Rudolf Heberle

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Rudolf Heberle (born July 3, 1896 in Lübeck , † April 20, 1991 in Baton Rouge , Louisiana , United States) was a German - American sociologist . Heberle he taught a. a. at the University of Kiel . When he was supposed to get a professorship in Kiel in 1936, he was viewed as unsuitable because of a “Jewish” great-grandfather. Heberle then emigrated with his whole family. This was made easier by the fact that Herberle had received a call to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. As a professor he represented the academic subjects of sociology and population science and worked primarily in the field of political sociologist in the USA .


After graduating from high school in 1915, Rudolf Heberle was a soldier at a Lübeck humanistic grammar school in World War I and then studied political science in Göttingen , Freiburg im Breisgau , Marburg and Kiel from 1919 . There he received his doctorate in 1923 for Dr. sc. pol. and married the social worker Franziska Tönnies (* February 14, 1900, † December 21, 1997), the daughter of his academic teacher Ferdinand Tönnies .

Initially assistant to Fritz Karl Mann , he worked from 1923 to 1926 at the University of Königsberg in East Prussia (from there he also carried out agricultural sociological studies in Lithuania ), was a Research Fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation from 1926-29 , researched and taught as a private lecturer from 1929-38 in Kiel. In 1937 the rector of Christian-Albrechts-Universität informed him that his salaries and teaching positions as a private lecturer at Kiel University would no longer be renewed. His appointment as professor could not be pursued if his parentage was not fully clarified. Heberle anticipated his release by applying for leave of absence. In 1938, Heberle had to emigrate from Germany, like many other pupils of his mentor Fritz Karl Mann, who was persecuted by the Nazis . Together with his wife and son Klaus Hinrich Heberle , he went to Baton Rouge in the United States .

As early as 1934 he had written his book Rural Population and National Socialism , which dealt with the emergence of NS in Schleswig-Holstein. It was not allowed to appear during the Nazi era because it was a modern sociological investigation in the spirit of democratic science. Only the sociological journal of the Volksspiegel "dared" to publish a short summary in 1934. After that, a heavily abridged version was published in English in 1945. The book was only published in German in 1963 by the renowned Institute for Contemporary History .

In 1938, Heberle was given a teaching position at Louisiana State University . Two years later he was appointed to a chair in sociology there. Heberle received American citizenship in 1944. After the Second World War, Hebele Rufe reached several German universities. But he stayed in the USA and held the chair in Baton Rouge until his retirement in 1963. He then took on visiting professorships at North American universities ( Michigan State University , University of North Carolina , Columbia University ) and most recently in Freiburg im Breisgau . The Philosophical Faculty and the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences at Kiel University each awarded him honorary doctorates.

The politically astute and humane scholar was president of the Southern Sociological Society from 1951 to 1952 and vice-president of the American Sociological Association from 1966 to 1967 . He was active until his death.


Heberle was a student of Ferdinand Tönnies at the University of Kiel and took over from him not only the theoretical approach, but above all a strong impetus for sociological field research and sociography . His analysis of the social structural constellations caused a stir, with which he explained the early electoral success of the NSDAP at the end of the Weimar Republic . After his emigration, he studied the changes in the 'old south' of the USA at the University of Louisiana and became particularly influential through his comparative studies of mass movements .

Heberle's theory of social movements is based on a systematic explanation; His historical knowledge of the history of social movements did not allow him to write a history book on political movements like others before or after him, but rather served him as a selection of case studies. Published in the United States in 1951, his work Social Movements was unprecedented of its kind. Without paying attention to the usual boundaries between specialist disciplines, Heberle analyzed both social and political dimensions. As causative conditions, he considered social-psychological attitudes and motivations as well as social classes , ethnic and religious affiliation as well as social ecology as a whole as a geographically distributed complex of factors and switched from the structure and organization of movements and parties to examining their struggle strategies and tactics.

The German treatise Theory of Migration , published in 1955, continues to point the way for any sociology of migration . It has three areas: jobs, homes and sexual competition, which are significant both in the context of or as mechanisms of “social closure” and in connection with “xenophobic attitudes”.

The Tönnies reception in North America, which after 1933 went far beyond the German one, owes much to his writings and editions.

Selected publications

  • On the history of the labor movement in Sweden , 1925.
  • Germans in Lithuania , abroad etc. Heimat, Stuttgart 1927.
  • On Population Mobility in the United States , 1929.
  • Sociography , in: Alfred Vierkandt , (Hg.): Concise Dictionary of Sociology , (1931), Ferdinand Enke, Stuttgart ²1982, ISBN 3-432-91551-9 .
  • (with Fritz W. Meyer :) The big cities in the stream of internal migration , 1937.
  • From Democracy to Nazism. A Regional Case Study on Political Parties in Germany . University of Louisiana Press, Baton Rouge 1945. A heavily abridged English version of the book written in 1934 that could not be published in German during the Third Reich. The original text only appeared in 1963 as:
Rural Population and National Socialism: A Sociological Study of Political Will-Formation in Schleswig-Holstein 1918 to 1932 . Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1963. Series of the quarterly books for contemporary history 6.


  • Werner J. Cahnmann, Heberle, Rudolf , in: Wilhelm Bernsdorf / Horst Knospe (eds.): Internationales Soziologenlexikon , Vol. 2, Enke, Stuttgart ² 1984, p. 342.
  • Klaus R. Schroeter : Between Adjustment and Resistance - Comments on Kiel Sociology in National Socialism . In Hans-Werner Prahl (ed.): UNI-Formierung des Geistes - University of Kiel and National Socialism . Volume 1, Malik Regional Verlag, Kiel 1995, ISBN 3-89029-967-9 . Pp. 275–329, here pp. 295 ff.
  • Rainer Waßner , Rudolf Heberle. Sociology in Germany between the World Wars , Fechner, Hamburg 1995, ISBN 3-929215-03-9 .
  • Hansjörg Gutberger: Population, Inequality, Selection. Perspectives of social science population research in Germany between 1930 and 1960. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2006, pp. 124–145, ISBN 3-531-14925-3
  • Christoph Cornelißen ; Carsten Mish: Science at the limit. The University of Kiel under National Socialism (= communications from the Society for Kiel City History. Vol. 86). Klartext, Essen 2009, ISBN 978-3-8375-0240-4 . Pp. 185-193.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Cf. Rainer Waßner, personal memories of Rudolf, Franziska and Klaus Heberle , in: Tönnies-Forum , 1998, no. 1, pp. 4-6.
  2. Christoph Cornelißen; Carsten Mish: Science at the limit. The University of Kiel under National Socialism (= communications from the Society for Kiel City History. Vol. 86). Klartext, Essen 2009, ISBN 978-3-8375-0240-4 . P. 191f.
  3. ^ Rural population and National Socialism: A sociological study of the political will formation in Schleswig-Holstein 1918 to 1932 . Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1963 p. 7.
  4. Walter Rummel: Regions in National Socialism - a research report from the Rhineland-Palatinate perspective. In RheinhessischeWege into National Socialism. Studies on rural communities in Rhenish Hesse from the Weimar Republic to the end of the Nazi dictatorship. Edited by Michael Kißener for the Friends of Project Osthofen, Worms Verlag, Worms 2010, ISBN 978-3-936118-74-2 , p. 16f.
  5. After his reparation proceedings were recognized, he was also offered a professorship at the University of Kiel, which he also refused. Compare Privatdozent Dr. Rudolf Heberle , University of Kiel and National Socialism