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    T. Maurer, »... und wir gehören auch dazu« (Roger Chickering)

    Francia-Recensio 2017/2 19.‒21. Jahrhundert ‒ Époque contemporaine

    Trude Maurer, »... und wir gehören auch dazu«. Universität und »Volksgemeinschaft«im Ersten Weltkrieg. 2 Bde., Göttingen (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht) 2015, XIV+X–1214 S., ISBN 978-3-525-33603-8, EUR 130,00.

    rezensiert von/compte rendu rédigé par

    Roger Chickering, South Beach, OR

    »Differentiating and putting this material into concrete terms beforegeneralizing and drawing conclusions about it have lent this study a bulk that might well scare off many readers«(p. XII). This warning from the author preempts a review. Trude Maurer, a specialist in East European history, has produced an extraordinary piece of scholarship by any reckoning. Her study of German universities during the First World War is by a wide margin the most extensive and comprehensive such work ever published; and it could have claimed this distinction had she confined herself to the history of any one such institution. Instead she has chosen to write about three of them. The result is a monograph of two volumes and nearly twelve hundred pages, and its bulk may indeed scare off many readers.

    She has selected the universities of Berlin, Strasbourg, and Giessen, each of which, she explains, represents a »type«by virtue of its size and situation in the capital, province, or border area. The study is divided into three principal sections. The first presents an extended introduction to each of these institutions – its faculty and student body, research and curriculum, administration, and institutional self-image. The second and longest section of the study treats the mobilization of these universities in support of the German war effort. The survey covers students in the armed services, the more diverse military roles of faculty scholars (their service as soldiers, chaplains, and military doctors, their contributions to the scientific and technological support of the military, and their role in the moral mobilization of the home front). It then treats the place of faculty and students (male and female) in the economic mobilization of the home front, and the growing discord within the university community, as debates raged over war aims and constitutional reform. The third section (and the second volume) of the study is devoted to what the author characterizes as the »secondary«functions of the university. Here the survey turns to curriculum and instruction in the circumstances of war—the pressures on the teaching faculty, the evolving composition of the student bodies, the disruptions visited by the war on classrooms and other facilities, examinations, and curricular offerings, and relations between faculty and students. That foreign students and scholars figure prominently in this analysis reflects the author’s broader interests and earlier work.

    All these themes are covered in such exhaustive detail that generalizations are difficult. The most interesting, thematically coherent, and methodologically most self-conscious parts of the study address the self-representation of these German universities and the challenges to their privileged claim to cultural leadership in the Volksgemeinschaft. This claim, which had deep roots in the prewar era, surfaced not only in the massive rush of students to the army, but also in the resolutions and public petitions that professors signed to justify the war and solidify national unity, the articles they wrote for the popular press, and the speeches they delivered to their colleagues and students, as well as to the wider public. Yet other central aspects of the war subverted this claim to privileged status in the national community. Universities faced the prospect of closure in the face of material shortages. Most professors did not see military action, which represented the ultimate male act of investment in this community; and their material sacrifices looked slight in comparison to what other people in Berlin, Strasbourg, and Giessen had to bear. Maurer argues persuasively that university scholars’ enthusiastic commitment to the war effort at home was thus due in part at least to a »Rechtfertigungsdruck«(p. 429), a need to compensate for feelings of inferiority that were both personal and institutional. The same commitment was calculated to reinforce unity within the university itself, where the war had upset traditional academic hierarchies of all sorts, notably between males and females and between faculty members and their students. It became evident that the scholars who had once been preceptors to their students had become the »Schützlinge«of these same students, who now claimed moral privilege by virtue of the uniforms they wore. This reversal of roles struck at least one scholar in Berlin as a »degradation«(p. 694).

    In the end, Maurer’s study offers an explosion of empirical detail that threatens to overwhelm the interpretive scaffolding. The comparisons that purportedly guide the work are neither systematic nor particularly enlightening, nor are the grounds for selecting the three universities entirely persuasive (Berlin and Strasbourg were unique in many basic respects). In any event, the role of these institutions in the study is primarily to furnish three more or less autonomous founts of detailed information. To take but one example, the reader learns (p. 273–286) a great deal about who in Berlin, Strasbourg, and Giessen did and did not sign the »Declaration of the German Empire’s University Teachers«, which appeared in October 1914: 69.2% of the faculty in Berlin did, as did 63.3% in Giessen, and 56.6% in Strasbourg. These figures included, from the Protestant theological faculties, 91.7% of the scholars in Berlin, 100% in Giessen, and 88.9% in Strasbourg, from the medical faculties, 55% in Berlin, 51.6% in Giessen, and 30.3% in Strasbourg, and from the philosophical faculties, 78% in Berlin, 65% in Giessen, and 70.4% in Strasbourg. Several additional pages then dilate on these statistics (the non-signers in Giessen included the 47 year-old philosopher, August Messer, who had earlier founded a Catholic student fraternity, written a novel about this milieu, and, despite his völkischviews, was later in trouble with Nazi regime). The significance of all this comparative information is not, however, altogether clear.

    Trude Mauer’s volumes are evidence of colossal energy and dedication to detail. She has scoured the archives, academic periodicals and newsletters, and memoirs, as well as the secondary literature. Her work entirely eclipses the several monographs that have been published on these three universities, and while many of her conclusions about the political role of university scholars are familiar from the writings of Klaus Schwabe and Steffen Bruendel, she lends these conclusions formidable empirical support. The principal problem is that her work will likely not find much of a readership. As she herself admits, its size alone is forbidding; and her relentless celebration of detail plays out at the expense of »generalizing and drawing conclusions«. As a consequence, the study is a challenge to read and digest. Its great value may well lie in service as a work of reference.

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    PSJ Metadata
    Roger Chickering
    »... und wir gehören auch dazu«
    Universität und »Volksgemeinschaft« im Ersten Weltkrieg
    CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0
    Neuzeit / Neuere Geschichte (1789-1918)
    Deutschland / Mitteleuropa allgemein, Weltgeschichte
    Bildungs-, Wissenschafts-, Schul- und Universitätsgeschichte, Militär- und Kriegsgeschichte
    1900 - 1919
    Deutschland (4011882-4), Weltkrieg 1914-1918 (4079163-4), Universität (4061778-6), Studium (4058216-4), Lehre (4241291-2), Volksgemeinschaft (4273270-0), Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen (36154-9), Universität Straßburg (4214400-0)
    PDF document maurer_chickering.doc.pdf — PDF document, 325 KB
    T. Maurer, »... und wir gehören auch dazu« (Roger Chickering)
    URL: https://prae.perspectivia.net/publikationen/francia/francia-recensio/2017-2/zg/maurer_chickering
    Veröffentlicht am: 13.06.2017 15:38
    Zugriff vom: 24.11.2020 22:16
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