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Kirchengeschichte: 20. Jahrhundert, Zeitgeschichte
Die Verwissenschaftlichung der »Judenfrage« im Nationalsozialismus.
Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 2011. 480 S. = Veröffentlichungen der Forschungsstelle Ludwigsburg der Universität Stuttgart, 19. Geb. EUR 59,90. ISBN 978-3-534-23977-1.
In an impressive study drawing on and developing his many years of research into German Religionswissenschaft during National Socialism in general and the Tübingen one in particular, Horst Junginger here discusses the scientification of the Jewish Problem (Judenfrage) in National Socialism. In this regard the Eberhard-Karls-Universität in Tübingen was not just another of many German universities, but was playing a very specific role in the development of antisemitic research. Already in 1477 the university expelled the Jews and by the same token in the 1920s it was declared judenfrei. This monolithic view of Jews propelled Tübingen into the center of National Socialist German academic life (396); with National Socialism the Tübingen study of Jews and Judaism would enjoy »einen immensen Politisierungsschub«. The Württemberg Landesbischof Wurm joined forces with the Tübingen faculty. Wurm thought the Institut zur Erforschung und Beseitigung des jüdischen Einflusses auf das deutsche kirchliche Leben, where the Tübingen graduate and doctor Walter Grundmann was the leading scholar, was unnecessary since the Württemberg church and Tübingen faculty were already dejudaised. Here a synthesis between age-old religious anti-Judaism and modern racist views of Jews was made.
Two chapters give a historical background, an overview of the university of Tübingen and the Jews, followed by a chapter on the early 20th century, which meant certain but small improvements for Wissenschaft des Judentums. However, in Tübingen the chancellor August Hegler could in 1933 state that there was no Jewish Problem in this university. – The core of the book deals with the Tübingen New Testament professor and renowned specialist of New Testament and Judaism, Gerhard Kittel, and his student Karl Georg Kuhn. Kittel, who has closely connected with the legendary Neutestamentler Adolf Schlatter, whom he succeeded after a short episode with Wilhelm Heitmüller, was rooted in Lutheran Pietism and its tradition of research of Judaism. J. gives an initiated and quite complete account of Kittel’s work showing how deeply involved this prominent scholar was in the National Socialist antisemitic project.
If Kittel was the professor creating antisemitic ideology from behind his desk, Kuhn, who later became the first and only (apl-) professor for the research into Judaism and the Jewish Problem in 1942, was also literally at the streets. With a similar background as Kittel, Kuhn became the leading non-Jewish Talmud scholar in National Socialist Germany, but he was also the one who on behalf of the local NSDAP from the tribune at the Tübingen Rathaus proclaimed the boycott against the Jews. J. describes Kuhn’s way to the professorship as a combination of political and academic skills and details the many turnabouts around this and other proposed professorships for study of the Jewish Problem.
The two Tübingen professors were to focus the lion’s share of their wartime work inside the most influential of those academic institutions which were dealing with the Jewish Problem outside the universities, the Forschungsabteilung Judenfrage in München as part of the Reichsinstitut für Geschichte des neuen Deutschlands. Opened in 1936, it was first led by Wilhelm Grau (1910–2000) and from 1938 by Walter Frank (1905–1945). The institute was less theologically limited than the Institut zur Erforschung und Beseitigung des jüdischen Einflusses auf das deutsche kirchliche Leben in Eisenach, and the two scholars and their colleagues rather used historical method and, for Kuhn, Talmud study than discussed Christianity; however, most of the scholars, including Frank, were at home in pietism. Even though there was a constant production of articles and books dealing with historical matters, the framework was thoroughly racist. Kittel e. g., majored on racial mixing, but the fine academicians also took part in more openly propagandistic events, the goal being to show the peoples of the greater Germany and how scientific the struggle against the Jews was.
The München experts were also used for expert opinions. Spec-tacular is Kittel’s expert opinion in the process against Herschel Grynszpan, who in 1938 had shot the German embassy secretary in Paris, Ernst vom Rath. Kittel came to the conclusion that ›the parasite‹ Grynszpan’s talmudic mentality of Jewish hate against the host peoples among which they lived had contributed to his deed, which however, to Kittel was ignited through Jewish communist influence. In spite of the convict being non-religious, the murder was in line with the Purimrelated hate of the non-Jews. This is probably the most impressive example of Kittel’s totally nazified thinking. In his chapter »Antisemitism in its last consequence«, J. shows the political implications and indeed consequences of the work of Kittel and others. A number of Tübingen students ended up at the frontlines of the Holocaust, e. g., the former leader of the Tübingen Student League Martin Sandberger, who in Oct 12 1941 reported that the Sonderkommando 1a under his command had been able to kill 440 Jews (92 f.)!
In his book, J. shows the frightening connection between the work of the erudite professors and the slaughter of Jews. German culture needed this scientification of antisemitism in order to be able to accommodate it, provided by a scholar with great credibility as Gerhard Kittel, son of the famous Rudolf Kittel. Every theologian by this time owned his Biblia Hebraica; New Testament professors to this day say to their students: »Did you check Kittel,« meaning Gerhard Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, the biggest New Testament publishing enterprise ever.
In the holiest of holies of European theology these horrendous ideas were formed. J.’s great accomplishment is that he with ruthless precision describes this process, its background and consequences, showing that the Tübingen research into Judaism both provided a missing link between popular and genocidal antisemitism (403), research into Judaism creating part of its intellectual conditions. Any innocence of the works of these scholars is a chimera; they contributed to pave the way to the anus mundi, Auschwitz. – To my mind this is a must-read for any church(wo)man, theologian or young student, generally in Europe and especially in Germany as a theological-academic Holocaust memorial.
It is then not to wonder that J. sees religion as part of the problem, but here I must part ways with him, as he argues that there is a necessary connection between Christian soteriology and anti-Judaism (391). He sees the modern philosemitic turn in theology as a mere conversion under the gallows (412). It is true that after the Holocaust especially New Testament exegesis changed, almost for the first time becoming able to appreciate the Jewish roots of Christianity. But rather the Holocaust was a wake up call and exegetes began to really interact with Second Temple Judaism to see that there is an inherent association between Christianity and Judaism.
However, given the horrific Tübingen history of anti-Semitic research among pious Protestant theologians, J.’s verdict is quite understandable. The book is a solidly researched and most important second wake-up call to consider whether anti-Semitism is inherent in the roots of Protestantism even if not in Christianity. A more formal weakness is that such a rich documentation as J.’s would have ben-efited from a real index. But German (and other) theology still has homework to do to deal with the theological legitimation of the Shoah. J.’s important study shows that »Es ist noch nicht genug.«