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Mathematicians Fleeing from Nazi Germany

Mathematicians Fleeing from Nazi Germany: Individual Fates and Global Impact

Reinhard Siegmund-Schultze
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 504
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  • Book Info
    Mathematicians Fleeing from Nazi Germany
    Book Description:

    The emigration of mathematicians from Europe during the Nazi era signaled an irrevocable and important historical shift for the international mathematics world.Mathematicians Fleeing from Nazi Germanyis the first thoroughly documented account of this exodus. In this greatly expanded translation of the 1998 German edition, Reinhard Siegmund-Schultze describes the flight of more than 140 mathematicians, their reasons for leaving, the political and economic issues involved, the reception of these emigrants by various countries, and the emigrants' continuing contributions to mathematics. The influx of these brilliant thinkers to other nations profoundly reconfigured the mathematics world and vaulted the United States into a new leadership role in mathematics research.

    Based on archival sources that have never been examined before, the book discusses the preeminent emigrant mathematicians of the period, including Emmy Noether, John von Neumann, Hermann Weyl, and many others. The author explores the mechanisms of the expulsion of mathematicians from Germany, the emigrants' acculturation to their new host countries, and the fates of those mathematicians forced to stay behind. The book reveals the alienation and solidarity of the emigrants, and investigates the global development of mathematics as a consequence of their radical migration.

    An in-depth yet accessible look at mathematics both as a scientific enterprise and human endeavor,Mathematicians Fleeing from Nazi Germanyprovides a vivid picture of a critical chapter in the history of international science.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3140-1
    Subjects: Mathematics, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-xii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xvii-xxviii)
    Reinhard Siegmund-Schultze and Kristiansand
  5. ONE The Terms “German-Speaking Mathematician,” “Forced,” and “Voluntary Emigration”
    (pp. 1-12)

    This chapter tries to settle some fundamental concepts to be used in the book concerning the overall process of expulsion of scientists by the Nazi regime and which are not specific to “mathematics,” although the concrete examples are from that particular field. In addition, this chapter outlines the structure of argumentation and the mode of presentation used in the book.

    The expulsion of many European mathematicians from their jobs and from their home countries between 1933 and the early 1940s forced upon them by Hitler’s regime is undoubtedly the central event of the social history of mathematics between the two...

  6. TWO The Notion of “Mathematician” Plus Quantitative Figures on Persecution
    (pp. 13-29)

    Several historians and witnesses of the events have maintained thatmathematicalimmigration has been of outstanding and singular importance to American science.¹ Geiger, for example, points out that in 1965, fourteen out of fifty-one members of the mathematical class of the National Academy of Sciences were from Europe.² Chapter 10 will give an overview of the effects of the German mathematical immigration to America and will also discuss some of the consequences to the development of mathematics in Germany in the 1930s as well. In some respects, given the then still important role of the German language and the strong...

  7. THREE Early Emigration
    (pp. 30-58)

    The singularity and suddenness of the Nazi occupation of Germany in 1933 and of Europe since 1938, and the resulting collapse and reconstruction of the international communication network, causeddiscontinuity. Part of this discontinuity was forced emigrations. But there wascontinuityas well, and academic emigration had a longer tradition. It is therefore very important to stress the difference stated above betweenforced emigration, andvoluntary emigration. Emigration before 1933 had been more or less “voluntary,” even though much of it had also been influenced by economic and political conditions. In order to fully evaluate the impact of forced emigration...

  8. FOUR Pretexts, Forms, and the Extent of Emigration and Persecution
    (pp. 59-89)

    This book gives priority to the topic of emigration of mathematicians, including the conditions of immigration in the host countries, especially the United States. The detailed picture of the circumstances in Germany and in German-occupied countries that led to emigration should rather be presented in a book on mathematics under National Socialism, since the behavior of the “unconcerned” colleagues would be of particular importance in such an investigation.² However, the two processes, expulsion from Germany and immigration in the host countries, cannot be neatly separated from each other, and therefore the fundamental conditions underlying those processes have to be discussed...

  9. FIVE Obstacles to Emigration out of Germany after 1933, Failed Escape, and Death
    (pp. 90-101)

    The discussion of the “acculturation” of emigrant mathematicians in the foreign (in particular American) societies, which will be the focus of the following chapters 6 through 10, has to be clearly separated from the preceding process or emigration. First, the emigrants had to overcome considerable legal, bureaucratic, material, and mental obstacles both in the countries they left and in the host countries. These hurdles proved to be insurmountable in many cases, particularly for the older would-be émigrés. Therefore the present chapter also includes remarks on the fates of those mostly elder victims of the Nazi persecution who did not succeed...

  10. SIX Alternative (Non-American) Host Countries
    (pp. 102-148)

    Academic immigration to the different host countries after 1933 in general, not restricted to mathematics, has been very unevenly covered by the available research literature. There is ample discussion on immigration to the United States and Great Britain, but considerably less so on immigration to Turkey, Norway, and Denmark.³ There are huge gaps concerning both the immigration to, and the situation in Palestine, France, the Netherlands, the Soviet Union, and South America. A special case is the immigration to Czechoslovakia, a country that gave temporary refuge not only to writers and politicians but also to many a dismissed mathematician. The...

  11. SEVEN Diminishing Ties with Germany and Self-Image of the Refugees
    (pp. 149-185)

    In 1953, the social scientist Franz L. Neumann (1900–1956), himself an immigrant to America, distinguished between three types of immigrants: those desperately clinging to their pasts; others embracing, often without a backward glance, the culture of their new home; and, finally, those attempting to combine the two.³ This differentiation, probably most applicable to the social sciences, has to be modified regarding the natural sciences and mathematics by taking into account the bigger division of scientific and political opinions in these fields. As to their scientific leanings almost all of the mathematical emigrants were of the “Neumannian type 3”: in...

  12. EIGHT The American Reaction to Immigration: HELP AND XENOPHOBIA
    (pp. 186-229)

    As mentioned in chapter 2, the United States became the final host country for over half of the German-speaking mathematicians who emigrated after 1933. The refugees were usually neither scientifically nor emotionally (given the fact that in many cases relatives were left behind) attracted to the geographically distant United States, although political developments quickly revealed the extraordinary level of protection provided by the strong American society and even emphasized the desirability of obtaining American citizenship (D). This predominant direction of the emigration resulted from the political developments within Germany and Europe, from the course of the war, but was also...

  13. NINE Acculturation, Political Adaptation, and the American Entrance into the War
    (pp. 230-266)

    While “governmental apathy”⁵ existed about refugees’ entering the United States, and although immigration policies were tighter compared with around 1900, conditions for acculturation, once the immigrants were in the country, were relatively favorable, particularly with respect to opportunities for employment: “Compared to the action of other countries offering a haven, the situation in the United States was favorable in this respect. There was no federal legislation restricting employment opportunities except that forbidding employment to ‘enemy aliens’ in certain war industries.”⁶

    Nevertheless, the existence of general social problems of acculturation for the European scientific immigrants could not be ignored. These included...

  14. TEN The Impact of Immigration on American Mathematics
    (pp. 267-318)

    The institutional and cognitive dimensions of mathematics within the process of emigration have been left largely untouched so far in this book. Such a discussion, however, is essential when inquiring about the impact of emigration and its consequences for mathematics. Impact itself has to be defined more precisely first. The impact emigration had on mathematics both in the countries of origin and the host countries varied greatly. It is not easy weighing the losses due to emigration in the originating countries up against the gains made by the host countries due to immigration. The problem is particularly difficult as emigration...

    (pp. 319-340)

    The postwar situation² brought with it a multitude of partly contradictory developments in mathematics in Germany. Almost all of them were the result of the war, and most of them were connected to consequences of emigration, in particular to the relationship between mathematicians who had remained in Germany and emigrants. Some of these developments led to a further weakening of German mathematics due to further emigration of established mathematicians and promising students³ and restrictions on research imposed as a result of decisions by the Allied Control Council in Germany. In addition, the division of Germany into zones of occupation by...

  16. APPENDIX 1 Lists of Emigrated (after 1933), Murdered, and Otherwise Persecuted German-Speaking Mathematicians (as of 2008)
    (pp. 341-365)
  17. APPENDIX 2 Excerpt from a Letter by George David Birkhoff from Paris (1928) to His Colleague-Mathematicians at Harvard Concerning the Possibility of or Desirability to Hire Foreigners
    (pp. 366-367)
  18. APPENDIX 3.1 Report Compiled by Harald Bohr “Together with Different German Friends” in May 1933 Concerning the Present Conditions in German Universities, in Particular with Regard to Mathematics and Theoretical Physics
    (pp. 368-371)
  19. APPENDIX 3.2 Translation of a Letter from Professor Karl Löwner of the University of Prague to Professor Louis L. Silverman (Dartmouth College) Dated August 2, 1933
    (pp. 372-373)
  20. APPENDIX 3.3 Richard von Mises’s “Position toward the Events of Our Time” in November 1933
    (pp. 374-375)
  21. APPENDIX 3.4 Report by Artur Rosenthal (Heidelberg) from June 1935 on the Boycott on His and Heinrich Liebmann’s Mathematical Courses
    (pp. 376-377)
  22. APPENDIX 3.5 Max Pinl—Later Author of the Pioneering Reports (1969–72) on Mathematical Refugees—in a Letter to Hermann Weyl on the Situation in Czechoslovakia Immediately after the Munich Dictate of September 29, 1938
    (pp. 378-379)
  23. APPENDIX 4.1 A Letter by Emmy Noether of January 1935 to the Emergency Committee in New York Regarding Her Scientific and Political Interests during Emigration
    (pp. 380-380)
  24. APPENDIX 4.2 Richard Courant’s Resignation from the German Mathematicians’ Association DMV in 1935
    (pp. 381-382)
  25. APPENDIX 4.3 Von Mises in His Diary about His Second Emigration, from Turkey to the USA, in 1939
    (pp. 383-387)
  26. APPENDIX 4.4 Hermann Weyl to Harlow Shapley on June 5, 1943, Concerning the Problems of the Immigrant from Göttingen, Felix Bernstein
    (pp. 388-389)
  27. APPENDIX 5.1 Richard Courant in October 1945 to the American Authorities Who Were Responsible for German Scientific Reparation
    (pp. 390-392)
  28. APPENDIX 5.2 Max Dehn’s Refusal to Rejoin the German Mathematicians’ Association DMV in 1948
    (pp. 393-393)
  29. APPENDIX 6 Memoirs for My Children (1933/1988)
    (pp. 394-414)
    Peter Thullen
  30. Archives, Unprinted Sources, and Their Abbreviations
    (pp. 415-420)
  31. References
    (pp. 421-444)
  32. Photographs Index and Credits
    (pp. 445-448)
  33. Subject Index
    (pp. 449-460)
  34. Name Index
    (pp. 461-471)