German oriental studies in the time of National Socialism

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The German Oriental Studies in the Nazi era was marked by the Nazi policy, foreign policy and military relevance effort this scientific discipline to use them for their goals. Numerous leading orientalists became involved in the Nazi regime and, in many cases, intertwined their own work with Nazi ideology . Others, however, were persecuted or emigrated.

Oriental Studies and the Ideology of the National Socialists

Until the 1990s, German Oriental Studies was perceived as a scientific discipline that was of little theoretical and practical use for the interplay between science, politics and ideology during the Nazi era. Oriental studies were seen as an unencumbered discipline and reappraisal of National Socialism was felt to be unnecessary. This was explained by the germanocentric orientation of Nazi ideology and cultural policy . It was assumed that the National Socialists had no particular interest in researching foreign cultures and thus in the scientific discipline of oriental studies.

This assumption turned out to be wrong, because in addition to its practical, economic benefits, the Orient was also of idealistic interest, which was expressed not least in the histories and interpretations of the Orientalists, for example the work of the German Iranists on the subject of Aryans . German Oriental Studies from 1933–1945 was characterized by a high degree of identification with National Socialism. The projection of National Socialist thought patterns and ideologies such as völkisch nationalism , racism , anti-Semitism , anti-communism , Anglophobia , Francophobia and anti-Americanism on the Orient in the scientific work of this time are special indicators for this.

Until the beginning of the war, German Oriental Studies supported Germany's position in the competition between the various states for influence in the Middle East through institutions, trips abroad, congresses, etc. During the war years, Orientalists were represented in the NSDAP , the ministerial bureaucracy, the Wehrmacht , the secret services and the SS . The scientific elite could be quickly mobilized through the long-standing orientalist associations such as the German Oriental Society . This had already happened during the times of German colonialism and imperialism, including the First World War .

Persecution and emigration

Dismissals, Nazi laws, bans on habilitation and teaching, actual or threatened deportation to concentration camps , expropriations and physical violence were decisive for the waves of emigration. Almost all Orientalists who lost their jobs during the National Socialist era then went abroad. For others who have just finished their studies, starting a career was not possible under the social and legal conditions. The German orientalists emigrated mainly to the USA (including Gustav Edmund von Grunebaum , Ernst Herzfeld ), England (including Joseph Schacht , Paul Kahle , Richard Rudolf Walzer ) and Turkey (including Hans Ludwig Gottschalk ). Of the few released Orientalists who remained in Germany, some became victims of the concentration camps (including Hedwig Klein , Fritz Wolff , Arthur Spanier ).

After 1945

The same people who had determined the content, organization and institution of the orientalist discourse from 1933–45 also held the relevant positions at universities and academies after 1945. There was seldom any effort to get the emigrants back. Writings published during the Nazi era were shortened and reissued with a new title (for example Bertold Spuler , “The Volga Tartars and Bashkirs under Russian rule”).


  • Ekkehard Ellinger: German Oriental Studies at the Time of National Socialism , Edingen-Neckarhausen 2006 (based on Diss., FU Berlin, 2003).
  • Peter Freimark in: Eckart Krause (Ed.): Everyday university life in the “Third Reich”: The Hamburg University 1933-1945. Part II, Berlin 1991, pp. 851-864.
  • Gerhard Grimm: Franz Babinger (1891-1967): An essay on the history of life . In: Die Welt des Islams, Vol. 38, 1998, pp. 286–333.
  • Klaus Kreiser : Gotthard Jäschke (1894–1983): From Islamic Studies to Foreign Studies . In: Die Welt des Islams , Vol. 38, 1998, pp. 406-423.
  • Klaus-Michael Mallmann: Crescent moon and swastika. The Third Reich, the Arabs and Palestine . Darmstadt 2006.
  • Ursula Wokoeck: German Orientalism. The study of the Middle East and Islam from 1800 to 1945 , New York 2009

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Stefan Buchen: The Jewess and "Mein Kampf" . In: The daily newspaper: taz . February 28, 2018, ISSN  0931-9085 , p. 5 ( [accessed on February 28, 2018]).