Science in the Third Reich

Science in the Third Reich

Science in the Third Reich

Science in the Third Reich

Synopsis

How true is it that National Socialism led to an ideologically distorted pseudo-science? What was the relationship between the regime funding 'useful' scientific projects and the scientists offering their expertise? And what happened to the German scientific community after 1945, especially to those who betrayed and denounced Jewish colleagues? In recent years, the history of the sciences in the Third Reich has become a field of growing importance, and the in-depth research of a new generation of German scholars provides us with new, important insights into the Nazi system and the complicated relationship between an elite and the dictatorship. This book portrays the attitudes of scientists facing National Socialism and war and uncovers the continuities and discontinuities of German science from the beginning of the twentieth century to the postwar period. It looks at ideas, especially the Humboldtian concept of the university; examines major disciplines such as eugenics, pathology, biochemistry and aeronautics, as well as technologies such as biotechnology and area planning; and it traces the careers of individual scientists as actors or victims.The striking results of these investigations fill a considerable gap in our knowledge of the Third Reich but also of the postwar role of German scientists within Germany and abroad.

Excerpt

National Socialism and the
Sciences: Reflections,
Conclusions and Historical
Perspectives
Margit Szöllösi-Janze

In 1935 the Reich Leader of the ss, Heinrich Himmler, founded a scientific research institute, to be known as Das Ahnenerbe (literally: ‘Ancestral Heritage’). He defined its task as the ‘implementation of fundamental and most valuable research, which nevertheless went wholly or partially unrecognized, or was even persecuted by the official sciences’ (Himmler to Göring, 19 March 1937, cit. in Ackermann 1970: 45). Among those studies rejected by institutionalized science and promoted by the ss was the so-called Welteislehre or GlazialKosmogonie (‘World Ice Cosmogony’) (see Nagel 1991: 11–27; Nagel 1994). This theory traced the formation of the cosmos, its suns and stars back to the existence of never-ending ice throughout the universe, which, in its struggle with blazing giant suns, formed the driving power of all cosmic changes. Our solar system, with all its planets, was said to be the result of the collision of a giant sun with a smaller celestial body of ice. the surface of the moon and all the planets, with the exception of the Earth, were encased in a shell of ice. Cosmic ice formed the Milky Way, shooting stars, hailstones, or, when these evaporated, rainclouds. According to the theory, ice was the matter from which the world was formed.

The Welteislehre claimed to provide comprehensive, scientific explanations for all observable phenomena, from the beginning to the end of the world. From the eternal struggle of bodies of heat . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.