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Nazi Germany and the American Germanists

A Study of Periodicals, 1930-1946


Magda Lauwers-Rech

This study discusses the reaction of American Germanists to Nazism and World War II as expressed in academic journals between 1930 and 1946. The collective response was defensive and feeble. The professional organizations and the editors of Germanistic journals abstained from comment on the political situation in Germany. Yet, numerous individuals - although a minority - expressed their political opinions. Some praised Nazi Germany, but more exposed its evils. As to literature, Germanists denounced blatant nationalism and anti-Semitism, but they were slow to perceive the connection between philosophical one-sidedness and NS perversions. Overall, despite some outspoken defenders of Nazi Germany, the majority of Germanists did not display Nazi sympathies. Rather, their weakness was ignoring political realities and a lack of opposition. The opportunity to maintain in the U.S. an independence denied in the «heartlands» of Germanistik was missed.