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Harvard's disgraceful obeisance to Nazi Germany

Posted By Les Kinsolving On 12/29/2009 @ 12:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

The absolute disgrace with which the late British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain acceded to so many demands of Adolf Hitler – and then returned to England and declared: “We shall have peace in our time!” – will never be forgotten.

But what seems to have been largely forgotten is the similar detestable obeisance to Naziism paid by numerous leaders of leading U.S. universities.

This everlasting disgrace has now been monumentally reported by a Ph.D. from the Ivy League’s Columbia University, Stephen H. Norwood, who is professor of history at the University of Oklahoma.

Dr. Norwood’s new book, “The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower,” published by Cambridge University Press, is a carefully detailed and devastating written indictment of many of our nation’s college leaders.

But the most extensive of this book’s many exposes are those of our nation’s oldest and best-known university, Harvard.

I strongly recommend reading of this detailed set of historical accusations – and I recall that five years ago, after reading initial reports of professor Norwood’s research and contacting him by telephone, I wrote a column for WorldNetDaily, which I also broadcast.

A copy of this column and broadcast, headlined, “Letter to the president of Harvard,” was registered-mailed to Harvard’s then-president, Dr. Lawrence Summers, before it was either published or broadcast.

President Summers declined to provide any response whatsoever, despite his personal invitation to me to write him.

Among the issues raised in that letter of Nov. 23, 2004, to President Summers, who during halftime of that year’s Yale-Harvard football game asked me to write him a letter about the questions I asked him on that football field, were:

  1. What the Boston Globe on Nov. 14 headlined as: “Harvard’s stance on Nazis question: Historian calls ’30s record ‘shameful.’” This expose, I learned, was picked up and reported by major dailies and talk radio nationwide; and

  2. What the Globe and none of these major media have yet reported about Harvard’s memorial tablets to its alumni killed during World Wars I and II.

Harvard’s World War I memorial contains the names of two alumni who lost their lives serving in the German Army of the Kaiser. Following their names is, in parenthesis, the word “Enemy.”

This same designation of “Enemy” follows the name of a one-time Harvard Divinity School student who was killed on the Russian front after being drafted to serve in Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht.

If it is fitting and proper to so remember Harvard alumni who were our country’s German enemies, why is there no such memorial to more than 60 Harvard alumni who served in the armies of the Confederate States of America? (Yale, by contrast, remembers its six Confederate alumni who died in that war, on the same memorial with 10 Union casualties at Woolsey Hall.)

They included five Confederate generals (including a man named “States Rights Gist”) plus a number of graduates of the Harvard Medical School, who died while treating the wounded of both sides.

I learned from historian Stephen Norwood of the University of Oklahoma that in 1934 the Harvard administration permitted Nazi Germany’s consul general to lay a wreath in the Harvard Chapel, beneath this World War I memorial to Harvard alumni killed in that war – including the two marked “Enemy.”

That wreath contained a swastika. I am not suggesting that because of this, the names of Harvard alumni “enemies” be removed. But if German Harvard enemy alumni are remembered, elementary equity requires that 60 American Harvard Confederate enemies be remembered as well.

What the Boston Globe and the media across this nation have reported is your neither attending, nor even being willing to send, a representative from Harvard to a Boston University conference on the Holocaust, where professor Norwood’s paper was titled “Legitimating Nazism: Harvard University and the Hitler Regime.”

Should the incumbent president of Harvard either try to ignore and fail to dispute – rather than profoundly apologize for what has now been reported nationwide?

When I asked you about the Boston Globe’s two stories, you replied that you suppose there was some anti-Semitism in the 1930s at Harvard, but you asked me to write you a letter, and so I do.

The Boston Globe’s reporter, Marcella Bombardieri, with whom I talked on the phone – as I did with professor Norwood – reported among other things:

  • In 1934, Harvard’s President James Bryant Conant, welcomed to his home for tea a Harvard alumnus of the Class of 1909 on his 25th anniversary. Ernst “Putzi” Hanfstaengl was Adolf Hitler’s foreign press secretary and close personal friend.

  • This invitation by President Conant was protested by 2,000 Harvard students, nine of whom were arrested and sentenced to six months at hard labor, while Harvard campus police tore down their anti-Nazi signs.
  • In this same year, when Nazi German battle cruiser Karlsruhe visited Boston, its crew and officers were hosted both on the Harvard campus, as well as at a banquet the Hotel Copley Plaza – where there was a stirring defense of Hitler’s government
  • The following year, on the occasion of the 550th anniversary of the University of Heidelberg – which had purged its faculty of all Jews – the festivities were attended by Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler and a delegation from Harvard.

    Of this, Harvard’s President Conant wrote in his autobiography:

    Even if one despised the regime in power, should not one be ready to build a scholarly bridge between two nations?

    (By striking contrast, the president of Williams College terminated relations with all German universities, and Chancellor Harry Woodburn Chase of New York University declared that it was the duty of all “teachers, scientists and men of letters to resist with all their power” the Nazi higher education policies.)

  • The Globe quoted retired University of Massachusetts Professor David Wyman, one of the leading scholars regarding America’s response to the Holocaust: “Harvard should issue an apology and say: ‘We as an institution would never conduct ourselves like that again.’”

President Summers, I agree with Dr. Wyman – as I believe almost all of our fellow Americans who know about this Harvard record would also agree.

What Harvard needs – and most of this nation wants – is a detailed and extensive apology from you. And what many of us will hope to see is a memorial not only to Harvard’s German alumni, but its Southern American alumni from 1861 to 1865.


Les Kinsolving

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