German University of Prague

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German University of Prague
German Karl Ferdinand University
activity 1882 (division of Prague University) - 1945
Sponsorship state
place Prague
country Kingdom of Bohemia, Austria-Hungary (1882–1918)
Czechoslovakia (1918–1939)
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (1939–1945)

Charles University , founded by King Charles IV in 1348, was divided into a German and a Czech university in 1882 due to increasing national conflicts. The Kk German Karl Ferdinands University existed as a self-responsible university until 1945, in Czechoslovakia from 1919 under the name German University Prague .


The University in Prague, the oldest university north of the Alps and east of Paris ( Sorbonne ), was founded in 1348 by Charles IV and was for some time the only university in the Roman-German Empire . According to the list of listeners it has received, the university already had over 10,000 enrolled students at the beginning of the 15th century, 3/4 of the students being Germans and 1/7 Czech. The votes in the Senate were correspondingly equal.

The dispute over the teaching of John Wyclif and the Western Schism led to the first lasting tensions. The foreign, mainly German professors overruled the reformer Jan Hus . His colleague Hieronymus von Prag then enforced the Kuttenberg decree from King Wenceslaus IV in 1409 . It secured the same number of votes for the “Bohemian Nation” as it had previously for the other three nations combined. The remaining Nationes were only represented with one vote. The university was divided into the four nations of Bavaria, Saxony, Poland and Bohemia. The Czechs (Bohemia) declared themselves neutral with King Wenceslaus, while the other nations with Archbishop Sbinko to Gregory XII. held tight. This reform of the university constitution led to the departure of many students and professors in May 1409. Some went to the Margraviate of Meissen and founded the University of Leipzig . As a result of these disputes, the university lost influence in Europe.

Emperor Ferdinand III. In 1654, the Clementinum, founded by the Jesuits , was united with the old university, thereby revitalizing it. However, university life came under the influence of the Jesuit order. From then on, the University of Prague was named Karl Ferdinand University or, in Latin, Universitas Carolo Ferdinandea . From the 17th century onwards, German became more and more popular as the language of instruction and science, relegating Latin to second place. With the emergence of the Czech national movement in the 19th century, this led to tensions with Czech students, who saw this as a disadvantage for their language. In the Whitsun uprising in Prague in 1848, German and Czech students fought for the introduction of the Czech language at Karl Ferdinand University. Bilingualism was maintained until the university split in 1882.

University split in 1882

Around 1860 Prague lost the German-speaking majority of the population that had existed since the 18th century . Accordingly, Czech politicians increased the pressure on the imperial-royal government in Vienna by demanding that the University of Prague be consistently bilingual. In their ranks, it was requested that Charles University , founded as a Reichsanstalt , be converted into a Czech state university. However, of 187 courses in 1863, only 22 were held in Czech and the rest in German.

The proposal of 1864 to found a Czech university of their own was rejected by the Czech professors because they claimed the university tradition since 1348. At the same time, German university teachers did not want to accept the Czechization of Prague University. In 1881 the Vienna Parliament came to an agreement to divide the university into a Czech and a German university, which was carried out in 1882. Both universities were awarded the old imperial insignia and archival materials and both claimed to be in the tradition of the old university. This, as well as the following language ordinance , concerned the Austro-Czech balance in Austria-Hungary .

Split mode

1890 included

  • the kk German Karl Ferdinands University four faculties with 146 teachers and 1483 students and
  • the Imperial and Royal Bohemian Karl Ferdinand University has three faculties with 112 teachers and 2191 students.

Together they shared the clinic , the scientific institutes, the library and the botanical garden . The German Karl Ferdinand University had the same legal status as the Czech Karl Ferdinand University, but in reality it had, in particular, materially better starting conditions. The institutes, cabinets and libraries as well as the clinics at the medical faculties were divided up according to which university the individual professors had chosen. Due to the uneven development before the division, the professors were mostly Germans who naturally wanted to continue teaching at the German university. Which meant nothing more than that the Czech university had to be built from scratch in many ways.

The German-speaking faculties flourished

Doctoral certificate (70 × 51 cm) for Friedrich Hopfner (January 13, 1905) from the German Karl Ferdinands University

The German-speaking faculties of the Karl Ferdinand University experienced their heyday before the First World War . World-famous scientists were part of their teaching staff: for example the physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach , the indologist Moritz Winternitz , the discoverer of the theory of relativity Albert Einstein . But there are also prominent personalities among the students, such as B. the later writers Max Brod , Franz Kafka and Johannes Urzidil .

The house corporation was the university singing association "Liedertafel der Deutschen Studenten in Prag" (UGV, founded 1869), today's Prague university singers "Barden" (resident in Munich since 1948). Several professors (e.g. Ernst Mach) and rectors were among its members. The choir of the singers was able to rehearse in the rooms of the university and rooms were made available in the German dormitory.

For the students, the "Reading and Speech Hall of German Students in Prague", founded in 1848, was an important social and scientific center. Their library had 23,519 volumes from all subject areas (as of February 1885). The following were available for use by the members of the association: 248 scientific journals, 19 daily newspapers of political content, 49 periodicals of political content as well as 34 entertainment papers, etc. a. " Flying leaves " (status 1885). Lectures on scientific as well as political content were held on a regular basis, as well as parties, commerses , excursions and balls.

Insignia dispute

As early as autumn 1918, before the end of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and the establishment of the First Czechoslovak Republic , Czech politicians asked the German university to hand over the university insignia to the Czech university. The insignia of Prague University refer to the founding deed from 1348, the 17th century sceptres of the four faculties and the rector, as well as his chain of office . The then rector of the German university, August Naegle , vigorously opposed these demands.

Naegle protested personally in front of the Czech Prime Minister Karel Kramář against the subsequent military occupation of the German university buildings . In 1909 the Czech university ( Karlo-Ferdinandova univerzita ) already had 4,300 students, while the German university ( Karl-Ferdinand-Universität ) only had 1,800 students. In 1920 the Lex Mareš was issued, which was named and known after its initiator, the professor of physiology František Mareš . It stipulated that the Czech university was the only successor to the original university. From 1920 onwards it was renamed Charles University , while the German university should delete this addition Karls- from its name. The claim of the Czech university was based on the fact that the university was founded in 1348 by Charles I as King of Bohemia and not by Charles IV as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. That Karl established the college as an imperial university, d. H. in his function as Roman-German emperor , was interpreted by decree as a wrong opinion.

However, President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk realized that August Naegle would defend the university's insignia to the utmost. In the Czechoslovak census of 1930, 42,000 people from Prague gave German as their mother tongue; they lived mainly in the city center ( Old Town and Lesser Town districts ). It was only after August Naegel's death in October 1932 that the dispute over the insignia began again. The start was in 1934 when the main building of the university, the Carolinum, was entered in the land register of the Czech university. National tensions intensified despite the fact that some professors at Karl Ferdinand University were members of the Czechoslovak government, such as B. Franz Spina , or Robert Mayr-Harting . The rector of Charles University, Karel Domin , obtained a relevant decree from the Ministry of Education. On November 21, 1934, the rector of Karl Ferdinand University, Professor Grosser, was told that he had to deliver the insignia to the Czech university. Their Senate then sent a delegation to the Ministry of Education to protest.

At noon on November 24, 1934, several thousand students from Charles University gathered in front of the German university building. Her rector Karel Domin gave a fiery speech, and at his appeal , the crowd began to storm, while the students of Karl Ferdinand University fiercely resisted. Under the impression of these violent riots, Rector Grosser decided on the following day to hand over the insignia after an agreement such as the joint use for both universities was categorically rejected by the Senate of Charles University. The insignia dispute of 1934 put an extreme strain on the relationship between the two universities. For the German minority in Czechoslovakia, the Karl Ferdinand University was the cultural, linguistic and national support, while for the Czech majority the possession of the insignia symbolized the claim to a homogeneous, national identity.

As a result of the nationalistic radicalization, the natural philosopher Rudolf Carnap left the German University in Prague and emigrated to the USA.

After the Munich Agreement in autumn 1938, the German university refused its loyalty to the Czechoslovak state, and its professors immigrated in large numbers to Germany and Austria. After the smashing of the rest of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, a representative of the Reich Protector returned the insignia of the German University on August 30, 1939. When demonstrations by Czech citizens and students started in the wake of the Czech national holiday on October 28th, Reich Protector Konstantin von Neurath had nine so-called ringleaders shot on November 17th, 1939 in the special action in Prague . Around 1,200 Czech students were interned in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp and only released in 1942. All Czech universities were closed on November 17, 1939, initially for three years; however, they were not reopened until the end of the war. During the German occupation, Jewish professors and students from both universities were persecuted and many were murdered.

National Socialism and the End


In March 1939, Prague was occupied by German troops and the German University in Prague was subordinated to the Reich Ministry of Education under Bernhard Rust in Berlin and declared a Reich University in Prague. For many professors of Jewish origin it was no longer possible to continue working at the university (e.g. Hans Kelsen , Emil Utitz ). Until the end of the war, teaching was only held at this university in Prague (in German), which was officially renamed the German Charles University in Prague . Numerous material and also buildings of the Czech university were transferred to the German university because on November 17, 1939 all Czech-speaking universities were closed by the National Socialists. From 1941 Hanns Martin Schleyer was the head of the student union .

When the Red Army marched into Prague in 1945, the persecution of the Prague Germans alone killed 30 professors and numerous university students. With the decree No. 112 of the Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš of October 18, 1945, the dissolution of the German university was ordered after the (Czech) Charles University resumed its operations in the summer and resumed its old places. The date of the closure of the German university was retrospectively declared November 17, 1939, that is, the exact day on which the Czech Charles University and other Czech educational institutions were closed. The archive of the former Karl Ferdinand University is located in the University Archive of the Charles University.

In 1948/49 Wilhelm Weizsäcker pursued plans to re-establish the law and philosophy faculties of the former Karl Ferdinand University in Augsburg .


University professor (selection)

Friedrich Adler , Josef Albert Amann , Alfred Amonn , Günther Beck von Mannagetta and Lerchenau , Gustav Becking , Oskar Bail , Friedrich Behrens , Rudolf Böhm , Herbert Cysarz , Alois Martin David , Christian Doppler , Albert Einstein , Anton Ernstberger , August Fournier , Philipp Frank , Gerhard Gesemann , Anton Gindely , Walter Glaser , Heinrich Gleißner , Hans Großmann-Doerth , Eduard Gundling , Josef Hanika , Gustav Herbig , Heinrich Hilgenreiner , Karl Hilgenreiner , Franz Hofmeister , Josef Hohlbaum , Friedrich Hopfner , Otto Kahler , Philipp Knoll , Gottfried Koller , Paul Kornfeld , Horaz Krasnopolski , Anton Lampa , Gustav Karl Laube , Ernst Mach , Robert Mayr-Harting , Gustav Meyer , August Naegle , Raphael Pacher , Matthias Pangerl , Otto Peterka , Eugen Petersen , Hans Petersson , Josef Pfitzner , Erhard Preißig , Alfred Pribram , Ernst Pringsheim junior , Eugen Rippl , Maximilian Rosenberg , Georg Sacke , August Sauer , Heinrich Alfred Schmid , Edmund Schneeweis , Ferdin and Josef Schneider , Rudolf Schreiber , Johann Friedrich von Schulte , Alwin Schultz , Ernst Schwarz , Martin Sicherheitsl , Friedrich Slotty , Ludwig Spiegel , Friedrich von Stein , Karl Maria Swoboda , Herbert Tietze , Erich Trunz , Johannes Urzidil , Alfred Weber , Edmund Weil , Wilhelm Weizsäcker , Felix Weltsch , Robert Weltsch , Friedrich von Wieser , Gustav Philipp Otto Willmann , Moritz Winternitz , Alfred Woltmann , Ferdinand Friedrich Zimmermann

Well-known students (selection)

Fridolin Aichner , Oskar Benda , Ferdinand Blumentritt , Max Brod , Carl Friedrich Heinrich Credner , Vincenz Czerny , Karl W. Deutsch , Karl Hermann Frank , Anton Gindely , Hermann Grab , Julius Gundling , Erich Heller , Hugo Jury , Franz Kafka , Karl I. von Austria , Guido Kisch , Wilhelm Klein , Arthur Mahler , Josef Neuwirth , Theodor Petrina , Ferdinand Pfohl , Oskar Pollak , Eduard Prokosch , August Leopold von Reuss , Rainer Maria Rilke , Herbert Schediwy


  • Annual report of the reading and speaking hall of German students in Prague. Association year 1884/85 . Prague 1885.
  • Hans Hubert Knoblich: Bard history 1869-1969. 100 years of Prague university singing bards in Munich. Munich 1973.
  • Adolf Siegl : The German universities in Prague and their students from 1870 to 1914 . In: then and now. Yearbook of the Association for Corporate Student History Research Vol. 21, 1976, pp. 95-133.
  • Adolf Siegl: The closure of the German universities in Prague [1945]. In: then and now. Yearbook of the Association for Corporate Student History Research Vol. 24, 1979, pp. 95-104.
  • Adolf Siegl: The foundation of the medieval university in Prague . In: then and now. Yearbook of the Association for Corporate Student History Research, Vol. 30, 1985, pp. 87–112.
  • Hubert Rösel: German Slavic Studies and its history at the University of Prague 1995 (with course catalog from 1900).

Web links

Commons : Charles University in Prague  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Milada Řihová: Classes at the Prague Medical Faculty in the Middle Ages. In: Würzburger medical history reports 17, 1998, pp. 163–173; here p. 163.
  2. Michal Svatoš: The Kuttenberg Decree and the work of Magister Jan Hus at the University of Prague. In: Blanka Mouralová (ed.): The Prague University of Charles IV. From the European founding to the national division. 2010, pp. 45-70.
  3. Zákonník říšský pro království a země v radě říšské zastoupené 1882 (Zákon č. 24/1882 ř. Z., Jenž se týče ck university Karlo-Ferdinandské v Praze.). In: Austrian National Library. February 28, 1882, accessed June 5, 2016 (cz).
  4. Annual report of the reading and speech hall of German students in Prague, year of association 1885, Prague 1885.
  5. Zákon č. 135/1920 Sb. a n. ve Sbírce zákonů a nařízení státu československého PDF .
  6. cf. Decree presidenta republiky č. 122/1945 Sb., O zrušení německé university v Praze.

Coordinates: 50 ° 5 ′ 18.2 "  N , 14 ° 24 ′ 13.3"  E