Nazis in the Ivory Tower (in the 1930s; and today?)


Steven Plaut writes a book review for “The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower,” by Stephen H. Norwood (Cambridge University Press, 2009):

Over the past two decades we have witnessed the emergence of a mass movement of political extremism and support for totalitarianism on Western college campuses. Large numbers of university professors and administrators today advocate politically extremist positions that combine support for totalitarian Islamofascism and its terrorism with deep hatred of Israel and anti-Americanism. The dimensions of the phenomenon vary by campus and also by academic discipline. Middle East Studies is arguably the worst. The pro-totalitarian ideology and the hostility towards Israel and the United States have been documented for years by campus monitoring watchdogs like Campus-Watch in the United States and by Isracampus in Israel, as well as by web magazines, notably FrontPage.

Reading the exposes about campus political extremism today is numbingly shocking. No doubt many a reader responds bewilderingly by asking how such behavior and fanaticism could have been invented in the early twenty-first century. Actually, it was not. It was around many decades ago.

Campus radicalism, support for totalitarianism, and general political extremism are not new on Western campuses. Indeed some of the worst political extremism in academic history took the form of enthusiastic support on American campuses for Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. This is a disgraceful chapter in American academic history and one largely unknown. Its story is the topic of a new book “The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower,” by Stephen H. Norwood (Cambridge University Press, 2009). The author is a professor of history at the University of Oklahoma and holds a PhD from Columbia University (of all places; Columbia University is one of the schools whose ties with Nazism he documents carefully). Norwood is an accomplished writer and researcher, but I believe that this volume will turn him into an American household name. It is based on five years of his intensive research efforts. And it is already flaming controversies and debate....

None of what follows is my own original research. All of it is taken from Norwood’s seminal study and he deserves all the credit for uncovering these things. The simple lesson from examining the behavior on American universities in the 1930s is that that the appeasement, the support for totalitarian aggression and terror, the academic bigotry, and the anti-Semitism that today fill so many American universities were all predominant forces on many campuses in the 1930s, especially at America’s elite schools, including on much of the Ivy League. The Chomskies, Coles, Beinins and Massads of today could easily be fit into the campus atmosphere of the 1930s.....
Read the full piece here



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