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Wednesday, November 20, 2019


82 Annual Meeting of the VHB

March 17 - 20 2020

Frankfurt a. M., Germany

The Victims of the Nazi Regime

In few laws was the quintessence of the unjust National Socialist state quite as plain as in the Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums (BBG (Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service)) of April 7, 1933. As the first paragraph already reads, “To restore a national professional civil service and simplify administration, civil servants can be dismissed from office based on the following regulations, even if the necessary conditions according to the applicable legislation are not met.” The law allowed the regime to dismiss both Jews and politically unpopular civil servants pseudo-legally; it also contained several vague legal terms that made it possible to remove practically any university lecturer the regime deemed suspect or unwelcome. Apart from Jews, these also included ideological opponents of National Socialism and former freemasons.


The BBG triggered the dismissal of numerous business studies lecturers. The majority of business studies representatives, however, did not stand up for their dismissed colleagues and, apart from a few rare exceptions, there were no protests against the National Socialist regime. In fact, many business academics readily accepted the better working conditions that resulted from the boom in the subject at the universities and in the field.


Two university lecturers associated with business studies were murdered by the Nazi regime: Gustav Flusser (1885–1940) from Prague and Joseph Koburger (1878–1942) from Mannheim: Flusser, who died in Theresienstadt in 1940, held a lectureship in business studies in Prague; Koburger, who was probably murdered in Auschwitz in 1942, was the director of an insurance company and an adjunct professor of insurance studies in Mannheim from 1919 to 1933.


Jewish university lecturers were particularly under threat from the Nazi regime’s policy of persecution – although, comparatively speaking, there were not all that many in the subject. Most of these few already emigrated to safe foreign countries in 1933 or the years that followed, before the systematic National Socialist extermination policy was introduced. However, there was a relatively high number of suicides, although in the cases concerned it is often difficult to determine in retrospect whether they were the direct result of political pressure or primarily attributable to other causes. The business academics who committed suicide were:


·         The private lecturer Albert Rasch (1885–1933) from Münster took his own life in 1933 – probably because the appointment he had anticipated was refused on racial grounds.


·         Hugo Kanter (1871–1938), a legal advisor of the Braunschweig Chamber of Commerce, was dismissed as an associate professor at Braunschweig University of Technology on “racial” grounds in 1933. He subsequently emigrated to Switzerland with his wife but returned to Germany (Berlin) in 1938, where he eventually took his own life.


·         Fritz Schönpflug (1900–1936) emigrated to Switzerland in 1933 because his wife was of Jewish decent. He qualified as a professor in Berne, where he was also appointed as a private lecturer in 1936. When his wife died of a serious illness, however, he took his own life before he could take up the position.


·         Fritz Lehmann (1901–1940), possibly the most talented young business academic in the Weimar Republic, felt compelled to emigrate to the USA on “racial” grounds in 1934, where he went on to become – at the recommendation, among others, of Schmalenbach and Walb – a professor of economics at Alvin Johnson’s renowned New York “University in Exile” (later the “New School for Social Research”). Lehmann committed suicide in 1940. His reasons for doing so, however, remain unclear.


Other business academics had to take the extremely difficult step of emigrating – to a completely new environment and an uncertain future, forced to cut all their ties:


·         Julius Hirsch (1882–1961) became the subject’s first Jewish full professor in Cologne in 1917. During the First World War, he held a leading position in the war-economy administration. In the early phase of the Weimar Republic, he was an undersecretary at the Ministry of Economics and advisor to Walther Rathenau. In Berlin, after leaving politics, he was appointed as an honorary professor at both the university and the School of Commerce. When Hirsch was swiftly dismissed from both institutions in 1933, he emigrated to Denmark, where he became a professor. After Germany invaded Denmark, he moved to New York, where he became a professor at the New School. During the war, Hirsch was the chief consultant of the Office of Price Administration in Washington from 1941 to 1943.


·         After Julius Hirsch, Alfred Isaac (1888–1956) was the second Jewish – or, in Isaac’s case, of Jewish decent – business studies lecturer to become a full professor of the subject. After the National Socialists seized power, he was dismissed as a professor at Nuremberg School of Commerce, although he should really have been protected from this by law for having fought as a front-line soldier during the First World War. However, the authorities refused to issue the necessary official confirmation of his front-line-soldier status on spurious grounds. Isaac remained in Germany until 1937, when he accepted a new professorship for business studies at the University of Istanbul. After relocating, Isaac played a key role in the advancement of Turkish business studies, which involved developing the whole subject from scratch. In the early 1950s, however, he returned to Germany – initially as an adjunct professor in 1950 and one year later as an honorary professor in Göttingen. Soon afterwards, he accepted an offer of a full professorship at his old university, Nuremberg School of Commerce, in 1952.


·         Siegfried Berliner (1884–1961), a Jewish adjunct professor at Leipzig School of Commerce and a board member at Deutscher Lloyd, was relieved of his teaching duties at the university in 1933. Berliner’s status in his main profession also deteriorated steadily from 1933 onwards following anti-Semitic attacks. In May 1938 Berliner and wife Anna thus emigrated to the USA, suffering considerable material and immaterial losses in the process. In the USA, Berliner made intensive efforts to find new employment. However, he found it extremely difficult, especially in the early days after emigrating. Although he eventually found work, it was mostly short-lived.


·         As a former member of the SPD who had already been warned by the National Socialists in 1925, Friedrich Kürbs (1889–1956) was dismissed from his position as an associate professor in Königsberg for political reasons on February 28, 1934. His first attempts to emigrate proved fruitless. In 1937, however, Kürbs finally succeeded, moving to Peru and becoming a professor of statistics and cyclical analysis at San Marco in Lima, the oldest university in the Americas, from 1937 to 1950. He also became the head of Peru’s National Statistics Office. When Kürbs was offered a position at East Berlin’s Humboldt University after the collapse, his return was delayed due to passport problems. By the time these were resolved, however, Kürbs’s return to an academic career was refused. As a result, he accepted a position at the West Berlin State Statistics Office in 1950, where he soon became head.


·         Less well-known as a business academic than a public figure, Nathan Stein (1881–1966) started out as a lecturer before becoming an (honorary) professor at Karlsruhe University of Technology. Stein was a banker and co-owner of the Strauß bank. He was also president of the Jewish community’s High Council in Baden. He was a business studies pioneer in Karlsruhe before the subject became established as an independent discipline, already giving business studies lectures before the First World War. In 1925 Stein was made an honorary professor at the University of Technology, but his title was revoked on “racial” grounds in 1933. In the period that followed, he campaigned in the Reich for the rights of persecuted Jews – especially in his capacity as co-founder and advisor of the National Representation Agency of German Jews. In 1937 he emigrated to New York, where he became president of the American Federation of Jews from Central Europe and played a key role in the establishing the Leo Baeck Institute.


·         Alfred Manes (1877–1963) was one of the most prominent German actuarial scientists: Before the First World War, he was the secretary general of the Deutscher Verein für Versicherungswirtschaft (German Insurance Association) and editor of the Versicherungs-Lexikon (encyclopedia of insurance). In November 1933 Manes’s license to teach at the Berlin School of Commerce was revoked after he had “announced his usual lectures and exercises, as in the previous 53 semesters, in the 1933 summer semester, (…) even with the approval of the Rector”. He emigrated soon afterwards. In October 1936 Manes became a guest professor at Indiana University, where after some initial difficulties he was eventually made a full-time professor of insurance and economic research. After he retired, he lived out his days in partial destitution.


·         Wilhelm Friedrich Riester (1902–1980) was Willy Prion’s assistant at the Berlin University of Technology. In July 1934 he had to give up this position as his wife was Jewish. This meant he was not able to qualify as a professor, as he had originally been aspiring towards. After a brief period as a freelancer of Prion’s and self-employed in industry, Riester and his wife emigrated to England in November 1936, where he soon managed to find his feet professionally. When war broke out, he was interned briefly as a German before being released shortly afterwards and enlisted in the British Army. In 1960 Riester was made a full professor in Clausthal. However, at his wife’s request he lived out his days in England.


·         Clodwig Kapferer (1901–1997) emigrated but actually returned to Germany during the Third Reich. He was a lecturer in foreign trade in Cologne. Because of an earlier lodge membership and his political outlook, he repeatedly had to contend with political problems. When these escalated and threatened to destroy his career, he emigrated to France in 1939, only to return to Germany in fear of his life under pressure from the National Socialists. After returning to Germany, he was briefly detained by the Gestapo and placed under surveillance by the secret police until the end of the Third Reich. After the war, Kapferer was director of the Hamburg Institute of International Economics from 1949 to 1963.


·         Martin Götz (*1903) was an assistant at Julius Hirsch’s Forschungsstelle für den Handel (Center for Commerce Research) until 1933, when, as a Jew, he was forced to emigrate. He went to London, where he had to settle for odd jobs before eventually managing to make a half-decent living as a freelance journalist. Contrary to his hopes and wishes, however, he was unable to pursue his academic career any further.


·         Hermann Halberstädter (1896–1966) was highly regarded by Eugen Schmalenbach as an authority on “the mechanical side of commercial accountancy”. Halberstädter had been giving seminar lectures in Cologne since 1925. In April 1933, however, this entitlement was revoked by the university curator as Halberstädter was not “Aryan”. He emigrated to Colombia in 1935, where he became a permanent government advisor. From 1941 he was – as he had been in Germany – an independent management consultant and organizer, and from 1943 also a professor of economics at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota.


·         Walter Schück (*1897) would probably have been one of the lecturers to qualify as a professor without the National Socialist discriminations. However, the National Socialist seizure of power soon put a stop to this endeavor. Moreover, as a Jew, Schück lost his lectureship at the Berlin School of Commerce in 1933. He initially emigrated to Amsterdam, then New York. Despite his efforts, however, he did not manage to pursue his academic career any further.


Business academics who were critical of the regime and remained in Germany faced the threat of severe persecution. This ranged from dismissal to persecution by the Gestapo and internment. While Jewish business academics were completely at the mercy of the various forms of National Socialist discrimination, their “Aryan” colleagues could at least attempt to resist persecution. Although this usually carried little prospect of success, there were examples – such as the case of Richard Passow in Göttingen – where resistance at least proved partially successful. Those severely persecuted were:




Eugen Schmalenbach (1873–1955) was by far the most prominent victim of the Third Reich among business academics. Cologne’s Faculty of Sociology and Economics largely owed its great reputation to Schmalenbach’s life’s work. In 1933 Schmalenbach resigned from his tenured professorship for political reasons: He was highly opposed to National Socialism; moreover, his wife was Jewish. However, Schmalenbach continued his academic career – most notably under the banner of the Schmalenbach Society he founded. He also gave guest lectures in Scandinavia, but rejected several offers for positions abroad as he had been assured that he and his wife would be safe from political persecution. Shortly after war broke out, however, the Gestapo raided the Schmalenbachs’ house and confiscated some of their belongings. The raid caused a public sensation as Schmalenbach was subsequently pilloried by the press in a nasty smear campaign (see fig.). Moreover, from 1940 printing permission was refused for new editions of books and new manuscripts by Schmalenbach. Unlike many of his less prominent peers, however, he was not left in the lurch by his colleagues, who for the most part continued to revere him as the eminent figure he was. A prime example of this is Fritz Schmidt’s birthday greetings to Schmalenbach in 1943 (see fig.). In the fall of 1944 the Schmalenbachs’ lives were suddenly in danger: Schmalenbach received a message that his wife was soon to be deported. He secretly learned that she was to either to be sent to Poland or Theresienstadt because she had been classified as “unfit to work”. To escape this fate, the Schmalenbachs fled from Cologne in September 1944. They found shelter with Schmalenbach’s former assistant Ludwig Feist and his wife, who hid them in their secluded country housel. There, they saw out the remaining months of the war before returning to Cologne in very poor health.      


As the rector of Königsberg School of Commerce during the Weimar Republic, Bruno Rogowsky (1890–1961) played a key role in improving the university’s reputation. Politically liberal and a staunch opponent of National Socialism, Rogowsky was already subjected to fierce attacks by the extreme right in the final phase of the Weimar Republic. These attacks escalated in 1933 in an inflammatory article against Rogowsky in a National Socialist magazine (see above), whereupon Rogowsky fled from Königsberg. After his subsequent dismissal from the School of Commerce, he became an economic advisor. During this period, he was repeatedly the victim of political and Gestapo persecution. After the war, as rector of the Berlin Business School Rogowsky endeavored to re-establish the university and then, after its incorporation into Humboldt University, at least preserve its spirit. Here too, however, his efforts foundered on the political realities of the authorities which were hostile to him and his cause.


·         Guido Fischer (1899–1983) became a non-permanent associate professor at Ludwig Maximilians University Munich in 1934. His career then ground to a halt for political reasons because he was a practicing catholic and thus aroused the suspicion of National Socialist authorities. In 1939 and 1941 the faculty’s application for Fischer to assume a lectureship of a new order failed due to protests by the party and lecturer body against his “frequently apparent (…) political (…) unreliability”. After the war, Fischer was the Bavarian State Commissioner for Administrative Organization before becoming a professor (again) in Munich.


 ·         Richard Passow (1880–1949) vehemently opposed the nazification efforts of National Socialist faculty colleagues in Göttingen. After long and fierce disputes, including with Göttingen’s second full professor of business studies Walter Weigmann, he was dismissed in 1938. However, Passow’s case does not fit the usual pattern of dismissals during the Third Reich as he fought vehemently against his dismissal in court and at party offices – and certainly inhibited the careers of his National Socialist adversaries significantly in the process.


 ·         Karl Meithner (1892–1942) was dismissed from the Hochschule für Welthandel in Vienna after the annexation of Austria by the German Reich in 1938. In 1942 he was sent to prison on political grounds, where he died a short time later.


 ·         Willy Bouffier (1903–1969) was also dismissed from the Hochschule für Welthandel after the annexation – probably because he had been a student official with left-wing democratic leanings in Frankfurt in his youth. After his dismissal, he initially worked in the retail industry. In 1942 he was called up but only spent a year in the Wehrmacht. Between 1943 and 1945, he was sent to work at the price surveillance authority in Vienna instead.


·         Waldemar Koch (1880–1963) reported directly to Emil Rathenau under the German Empire as director of a London AEG plant. During the First World War, he was initially a departmental manager and later deputy director of the (later) Institute of World Economics, which was founded in 1914. Koch qualified as a professor at the TU Berlin (Berlin Institute of Technology) in 1930, where he became a private lecturer. In 1934 he was initially detained by the Gestapo for about two weeks before his license to teach was revoked: Koch had campaigned for Georg Schlesinger at the university and his friend Ignatz Nacher, who was a major shareholder in the Engelhardt brewery, both publicly and at a shareholders’ meeting after Nacher’s property was threatened by an alliance of National Socialist functionaries and the Dresdner Bank (and ultimately confiscated); like Koch’s wife, Schlesinger and Nacher were Jewish. After the imposed hiatus in his university activities, Koch primarily worked as an auditor.


The persecutions in the university sector were not only directed against professors, but also students, many of whom were expelled from the university on “racial” grounds.


The number of business academics who saw themselves as – or at least claimed to be – victims of the regime after the collapse of National Socialism is quite large. This group included Karl Sewering, Walter Le Coutre, Viktor Pesl, Franz Findeisen and Hanns Linhardt. However, in none of the cases mentioned was the claim examined more closely (in full).




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