Helmut Berve

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Helmut Berve (born January 22, 1896 in Breslau ; † April 6, 1979 in Hechendorf am Pilsensee ) was a German ancient historian whose work has been shaped by research achievements that are still significant today, as well as by his National Socialist worldview.


Helmut Berve, the son of the Westphalian bankers born Emil Berve in Wroclaw, made in 1914 at Elizabeth High School his hometown high school and then traveled to Italy. As a volunteer he joined the IV Hussar Regiment and did military service until 1916. After his discharge due to illness, he studied history, classical philology , classical archeology and art history at the University of Breslau from 1916, with Conrad Cichorius , Walter Otto and Ernst Kornemann , among others . After the end of the First World War , he moved to the Universities of Marburg and Freiburg im Breisgau , and in the summer semester of 1921 finally to the University of Munich , where he worked with Walter Otto in July 1921 as Dr. phil. received his doctorate . After a semester at the University of Berlin , Berve returned to Munich and completed his habilitation there in 1924 with a study of prosopographical studies on Hellenism . Two years later he published his two-volume work Das Alexanderreich on a prosopographical basis, based on his habilitation thesis . While in the first volume he examined various aspects of Alexander the great's reign , in the second volume he expanded the prosopographical studies to include all persons in the vicinity of the Macedonian king. The work is still considered to be an indispensable basic work. 1927 followed Berve a reputation as a professor in the Department of History at the University of Leipzig , where Franz Hampl , Alfred Heuss , Wilhelm Hoffmann , Hans Rudolph and Hans Schaefer were among his students and habilitated with him.

Berve rejected universal history in the style of Eduard Meyers and instead advocated personal empathy with important personalities (“intuitive show”) as well as folk and tribal history .

In April 1933 Berve became a member of the NSDAP . In the same year he was appointed dean of the Philosophical Faculty in Leipzig. In November 1933 he signed the German professors' confession of Adolf Hitler . From 1940 to 1943 he was rector of the University of Leipzig. Together with Joseph Vogt , he also led the "ancient science war mission", for which they published the anthologies The new image of antiquity and Rome and Carthage . Since 1934 Berve was co-editor of Hermes magazine .

In 1943 Berve accepted a call to Munich to succeed his late teacher Walter Otto. For some time, however, his appointment was controversial between the university and the Nazi Lecturer Association , as the latter did not consider Berve's research to be sufficiently racially oriented. On February 6, 1943, he married his second student Anna Elisabeth Glauning (1910–1887), who had received her doctorate in 1936.

Between 1933 and 1945 Berve propagated the integration of classical studies into the National Socialist worldview in numerous writings. In his research, for example, Berve idealized the warrior community of Sparta and did not shy away from racist approaches and considering the lordship of the ancient nobility. His closeness to the National Socialist worldview became particularly clear in his considerations of the supposed "amalgamation policy" of Alexander the Great. As a result of his political past as a National Socialist activist, he was dismissed from university service by the American military government in December 1945 after the end of the Second World War . In the Soviet occupation zone , Berve's writings Thucydides (1938) and Imperium Romanum (1943) were placed on the list of literature to be discarded.

Berve is a particularly prominent example of the numerous scientists who were highly stressed due to their role during the Nazi era, who were able to continue their careers more or less unhindered after 1945 without ever having clearly distanced themselves from their past. In March 1948, Berve was classified as an “activist” and “incriminated” in a panel proceedings , but in July of that year he was classified as a “follower” in an appeal process. In February 1949 he was accepted back into the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and received his Venia legendi back in May 1949 . Since his previous chair was now occupied by Alexander Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg , Berve was appointed extraordinary professor and taught in Munich and at the Philosophical-Theological University in Regensburg in the following years .

In 1954, Berve was once again appointed professor of ancient history at the University of Erlangen , where Peter Robert Franke , Franz Kiechle , Edmund Buchner , Eckart Olshausen and Michael Wörrle studied with him. In 1950/51 he published his second, only slightly revised edition, his Greek history, which was shaped by racial ideology (first edition 1931–1933). That was no reason to make him chairman of the commission for ancient history and epigraphy of the German Archaeological Institute , probably the most influential research institution of ancient history in Germany. He held this office from 1960 to 1967.

The high scientific quality of his more recent work was also recognized by critics. Despite his well-known Nazi past, Berve received numerous academic honors, was an honorary doctor of the University of Athens , a full member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz . Although especially his earlier works are seen very critical today because of his sympathy for Nazism, they contain at the same time important, still valid insights, and his 1967 published two-volume guide to tyranny of the Greeks applies just as Alexander's kingdom on prosopographical basis to be before many as a fundamental standard work on this subject.

Fonts (selection)

  • The Alexander Reich on a prosopographical basis. 2 volumes (Vol. 1: Presentation. Vol. 2: Prosopography. ). Beck, Munich 1926.
  • Greek history (= history of the leading peoples. Vol. 4–5, ZDB -ID 974414-9 ). 2 volumes (Vol. 1: From the beginnings to Perikles. Vol. 2: From Perikles to the political dissolution. ). Herder, Freiburg (Breisgau) 1931–1933, (several editions).
  • Emperor Augustus (= island library . 444). Insel-Verlag, Leipzig 1934.
  • Sparta (= Meyer's small handbooks. Vol. 7, ZDB -ID 991000-1 ). Bibliographical Institute, Leipzig 1937.
  • Miltiades. Studies on the history of man and his time (= Hermes . Individual writings. 2). Weidmann, Berlin 1937.
  • Thucydides (= On the way to the national political high school. Issue 5, ZDB -ID 1008974-3 ). Diesterweg, Frankfurt am Main 1938.
  • Imperium Romanum (= series of publications of the German-Italian Society Leipzig. No. 1). Koehler & Amelang, Leipzig 1942.
  • Dion (= treatises of the humanities and social sciences class of the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz. Born in 1956, No. 10).
  • Formative forces of antiquity. Essays on Greek and Roman History. Beck, Munich 1949; 2nd edition, ibid. 1966.
  • The tyranny among the Greeks. 2 volumes (Vol. 1: Presentation. Vol. 2: Notes. ). Beck, Munich 1967.


  • Karl Christ : Helmut Berve (1896–1979). In: Karl Christ: New Profiles of Ancient History. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1990, ISBN 3-534-10289-4 , pp. 125-187.
  • Karl Christ: Klio's changes. The German ancient history from neo-humanism to the present. CH Beck, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-54181-X , pp. 59-65.
  • Linda-Marie Günther : Helmut Berve. Professor in Munich March 6, 1943 to December 12, 1945. In: Jakob Seibert (Ed.): 100 Years of Old History at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich (1901-2001). Duncker and Humblot, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-428-10875-2 , pp. 69-105.
  • Jula Kerschensteiner : The Chronicle of the Seminar for Classical Philology at the University of Munich in the war years 1941–1945. In: Eikasmós . Volume 4, 1993, pp. 71-74.
  • Stefan Rebenich : Old history in democracy and dictatorship. The Helmut Berve case. In: Chiron . Volume 31, 2001, pp. 457-496 ( online ).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Stefan Rebenich: Ancient history in democracy and dictatorship. The Helmut Berve case . In: Chiron 31, 2001, p. 466. online
  2. ^ Call for elections for Hitler's politics, November 1933 ( digital copyhttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3Dbebeknisnisderpro00natiuoft~MDZ%3D%0A~SZ%3D135~ double-sided%3D~LT%3D~PUR%3D ). Berve is listed on p. 135, column Individual Scientists, left column.
  3. ^ Stefan Rebenich: Ancient history in democracy and dictatorship. The Helmut Berve case . In: Chiron 31, 2001, p. 477, note 107.
  4. Helmut Berve: The amalgamation policy of Alexander the great . In: Klio 31, 1938, pp. 135-168.
  5. Jakob Seibert : "From seminar to seminar". In: Derselbe (Ed.): 100 Years of Old History at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich (1901–2001) (= Ludovico Maximilianea. Research and sources. Volume 19). Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-428-10875-2 , pp. 23–39, here p. 24.
  6. http://www.polunbi.de/bibliothek/1946-nslit-b.html