(today: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) Unter den Linden 6 – Friedrich-Wilhelms Universität was founded in 1810 and soon became a world-leading institution which attracted foreign students and served as an example for other universities. Staff and students wholeheartedly supported Nationalsocialism from the beginning. The university employed British nationals as lecturers and their careers can be traced in their sometimes highly ambivalent personnel files.
In 1810, Wilhelm von Humboldt and his colleagues founded the university based on the notion of integrating research and teaching, the humanities and the natural sciences, and allowing research to be conducted independent of political, religious, or any other interference. After the German Reich was unified in 1871, the university soon rose to become the model for many national and international universities. Among its famous professors were Georg Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Carl von Savigny, Max Planck, and Robert Koch. Heinrich Heine, Otto von Bismarck, and Karl Marx were among its students. Arthur Symons’ friend Josiah Flynt, an American with whom he explored decadent Berlin in the late 19th century, also enrolled as a student. Christopher Isherwood’s friend William Robson-Scott, who translated Freud’s letters, worked as an English lecturer at the university in the late 1930s. When the National Socialists rose to power, students and faculty got involved in the burning of books by Jewish, homosexual, Communist, or other authors opposed to National Socialism. The left-wing journalist Elizabeth Wiskemann comments scathingly on the changed leadership of the university:
‘This spring the University of Berlin was compelled to accept as its Rector a vet of about thirty-five, because none of the ordinary professors were sufficiently tough to please the régime. This man ordered the students to a pseudo-military parade. He gave them a Nazi harangue, at the end of which he said they could now go back to their intellectual studies since he had no objection! Those who failed to parade were, I am told, sent down.’
While William Robson-Scott’s stance against the fascist political leaders earned him an entry in his university personnel file, the Australian-born Irish writer Francis Stuart accepted the position of lecturer shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. He defended his anti-British position and would always claim that this had not led him to endorse National Socialism. A fictional account of his time in Berlin can be found in his controversial novel Blacklist Section H, published in 1971. Gesa Stedman