Alfred Heuss

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Alfred Heuss (also: Heuss ; born June 27, 1909 in Gautzsch near Leipzig; † February 7, 1995 in Göttingen ) was an important German ancient historian .


Alfred Heuss jr. was the son of the music writer Alfred Heuss and older brother of the economist Ernst Heuss . In Leipzig he attended the Königin-Carola-Gymnasium . He studied classical philology, history and philosophy in Leipzig, Tübingen and Vienna, and after completing his doctorate also law in Leipzig. As a student of the ancient historian Helmut Berve , he received his doctorate in 1932 with a thesis on the foundations of international law in Roman foreign policy and, in 1935, with two theses on modern international law, he also received the Dr. iur. In 1936 he completed his habilitation with a thesis on the relationship between the Hellenistic king and the Greek polis for ancient history at the University of Leipzig.

At first he kept his distance from the National Socialist rulers and their ideology, which made his career difficult. After a negative judgment by Wilhelm Weber , he joined the NSDAP on May 1, 1937 and was appointed private lecturer in December of the same year. In 1938 he held a chair in Königsberg . This was followed by professorships in Breslau (1941), Kiel (1945), Cologne (1946–48), again in Kiel (1949–54), where the first version of his Roman history , which is still relevant today , was written, and from 1954 until his retirement in Göttingen .

From 1957 he was a member of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen , from 1954 to 1958 also chairman of the Mommsen Society. Heuss was the editor of Propylaea World History (Volumes I to IV), Antiquity and Occident and Zetemata . His academic students included Jochen Bleicken and Hans-Joachim Gehrke .

Heuss, who saw himself as a universal historian, was also occupied with the other historical epochs and the theory of history throughout his life . Together with Golo Mann and August Nitschke, he published the ten-volume Propylaea World History , primarily in charge of the volumes on antiquity. His scientific work is of great importance, especially for ancient history . His formulation of the loss of history , a book title from 1959, became a popular phrase .

In 1983 he received the first prize of the Historisches Kolleg , the German Historian Prize.

Political attitude

Like many of his generation, Heuss also decided during the Nazi dictatorship for a course of adjustment in order not to expose himself too politically and not to endanger his career. When he later criticized the forced infiltration of Nazi ideology into their teaching and research with other scholars in clear terms, he claimed, at least implicitly, that he had preserved his inner intellectual autonomy vis-à-vis the zeitgeist and not compromised himself. Although he provided the contribution The design of the Roman and Carthaginian states up to the Pyrrhos War for the now infamous Rome and Carthage volume edited by Joseph Vogt and characterized by an anti-Semitic interpretation of history, his essay is, to a far lesser extent, permeated by National Socialist ideology than other parts of the book. Even after 1945, Heuss distanced himself extremely cautiously from his teacher Helmut Berve, who was much more deeply involved.

Heuss himself was an avowed national conservative all his life who had drawn certain consequences from the experiences of the National Socialist dictatorship: he saw the takeover of power by Adolf Hitler, whose ideological delusion and crimes, but also his intellectual insufficiency Heuss relentlessly condemned as a disaster in the continuity of German history Dimensions and effects, also for the Germans themselves. He decidedly denied that this was even remotely predictable for contemporaries who lacked knowledge of the outcome: Neither the war of conquest and extermination nor the genocide of the Jews were as Possibility was conceivable at all and certainly not wanted by a significant part of the German population, beyond Hitler himself and a relatively small criminal clique of his accomplices. This is true even for most of the supporters and even members of the NSDAP . Everything therefore depends on the irresponsible, criminal and insane person at the head of the whole system, and to this extent the seizure of power is a constellation of coincidences, in particular the difficulties of the political situation, the inability of his domestic and foreign policy opponents and the political leaders around him Reich President Paul von Hindenburg in the run-up to the seizure of power as well as the widespread underestimation of his dangerousness and radicalism, but by no means due to factors that have a long-term effect and thus inevitably towards this goal.

Ultimately, the years of the Nazi dictatorship, since "the subject of history (the German people) loses its active subjectivity and only exists passively", are no part of German history at all, but the history of a "stranger", namely Hitler, who For his overriding ideological goals, Heuss said, he was unable to rely on broad support from the German population and who therefore “already went to war as a 'foreigner', although the victory of 1940 concealed this for a moment , and ... it (had to) become more and more the longer the war events lacked a plausible meaning. "Hitler's voters and supporters had" no political profile ", were" masses whipped by moods, hopes and longings, but by no means firm before the seizure of power located, but rather quicksand that had loosened elsewhere. Strictly speaking, Hitler was an epiphenomenon of a transitory emotional state of mind, the latent prerequisite of which alone did not constitute a source of strength of its own. Essentially, Hitler was only partially linked to socio-political reality. "

After 1945 Heuss advocated the democratic constitutional state , the maintenance of the reunification goal and bourgeois values ​​and at the same time clearly rejected all egalitarian , socialist or anarchist approaches as unrealistic and dangerous utopias . Because Hitler's destruction of freedom and the rule of law were at the beginning of the catastrophe, Heuss was also an equally determined and uncompromising anti-communist . He criticized the appeal to the tradition of communist resistance against the National Socialist dictatorship and its continuation in so-called anti - fascism as an abuse and as a pseudo-moral pretext for the struggle against the liberal social and political order of the western world and the Federal Republic of Germany. He accused the criticism of the 68 movement of the behavior of his generation, i.e. the contemporaries of the Third Reich, of misunderstanding the situation at the time and, above all, of ignoring the dictatorial and terrorist character of the communist regimes, whose ideology was in truth propagated here , and described it them as hypocritical and abusive. On the other hand, he understood historical education , the progressive decline of which he repeatedly complained, as the essential basis of the political judgment of a responsible citizen in the sense of true enlightenment and thus also as a prerequisite for any claim to leadership, while he “left” socio-political theories of all kinds with the greatest reserve, yes met with sarcasm and tried to strip them of their trenchant covering of humanitarian terms.

He accused the Frankfurt School of poisoning the socio-political debate by conquering the authority to interpret with unfair means, in particular by means of a planned historical mess - the main opponents here were Max Horkheimer , Theodor Adorno and Jürgen Habermas, the historians Fritz Fischer and Hans-Ulrich Wehler - and To have made a significant contribution to the loss of history of the Germans after 1945, in that they also put German history before 1933 in such an unfavorable light by tracing the alleged causes of National Socialism to far back eras that it was impossible for the Germans to identify with their own history.

Failure and Doom in his last book . From the ruin of German history and its understanding , Heuss, increasingly desperate and bitter, tried this, in his opinion, fundamentally wrong and intellectually dishonest, even malicious interpretation, which for him was nothing less than the question of the identity of the German people to face your own view of things.

Fonts (selection)

  • City and rulers: in their relationships under state and international law. Dieterich Verlag 1937.
  • Roman history . Edited, introduced and given a new research section by Jochen Bleicken , Werner Dahlheim and Hans-Joachim Gehrke . 10th edition, Schöningh, Paderborn 2007, ISBN 978-3-506-73927-8 (1st edition: Westermann, Braunschweig 1960)
  • Theodor Mommsen and the 19th century . Ferdinand Hirt, Kiel 1956 (reprint Steiner, Wiesbaden 1996). (Publications of the Schleswig-Holstein University Society New Episode 19)
  • Jochen Bleicken (Ed.): Collected writings . Volume 1. Greek History . Volume 2. Roman History . Volume 3. History and theory of science, international law, university and school reform. Steiner, Stuttgart 1995, ISBN 3-515-06716-7 .
  • Failure and doom. About the ruin of German history and its understanding . Siedler, Berlin 1984, ISBN 3-88680-107-1 .
  • Thoughts and Guesses on Early Roman Governance. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1983. (News from the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, I. Philological-Historical Class 1982, 10)
  • Barthold Georg Niebuhr's scientific beginnings. Studies and reports on the Copenhagen manuscripts and the European tradition of the lex agraria (loi agraire) . Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1981. (Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen. Philological-historical class. Third part 114)
  • Cicero's theory of the Roman state. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1976. (News from the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen I. Philological-historical class 1975, 8)
  • Criticism of ideology. Your theoretical and practical aspects . de Gruyter, Berlin a. a. 1975, ISBN 3-11-005981-9 .
  • The First Punic War and the Problem of Roman Imperialism. For the political assessment of the war. 3. Edition. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1970. (Libelli 130)
  • The international law foundations of Roman foreign policy in republican times. ISBN 3-511-02434-X . (reprint Scientia, Aalen 1963.) (Klio, Supplement 31)
  • Loss of history. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1959.


  • Hans-Joachim Gehrke (Ed.): Alfred Heuss. Views of his life's work. Contributions to the symposium "Ancient History and Universal History, ...", Göttingen, May 16 and 17, 1996 . Steiner, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-515-07299-3 .
  • Alfred Heuss: De se ipse . In: Jochen Bleicken (Ed.): Colloquium on the occasion of the 80th birthday of Alfred Heuss . Laßleben-Verlag, Kallmünz 1993, ISBN 3-7847-7113-0 , p. 211 ff. (Also in this: Collected writings . Vol. 1. p. 777 ff.)
  • Ernst Baltrusch : Heuss, Alfred. In: Peter Kuhlmann , Helmuth Schneider (Hrsg.): History of the ancient sciences. Biographical Lexicon (= The New Pauly . Supplements. Volume 6). Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2012, ISBN 978-3-476-02033-8 , Sp. 571-573.
  • Jochen Bleicken: On the death of Alfred Heuss. In: Historical magazine. 262, 1996, pp. 337-356. (= Collected Writings, Vol. 1–2, edited by Frank Goldmann. Steiner, Stuttgart 1998, here Vol. 2, pp. 1098–1117)
  • Stefan Rebenich: Alfred Heuss: Views of his life's work. With an appendix: Alfred Heuss in the Third Reich . In: Historical magazine. 271 (2000), pp. 661-673.
  • Frank Rexroth : Making history in an age of extremes. The Göttingen historians Percy Ernst Schramm, Hermann Heimpel and Alfred Heuss. In: Christian Starck, Kurt Schönhammer (Hrsg.): The history of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen (= treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen. NF Vol. 28). Volume 1. De Gruyter, Berlin et al. 2013, ISBN 978-3-11-030467-1 , pp. 265-299.

Web links


  1. Hans-Joachim Gehrke: Alfred Heuss - views of his life's work. Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 1998, p. 165 (contributions to the Symposium Ancient History and Universal History, Aspects of the History of Science and Historical-Critical Notes on the Life's Work of Alfred Heuss , Göttingen, May 16 and 17, 1996)
  2. ^ Alfred Heuss: The international law foundations of Roman foreign policy in republican times. Scientia Verlag, Aalen / Württ. 1963, reprint of the 1933 edition
  3. ^ Alfred Heuss: City and ruler of Hellenism in their constitutional and international law relationships. Scientia Verlag, Aalen / Württ. 1963, reprint of the 1937 edition with the author's afterword.
  4. ^ Stefan Rebenich: Hermann Bengtson and Alfred Heuss. In: Ancient history between science and politics. Karl Christ memorial. Wiesbaden 2009, p. 186.
  5. Joseph Vogt (ed.), Rom und Karthago , Leipzig 1943, here: pp. 83-138. The anthology, in which numerous well-known researchers took part, is considered to be one of the few examples of an ancient German history of those years that was explicitly committed to National Socialist ideology.
  6. Alfred Heuss speaks essentially apologetically: Nekrolog Helmut Berve. In: Historical magazine. 230, 1980, pp. 779–787 (= Gesammelte Schriften Vol. 1, pp. 758–766) of “utterances” that “should not have flowed into the pen” (p. 785 or 764), and mentions Berves The idea of ​​being able to assert “oneself and the cause he represents” through adaptation, “from today's point of view, viewed as a whole, an illusion” without asking to what extent Berve's political convictions required adaptation at all.
  7. Failure and Doom. On the ruin of German history and its understanding, pp. 119–120; 125.
  8. Failure and Doom. On the ruin of German history and its understanding p. 121–122, the quotation p. 121.
  9. Failure and Doom. On the ruin of German history and its understanding p. 122.
  10. Failure and Doom. On the ruin of German history and its understanding p. 125.