The Technische Hochschule in the Third Reich

2010/01/26

The Technische Hochschule in the Third Reich

Presidium launches appraisal of its role in the Nazi era

The Technische Universität Darmstadt intends to methodically and comprehensively appraise its role in the Nazi era. To that end, the university’s presidium has launched a research project aimed at assessing its predecessor’s (the TH Darmstadt’s) deeds during the Nazi era and dealings during the post WWII era and summarizing the results in a historical review.

Prof. Dr. Hans Jürgen Prömel, president of the Technische Universität Darmstadt, explained that, "A thorough analysis is essential in order to be able to correctly and fairly appraise the deeds of the personages involved.” The TU Darmstadt is thus following the good examples set by other German universities and scientific organizations that have thoroughly investigated their respective roles in the Nazi era. The initially two-year research project, which will be funded by the university, will cover the period 1930 – 1960. It will therefore examine the TH Darmstadt’s involvement in political affairs at a time when the Nazi Party had grown into a mass movement, as well as its denazification and reparations policies during the post WWII era.

Melanie Horn and Isabel Schmidt, a pair of young TU Darmstadt historians, will take charge of running the research effort in Darmstadt and write their doctoral dissertations in conjunction with the project. Their work will focus on the scientific-military-industrial complex at the TH Darmstadt during the Nazi era. Documentation of persecutions and expulsions of scientists and students during the Nazi era, based on personnel records and contributions from estates contained in the TU’s and the City of Darmstadt’s historical archives, is also planned. Assignment of various bachelor’s and master’s thesis topics covering particular aspects of the research at the Institute for History is also planned.

Extensive preparations

The project’s manager, Prof. Dr. Christof Dipper of the Institute for History, pointed out that the university can call upon the results of extensive preparations in pursuing the project. Examples are the six-volume history of the TU Darmstadt published in 1998 and documentations of the series of lectures by various speakers on that subject presented during the 1986/87 and 2003/04 fall semesters and 2008 spring semester. A volume containing a collection of numerous contributions by renowned scientists recounting the history of the TH Darmstadt during the Nazi era presented at the latter series of lectures has just been published by the Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft Darmstadt under the title “SelbstmobilIsierung der Wissenschaft” (“Selfmobilisation of the Sciences”). The volume’s investigations of the local differences existing at various institutions of higher education make the phenomenon of synchronous, or voluntary, “selfmobilisation” more readily comprehensible, and make it clear that the Nazi regime’s coupling of theory and practice for the “militarised state” was supportive of applications-oriented research.

Top-notch scientific expertise

Members of a scientific advisory board and a scientific commission composed of dedicated scientists involved in the project have meanwhile been appointed. The TU Darmstadt has succeeded in recruiting a trio of renowned historians of science, Prof. Dr. Helmut Maier of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schieder and Prof. Dr. Margit Szöllösi-Janze, both of the Universität zu Köln, as external members of the project’s advisory board, which will advise and support project participants. In addition to the project’s manager, Prof. Dr. Dipper, the following professors at the TU Darmstadt have been appointed members of the project’s scientific commission:

• Prof. Dr. Werner Durth, Architecture Dept.

• Prof. Dr. Mikael Hård, History of Science and Engineering Dept.

• Prof. Dr. Dietmar Hennecke, Mechanical Engineering Dept.

• Prof. Dr. Andreas Hoppe, Materials Science and Geosciences Dept.

• Prof. Dr. Heiner Knell, Archaeology Dept.

Further information on the project is available at

http://www.tu-darmstadt.de/universitaet/praesidium/th_nszeit(german only)

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