Sciences in Vienna him the Nazi rulers suggested. Adolf Hitler personally sent him to the German Reichstag.
In his inaugural speech as the new president of the Academy in 1938 Srbik thanked "the genius of our leader", and urged the "communion of the blood the earth, the spirit and the heart and the epochal changes of the body of the Reich and the German people". Science should not be in "complete objectivity lose", it had to put itself in the "service of the German people". The Nazi bombast ran through each of his appearances. In the academy, he performed the exclusion of all Jewish scientists and the occupation of their positions with meritorious Nazi party supporters. In one case, his employment for a candidate has been documented who "was recommended by the Party as an illegal".
From 1943, when the German Wehrmacht in Russia was on the decline and Stalingrad had been lost, there were exhortations to hold out. Srbik praised the "sacrifice of his own life for the mission of the nation". It must "burn pure life so that it illuminates the world as a flame of sacrifice".
In March 1945, the President of the Academy went off and away to the Tyrolean Ehrwald. Srbik owned a second home there. Vienna, he should never enter again. Now in his numerous publications, he represented a cultural Austria-German patriotism. As a sign of detachment from the Nazi regime, he led the denazification process, he had the Nazi Party candidate and poet Max Mell awarded the Grillparzer Prize, although propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels did not fully appreciate this. And he had insisted on the term "archives for the Austrian history". Srbiks Friends brought after the war in his favor, he had allowed to quote "non-Aryan" scientists.
Srbik was then already 70 years old. Over the intervention of the Social Democratic Interior Minister Oskar Helmer him was undiminished awarded his pension. Some of his students made great careers in the Second Republic: in his lectures the openly anti-Semitic World Trade Professor Taras Borodajkewycz however triggered the largest post-war protests and was forced to retire in 1966. Christian Broda, who had doctoral work at Srbik 1940 "People and Leadership" was SPÖ Minister of Justice. Srbiks former student was ÖVP Chancellor Josef Klaus.
Srbiks Nazi past had been concealed or glossed over in the postwar period Legends arose. He is said to have as president of the Academy rescued Dutch cultural historian Johan Huizinga, who had been transferred to a concentration camp as a hostage. In fact, he had written a letter, but his request was denied. Huizinga was released for health reasons at the end. The historian and Srbik-expert Martina Pesditschek considers it "unlikely" that Srbiks intervention was decisive.
When Henry Srbik died in 1951, his three honorific obituaries were written in the context of the academy. The uncritical praise lasted until the late seventies. In Ehrwald today is even a street named after him.
Expelled and persecuted
Karl Bühler: (1879-1963), psychologist and philosopher, teacher of Karl Popper, was appointed in the twenties from Dresden to Vienna University, where he with his wife Charlotte, inter alia, set important stimuli in the Gestalt and child psychology. From 1934 he was a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences. 1938 Buhler lost on "racial" grounds his professorship, was imprisoned, escaped with his wife in the United States. In October 1940, he was expelled from the Academy of Sciences.
Victor Franz Hess (1883-1964), born in Styria, working as a physicist at the famous Institute for Radium Research of the Academy – the first to explore the radioactivity worldwide. Hess was awarded the 1936 Nobel Prize in Physics for the of him in 1912 in Vienna discovered cosmic radiation. Professorships at several universities in Austria (he initiated the station Hafelekar, Innsbruck), cooperation in the construction of the Radium Corporation in the United States, 1938 loss of professor in Graz, imprisonment and exile with his Jewish wife to the USA. Corresponding member of the Academy since 1933, exclusion from the Academy in 1940.
Stefan Meyer (1872-1949), born in Vienna, Ludwig Boltzmann’s assistant at the Physics Institute of the University of Vienna and later professor here, directed the Academy-Institute for Radium Research. After the "Anschluss" of "racial" reasons persecuted, survived retreated in Bad Ischl. Member of the Academy since 1921, declared himself his resignation in late 1938, and so he forestalled his exclusion.
Erwin Schrödinger: (1887-1961), Vienna, taught theoretical physics at Jena, Zurich, Berlin, 1933 Nobel Laureate in Physics. In the same year emigrated to England. From 1936 professor in Graz, in 1938 flight to Ireland. Member of the Academy of Sciences in 1928, 1940 excluded. He was taken in 1945 again .
Victor Christian: (1885-1963), member of the NSDAP and SS -Hauptsturmführer. The Viennese philologist in 1938 was dean at the University of Vienna and head of the SS Research Centre "Ancestral Heritage" in 1939, the Academy elected him as a full member. In 1945 he was one of four with Nazi heavily burdened whose membership was declared "extinct" than five years later resumption.
Fritz Knoll: (1883-1981), the Styrian-born was a botanist, a German National, emerged as "Illegal" desolate agitating at the University of Vienna in leather boots and black riding pants on, the secret police recorded 1937 in Knolls Institute reign a "provocative Nazi majority". After the "Anschluss" of Austria in March 1938, he was Acting Rector of the University and immediately launched the "wild expulsions" (historian Gerhard Botz) until the end of April 1938 250 teachers were removed of "racial" or political reasons. At the same time, "Your Magnificence" Knoll end of March was politely asked by the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences", … to take over the interests of the Nazi Party" in the academy. The following year, Academy President Srbik declared himself Nazi officer, Knoll received the honor of full membership. 1945, this was listed as "extinct". Three years later, Knoll was resumed, the Academy president wrote to him". It will be my pleasure to welcome you at the next meeting again". At the University the ex-rector further had ban on entering the house, at the Academy of Sciences, should he ascend the late fifties to the Secretary General. The Republic honored Knoll, who had once proudly proclaimed", the Jew is gone from our science and indeed for all times", with the Cross of Honor for Science and Art, First Class, the academy thanked itself with the medal "Bene Merito".
Oswald Menghin: (1888-1973) was born in Merano, prehistory at the University of Vienna, mid thirties Rector and active in the integration of "Illegal" in the corporate state. Member of the NSDAP in 1938 as minister of education responsible for political and "racial" cleansing of the universities. 1945, the "first List of war criminals", U.S. internment, then escape to Argentina. Membership in the Academy were suspended in 1945, resumed in 1959.
Josef Nadler: (1884-1963), German scholar from Bohemia, appointed with his literary history of the German estates to professor, since 1934 regular Academy member. NSDAP-party member; in National Socialism director of Germanic Languages at the University of Vienna. 1945 was banned from teaching at the University of Vienna, his academy membership were suspended, reactivated from 1948.
Gustav Ortner: (1900-1984), physicist, born in Styria, "Illegal", took over in 1938 the famous Institute for Radium Research of the Academy. Ortner 1945 was seized by the University of Vienna with teaching ban, put his academy affiliation dormant and reactivated in 1948. Ortner 1960 was a professor at the Vienna University of Technology, 1961, he was Head of the Atomic Institute of the Austrian Universities.