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Wednesday, November 20, 2019


82 Annual Meeting of the VHB

March 17 - 20 2020

Frankfurt a. M., Germany

Signs of National Socialism in the Weimar Republic

After schools of commerce were founded from 1898 onwards and the subject developed gradually both there and in practice – especially in the course of the price controls during the First World War – business studies also became increasingly established at universities: The creation of lectureships for business studies at the very least, but mostly also professorships, became increasingly more important – and necessary – for universities specializing in economics. They did not want to fall behind other universities in terms of their reputation and student popularity.


The representatives of the new discipline were also partly affected by the political turmoil of the time: Quite early on in the Weimar Republic, for instance, there were fears among the Jewish university lecturers of racial hostilities. One example of this is the reaction of the Jewish banker Nathan Stein to an offer of a business studies lectureship at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology shortly after the end of the First World War. As he wrote in a letter to the Mayor of Karlsruhe long after the Second World War, he was skeptical of the proposal, fearing that anti-Semitic outrage could flare up: “It was the period of the explosive völkisch movement; it was the period of extremists, to whose scheming Erzberger and Rathenau would later fall prey; it was the period of scathing anti-Semitic attacks in the press, in public and especially at the universities. Consequently, as a member the Jewish religion I told them I had misgivings about accepting the invitation: I did not want to create difficulties for the university or myself.” The representative of the Institute of Technology flashed him a “broad smile” and replied that he had pondered all this but did not believe Stein had anything to worry about. In the end, Stein accepted the lectureship, but his concerns ultimately proved well-founded: He, too, was persecuted and eventually forced to emigrate.


For Alfred Isaac, the only Jewish full professor of the subject at the time, an anti-Semitic article published in the Völkischer Beobachter (the newspaper of the Nazi party – see fig.) was an early omen of the horror to come. While Isaac sued the author and publisher of the article and won, his shock over the affair is reflected in his reasons for the lawsuit: Apparently, the article had suggested he was a coward. They “couldn’t have been more wrong”; he would rather have “shot” himself than have his “honor called into question”.




As rector of the Königsberg School of Commerce, Bruno Rogowsky repeatedly suffered attacks from the extreme right. He was a member of the liberal German Democratic Party and a staunch opponent of National Socialist tendencies at his university, which is highlighted by the fact that he expelled a student because of National Socialist propaganda activities and – despite fierce protests – did not discriminate against Jewish students when awarding scholarships. Consequently, “a strong disassociation” from Rogowsky became apparent in the School of Commerce’s senate shortly before and after the seizure of power – including on the part of business studies colleagues like Rogowsky’s fellow full professor Otto Hummel.  

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