What the Boston Globe did not mention in its three days of coverage last November of pro-Nazi Harvard during the 1930s is that while Harvard has World War I and II memorials listing as “enemy” three German alumni, Harvard has no memorial to its more than 60 alumni killed while serving in the Confederate army.
These included six Confederate generals plus a number of graduates of Harvard’s Medical School, who died while treating the wounded from both sides.
That Harvard honors her German enemy alumni – but none of her American Confederates – is an outrage, particularly since archrival Yale honors its Confederate alumni.
What the Boston Globe reported last November – and what seems so much more appalling than President Larry Summers’ statement on males and females – includes the following under the headline “Harvard’s Nazi ties” – by historian Stephen Norwood:
“The Harvard University administration during the 1930s, led by President James Conant, ignored numerous opportunities to take a principled stand against the Hitler regime and the anti-Semitic outrages it perpetrated, and contributed to Nazi Germany’s efforts to improve its image in the West.
“The administration’s lack of concern about Nazi anti-Semitism was shared by many influential Harvard alumni and students. A faculty panel that supervised a mock trial of Hitler in 1934 ruled that Hitler’s anti-Jewish actions were ‘irrelevant’ to the debate.
“Prominent Harvard alumni, student leaders and some faculty assumed a major role in the friendly welcome accorded the Nazi warship Karlsruhe when it visited Boston in 1934, flying the swastika flag. Boston’s Jewish community protested vociferously. President Conant remained silent. Officers and crewmen from the warship were entertained at Harvard, and professors attended a gala reception in Boston where the warship’s captain enthusiastically praised Hitler.
“That year, the Harvard administration welcomed a top Nazi official, Ernst Hanfstangl, who was Hitler’s foreign press chief as well as a virulent anti-Semite, to the campus for his 25th class reunion. The student newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, editorialized that the university should award Hanfstangl an honorary degree ‘as a mark of honor appropriate to his high position in the government of a friendly country.’
“The joyous reception Hanfstangl received on campus was interrupted when a local rabbi confronted him and demanded to know what Hanfstangl had meant when he recently remarked that ‘everything would soon be settled for the Jews in Germany.’ The rabbi cried out, ‘My people want to know … does it mean extermination?’ Hanfstangl replied that he ‘[could] not discuss that. I am on vacation. I am with my old friends.’ The Nazi official proceeded to President Conant’s house for tea.
“Anti-Nazi activists opposed Hanfstangl’s visit. Some put up posters in Harvard Yard, only to have the Harvard police tear them down. Others held a rally in Harvard Square. Seven demonstrators who tried to speak at the rally were arrested and sentenced to six months at hard labor. Conant called the demonstration ‘very ridiculous.’
“Several months later, the Harvard administration permitted the Nazi German consul-general to lay a wreath bearing the swastika in the university’s chapel, beneath a tablet honoring Harvard men killed fighting for Germany in World War I.
“During the next several years, Harvard participated in academic student exchanges with Nazi universities. In 1936, Harvard contributed significantly to Nazi Germany’s effort to gain international respectability by accepting Heidelberg University’s invitation to send a delegate to its 550th anniversary festival.
“Heidelberg had expelled its Jewish professors, reshaped its curricula to reflect Nazi ideology and staged a massive public burning of books by Jews. The Germans had exploited the recently concluded Winter Olympics in Bavaria to extol Nazism. It should have been obvious they would do the same at Heidelberg. American newspapers described the Heidelberg festival as a ‘brown-shirt pageant’ in which Nazi leaders delivered anti-Semitic harangues.”
Retired University of Massachusetts professor David S. Wyman, who is considered the leading scholar of America’s response to the Holocaust, said in an interview:
“Harvard should issue an apology without excuses and say, ‘We as an institution would never conduct ourselves like that again.’”
Harvard officials categorically reject Norwood’s findings. ”If there are new facts, they should be added to the archives of history and the dialogue of those times,” spokesman Joe Wrinn said in a prepared statement. But he added: ”Harvard University and President [James Bryant] Conant did not support the Nazis.”
At last November’s Yale-Harvard football game in Cambridge, I was on the sidelines when I saw President Summers tossing a football to a young boy – which evolved into cheers.
I asked Dr. Summers about what the Boston Globe had just reported – and about the outrage of honoring Harvard alumni who fought for Germany as enemies – but no such honoring of Americans who were Harvard Confederates.
“Write me a letter,” he kept repeating. So I did. I sent it certified mail. And I received a delivery receipt signed by a “D. Brainard.” Summers’ office has confirmed that he received my letter – which he asked me to write.
President Summers, however, has never responded to it.