In Praise of Similarity and Difference: Portrayals of German Jews (Moritz Daniel Oppenheim (1800-1882), Part II)

Note:  With the exception of the first illustration below, the images in this post are borrowed from the wonderful book, Der Zyklus „Bilder aus dem altjüdischen Familienleben“ und sein Maler Moritz Daniel Oppenheim [The Series “Pictures of Old Jewish Family Life” and its Painter Moritz Daniel Oppenheim] by Ruth Dröse et al. (Hanau: Co-Con Verlag, 1996).

M Oppenheim + Adelheid Cleve 1829

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim and his first wife, Adelheid Cleve, 1829 (self portrait). Nothing in their dress or demeanor distinguishes them visually from others in Germany’s rising bourgeoisie of the period.

Minority groups in any society continually negotiate a balance between maintaining their distinct identity and fitting into the larger society in which they live.  In the United States, this negotiation has been repeatedly managed by immigrant groups, including Irish, Italian and Eastern Europeans in the 19th century and East and South Asians, Middle Easterners and myriad Latinos today.  Jews in Germany in the 1800s faced similar social negotiations. At the beginning of the century, Jewish mobility was tightly restricted and their lives were often segregated from the majority community.  A hundred years later, however, Jews were leaders in countless fields in Germany, including literature, the arts, science, the professions and business.  Prejudice and discrimination persisted, but the progress over the century was remarkable.

As German Jews entered the middle and educated classes, they faced the conundrum of maintaining their distinctive customs and beliefs while sharing the benefits and liberal values of participation in a broader, more diverse, modern society. In the second half of the 19th century, the domestic art of my great-great-great grandfather’s brother, Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, portrayed a credible balance between these competing objectives.  You can read a prior post about him here. His series depicting Jewish life became wildly popular.  They started as black-and-white paintings that were photographically converted to lithographs. The set sold thousands of copies in many editions.

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, Freitag Abend [Friday Evening], 1867. The father returns from the synagogue for the Sabbath meal with his family.

Close family relations, benevolent gender roles, respectful children, education, hospitality, formal mealtimes, well-made but not opulent furnishings and clothing — these were all esteemed values of German middle class life when Moritz painted this illustration in 1867. He dressed the figures in clothing from a century earlier – perhaps suggesting that the Jewish exoticism pictured was explicable as an anachronism. The artistic style, however, is a mid-19th century domestic genre scene. Except for the figure on the right and the Sabbath lamp hanging over the table, this could be many idealized German homes of Oppenheim’s day. The father blesses his daughters while his wife nurses the baby.  Three boys stand respectfully; one holds a book while observing the Sabbath guest, a religious student in foreign dress.  The Sabbath bread lies under a napkin waiting for the family to sit and eat together. For both Jewish and Gentile audiences, this image  conveys strong nineteenth-century family values held in common by the majority and minority populations.

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, Sabbat-Nachmittag [Sabbath Afternoon], (1866).  A Jewish family quietly observes the Day of Rest.

Aside from the males’ skullcaps and the Sabbath lamp in the center of the room, this illustration could be an idealized scene of Christian piety on a Sunday afternoon in the mid-1800s. It is, however, a Jewish home on a Saturday. While the father dozes, the sons and daughters read and study.  No doubt their books are religious or moral texts.  The good but not extravagant clothes and furnishings and the domestic tranquility convey that this is a gutbürgerlich, solid middle class, pious German home.

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, Das Wochen- oder Pfingstfest [The Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot] 1880. The late spring festival features decorations of garlands and flowers.

Once in a while, Moritz Oppenheim would allow his illustrations of Jewish life to convey greater distinctiveness than others. In this portrayal of Shavuot, the men wear prayer shawls (Talit) and the central figure carries a richly decorated Torah.  The Gothic-arched windows of the synagogue and the tablets of the Ten Commandments over the door, however, would connote a religious environment familiar to German Christians of the time.  What this image has most in common with Christian illustrations of the time is the attentive, prayerful, eyes-upraised piety of all the participants, including children.

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, Die Jahrzeit (Minjan) [Minyan], 1871. Jewish soldiers interrupt the war to observe Jahrzeit, the anniversary of the death of one of the soldiers’ father.

Jews showed their German patriotism by volunteering for the army in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. In this scene, ten German-Jewish soldiers – officers and enlisted, infantry and medical corps, battle-ready and wounded – pause in the war to observe the anniversary of the death of the father of one of their number, the man third from right with a prayer shawl.  The place is a commandeered home in a French village. The crucifix hung on the back wall by the French family has been covered with a cloth for this occasion but remains part of the scene. French girls observe the unusual ceremony through the window.  The  message is one of German loyalty and communal piety, so the soldiers at prayer are simultaneously unified with and and yet different from German society as a whole.

Prof. M. Oppenheim, Bilder aus dem altjüdischen Familienleben [Pictures of Old Jewish Family Life], edition of 1872.

Prof. M. Oppenheim, Bilder aus dem altjüdischen Familienleben  [Pictures of Old Jewish Family Life], edition of 1901.

The first portfolio of Oppenheim’s lithographs with six images was published in 1866 and was followed by numerous later editions with additional plates.  Thousands of the sets were sold . The huge 1901 edition pictured, measuring nearly 2 feet by 3 feet, included 20 large prints.  Oppenheim’s lithographs, with their multilayered meanings, decorated Jewish homes across Europe for decades.  They can be seen at the Jewish Museum in New York and at the Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art housed in the historic Rodeph Sholem Synagogue.

More stories about the Höber  family are in Against Time: Letters from Nazi Germany, 1938-1939, published by the American Philosophical Society. Information is available hereAlso available at

German edition, Deutsche auf der Flucht, ein Briefwechsel zwischen Deutschland und Amerika von 1938 bis 1938, available here.

This entire blog is available in book form. Send a note to the author through the comments section below.


Portraitist to the Rothschilds — Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, 1800-1882, Part I

Note:  The images in this post are borrowed from the wonderful reference book and catalogue raisonné , Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, Die Entdeckung des jüdischen Selbstbewußtseins in der Kunst [“The Discovery of Jewish Self-Awareness in Art”], edited by Georg Heuberger and Anton Merk, Jüdisches Museum Frankfurt am Main, 1999.

Moritz Oppenheim (1800-1882), Selbstbildnis, 1825.

One of the fascinating things about digging into my family’s history was to discover that before 1900, almost everyone on my father’s side of the family was Jewish.  My father was baptized and confirmed as a Protestant, as was his father, and my mother came from an entirely Protestant background,.  So it was only late in my life that I learned of my father’s Jewish roots.  My 5X great-grandfather, Lazarus Gumpel, sponsored the first Reformed synagogue in Hamburg, Germany around 1800.  Other family members were close with Abraham Geiger and Theodore Creizenach, among the founders of Reform Judaism in the early 19th century.

One of the interesting characters I discovered was my 3X great-grandfather’s brother, Moritz Oppenheim (1800-1882).  He was born in the confined ghetto in Hanau, near Frankfurt, to a wealthy family of jewelers and bankers.   He grew up to be called The First Jewish Painter. He showed his talent early, with this remarkable and quirky self-portrait when he was just 14 years old.

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim. Selbstbildnis, 1815.

Moritz discovered early that he could make a decent living painting religious scenes based on both Old and New Testament themes.  Many of these, however, bear the saccharine character of popular 19th century religious illustrations.  The slightly racy quality of this painting of Potiphar’s Wife (here trying to seduce Joseph) makes it more interesting than some in this genre:

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, Joseph und das Weib von Potiphar, 1828.

I think Moritz really was at his best when he got into portraiture.  He had a wonderful capacity to capture the personalities of interesting people.  I love this painting of my great-great-aunt, Bernhardine Friedeberg (1822-1873), which captures not just her beauty but her intelligence and determination:

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, Bernhardine Friedeberg, 1846.

Good portraits were a sign of status and taste in Europe and America in the 19th century, and Moritz’s skills eventually came to the attention of the Rothschild banking family, then legendary as one of the wealthiest families in the world.  In 1836, the Rothschilds commissioned him to paint portraits of the five brothers who dominated banking in Europe as well as other Rothschild relatives. The brilliance of the paintings and the fame of their subjects made Oppenheim himself famous.

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, Carl Mayer von Rothschild, 1850.


Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, Nathan Mayer Rothschild, 1853.

The Rothschild commissions opened doors to other clients, and Moritz was appointed to paint portraits of the greatest literary figures of his time, including the romantic poet Heinrich Heine and the political commentator Ludwig Börne. Working from earlier sketches, in 1864 he also created a painting of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, at 21 the most famous composer in Europe, playing piano for Wolfgang von Goethe in 1830.

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, Ludwig Börne, 1833.

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, Heinrich Heine, 1831.

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy spielt vor Goethe, 1864.

I previously wrote a post about my artist great-grandmother, Marie Höber, here. Moritz Oppenheim was her great-uncle, and Marie treasured a letter she received from him praising her miniatures on ivory. The letter from Uncle Moritz, with its handsomely addressed envelope, is preserved in my family’s papers.

Letter from Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, in Frankfurt, to his great-niece, Marie Höber, in Berlin, June 17, 1871. Envelope below.

Moritz Daniel Oppenheim dictated his memoirs shortly before his death at the age of 82, but they wouldn’t be published until his grandson edited them 42 years later.

Moritz Oppenheim Erinnerungen (Memoirs), edited by his grandson, Alfred Oppenheim, 1924.

By the time he was in his sixties, Oppenheim was highly successful and known throughout Europe.  And yet his greatest fame and popularity was yet to come with the publication of an extraordinary series of lithographs providing a particular portrayal of Jews as they fit into the contentious social and political world of Oppenheim’s times.  This series will be the subject of Part 2 of this post, coming soon.

More stories about the Höber  family are in Against Time: Letters from Nazi Germany, 1938-1939, published by the American Philosophical Society. Information is available hereAlso available at

German edition, Deutsche auf der Flucht, ein Briefwechsel zwischen Deutschland und Amerika von 1938 bis 1938, available here.

This entire blog is available in book form. Send a note to the author through the comments section below.


From Saxon Pig Farmer to Urban Gentleman, 1868-1937

Franz Fischer (standing, center) with his brothers and sisters at the Fischer farm in Küingdorf   about 1900. The stern pair at the table are his parents. Franz’ sister Berta holds his arm.  Click for a larger image.

My mother’s father, Franz Fischer, for whom I am named, was born on a pig farm in the village of Küingdorf, Germany in 1868, 3 1/2 weeks after his parents married. Located on the border between Westphalia and Hanover ( now Niedersachsen or Lower Saxony ), the landscape around Küingdorf is reminiscent of parts of Vermont or central Pennsylvania.  The farm had sufficient land to raise grain to feed the pigs as well as a productive and profitable forest area.  The farm was prosperous and well-maintained, but a pig farm all the same,

Franz was the oldest of nine children and in other another area of Germany would have been the heir apparent.  It was a peculiarity of the traditional law in the Küingdorf area, however, that a farm was inherited by the youngest son, not the oldest.  Thus, Franz knew early on that he would have to find another way than farming to earn his living.  So while still a very young man he became interested in that most modern of conveyances, the bicycle.

Franz Fischer as a young man with his bicycle, about 1900.

In 1902, Franz met Clara Schallenberg, a city girl.  She was the daughter of a successful retail and wholesale merchant dealing in household china and kitchen ware.  Franz and Clara married in 1903.

Clara Schallenberg, later Fischer, around 1900.

One of the first things Franz and Clara did when they married was to register as Konfessionslos — without religious affiliation — in the local registry office.  This registration would exempt them from church taxes.  My mother wrote later of Franz and Clara, “I grew up in a pleasant, peaceful family in which I was taught to have deep disrespect for organized religion and great respect for fundamental ethical principles that none of us would ever abandon. Our father’s principles were rather simple:  we do the right things, not to appeal to some figure ‘up there’ in the sky, but simply to do the right thing.”  It was a powerful moral rectitude grounded in principled atheism.

Although Franz was born a farm boy, in the city of Dusseldorf he made himself into a gentleman in a time when social mobility was more limited than it is today.  While industrialization at the turn of the twentieth century brought substantial migration from farm to city,  Franz and Clara took things a step further and entered the Bildungsbuergertum, the literate and cultured middle class.  I remember the proud, respectful tone in my grandmother Clara’s voice when she told me Franz was ein richtiger Herr, a genuine gentleman. Clearly one of the things that made Franz a gentleman is that he dressed the part.


Franz Fischer around the time of his marriage to Clara Schallenberg, 1903.

As Franz’ business prospered, he and Clara attended concerts and plays, kept a large library and read extensively.  Clara could recite long passages from Goethe and other German classics as well as Shakespeare and the Bible, her atheism notwithstanding.  Franz and Clara sent their daughter, my mother Elfriede, to the university preparatory school (Gymnasium) and supported her through her PhD. at Heidelberg. Franz embellished his considerable library by pasting a handsome book plate, designed by a friend who was a graphic artist, inside each cover.

Franz Fischer’s book plate, 1920s.

Franz and Clara remained committed to bicycling throughout their lives.

Franz and Clara Fischer around 1930.


Clara Fischer and Franz Fischer walking in Düsseldorf, about 1930

Franz died in 1937, well before I was born, but his photographs have made him very real to me.  From my mother’s stories about him, he was an easy person to like and was admired by those who knew him.

Franz Fischer not long before his death in 1937.



Deutsche Ausgabe erscheint im Sommer 2018 // The German Edition is Coming this Summer

Deutsche Ausgabe: “Deutsche auf der Flucht, Ein Briefwechsel zwischen Deutschland und Amerika von 1938 bis 1939.”, erscheint im Sommer 2018.


Liebe Kollegen/innen, Freunde, Verwandte,

Grüße aus Philadelphia!  Es freut mich sehr, Ihnen/euch mitteilen zu können, dass mein Buch, Against Time, Letters from Nazi Germany, 1938-1939, im Frühsommer dieses Jahres in deutsche Fassung erscheinen wird. Der deutsche Titel lautet, Deutsche auf der Flucht, ein Briefwechsel zwischen Deutschland und Amerika von 1938 bis 1939. Viele von Ihnen/euch kennen das Buch schon auf Englisch, und der Berliner Lukas Verlag wird jetzt die deutsche Version des Buchs herausgeben.  Es ist eine besondere Ehre, dass die Kosten der Veröffentlichung durch die Stiftung Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand (Berlin) unterstützt werden. Für weitere Informationen zum Buch, siehe unten.

Im Laufe des letzten Jahres habe ich mich mit der Abfassung der deutschen Version beschäftigt.  Ich bedanke mich bei den deutschen und amerikanischen Kollegen/innen und Freunden/innen, die meine Forschungen im Bereich meiner Familiengeschichte in den letzten Jahren Unterstützt haben.  Natürlich werde ich Ihnen/euch allen das Veröffentlichungsdatum ankündigen, sobald ein Termin festgelegt ist.

Mit freundliche Grüße, Ihr/euer



Dear Colleagues, Friends and Relatives,

Greetings from Philadelphia! I am pleased to tell you that my book, Against Time:  Letters from Nazi Germany, 1938-1939, will be issued in a German edition this summer.  The German title is Deutsche auf der Flucht, ein Briefwechsel zwischen Deutschland und Amerika von 1938 bis 1939, (“Germans Fleeing:  An Exchange of Letters Between Germany and America from 1938 to 1939”). I am honored that the costs of publication are being supported by the German Resistance Memorial Foundation in Berlin. During the last year I have been occupied with the preparation of the German edition, which involved translating my notes and comments from English to German and re-editing all of the original German letters written by my parents.  I am grateful to the American and German colleagues and friends who have supported my research into my family’s history over the last several years.  I will, of course, let everyone know when a definite publication date has been set.

The English edition remains available from the publisher and on Amazon.  For further information about that book, click here.

Best wishes,


English edition:  Against Time: Letters from Nazi Germany, 1938-1939, by Francis W. Hoeber. Published by the American Philosophical Society Press, September 2015.


This Website is Now Also a Book


Francis W. Hoeber, A Family Over Three Centuries, 2018.

A FAMILY OVER THREE CENTURIESprivately printed, incorporates all 82 stories from this website, Hoeber:  A Family Over Three Centuries. Current technology makes it possible to print small quantities of this 300-page book with high quality images for a manageable price.  While the website provides the opportunity to reach many readers around the world, it is a different kind of pleasure to hold abook in your hand, scan the illustrations, and dip into a story that catches your eye at random.


I prepared the book version primarily for family and friends. The process required reformatting the online material page by page using Indesign and Photoshop software, but the product is worth the effort.  The Blurb Books service that did the printing provides high quality reproduction of the text and illustrations. If any readers of this website would like a copy, I will have one printed for you for my cost of printing ($50 US) and postage (varies). Please contact me through the comments section below if you would like information about getting a copy. 

It is gratifying that the site has received more than 36,000 hits from nearly a hundred countries, from Algeria to Zambia.   I have become acquainted — and even friends — with dozens of historians, writers and other interested readers who have contacted me about the content of these stories.  The site has been in hiatus for some months as I have been preparing the book, but postings will resume in 2018.




The Gestapo Has No Sense of Humor – Düsseldorf 1933

The National Socialists took control of the German government on January 30, 1933 and consolidated their power with great speed.  Political street violence had been part of German life for a long time, but the Nazis escalated that pattern rapidly and brutally, using terrorist tactics to wipe out political opposition in a matter of weeks.  My father, Johannes (1904-1977), was the first victim in our family, when he was arrested in March and imprisoned for several weeks because of his liberal politics, and my grandfather, Rudolf (1873-1953),was next when he was expelled from his professor’s position the following fall, in part because of actions he took against Nazi students.  The situation with my mother’s brothers was something else entirely.

My mother had three younger brothers who, in 1933, were in their mid-twenties. All three were good looking and charming, with cheerful dispositions and a taste for evenings with friends in the taverns of Düsseldorf’s Altstadt, taverns with names like the Golden Kettle (Im Goldenen Kessel) and Fatty’s Irish Pub, which are still popular today. On the night of Tuesday, November 7, 1933, my uncles Paul Fischer (1909-1947), a recent law graduate still in training, and Herbert Fischer (1907-1992), by day in business with his father, went out for an evening of socializing.   Their father Franz (1868-1937) and older brother Günter (1906-1979) were away on a business trip for several days.

Herbert Fischer (1907-1992). This picture was taken several years after his imprisonment by the Gestapo in 1933.

The social evening lasted until 3 :00 in the morning, when the bars closed.  Paul and Herbert, whose state after a long night of drinking can only be guessed, got into the car of a friend who drove them home.  Still joking as they tumbled out of the car, Herbert spotted a poster that had been pasted on a nearby wall and was partially coming off. Tearing the poster off the wall, Herbert crumpled it into a ball and threw it into the car at his friend saying, “Here! You can use this to clean your windshield!”  It seems that Herbert didn’t recognize the poster as Nazi propaganda, nor did he notice the Stormtrooper watching nearby.  Although lacking legal authority, the hundreds of thousands of brown-shirted Stormtroopers of Hitler’s Sturmabteilung constituted a militia of the Nazi Party and were free to attack and bully citizens  who showed any sign of dissent from the regime.  Although Herbert was non-political, the waiting Stormtrooper saw his petty vandalism as a political act and took him into custody.  Paul went along to be a witness in his brother’s defense, but soon found himself taken into custody as well.

Paul Fischer (1909-1947). This picture was taken a couple of years after his imprisonment by the Gestapo in 1933.

As Paul and Herbert got passed on from the Stormtrooper to a bicycle policeman to an automobile police squad to the police station, the story of the incident grew from a tipsy prank to an organized conspiracy against the state.  By dawn, both Herbert and Paul were arrested and imprisoned and their case turned over to the “political police,”  a part of the recently formed Secret State Police (Geheime Staatspolizei or Gestapo). Apparently the fact that Paul was a lawyer in training (Referendar) increased the Gestapo’s suspicions.  The brothers were held for more than a week without charges and were subject to repeated beatings.

The day after the arrest, my grandmother and my father and mother began agitating with the police for the young men’s release.  It took three days just to identify the official with authority over Paul and Herbert’s case.  My grandmother was so desperate for her sons’ release that she forced herself to mumble “Heil Hitler!” to the police official, the only time in the entire Nazi period that she ever used that hated salutation. As my father wrote at the time, “Endless approaches, endless waiting, walking down endless corridors, daily hopes, daily disappointments, long negotiations and discussions, after the third day with the help of a lawyer.”  After a week, Paul was released with no explanation either for his arrest or his beatings or his release.  He left the city immediately to recuperate from the wounds he received in the beatings. Herbert continued to be held, inexplicably, because, as my father wrote, “He never at any time ever engaged in any political activity whatsoever.” Nevertheless, it took another week to negotiate his release, again without explanation, but, as my mother wrote, he came out “relatively undamaged.”

In the end, it all came to nothing and the brothers returned to their respective occupations.  But the reality of being arrested and beaten and held for many days for no reason was part of the atmosphere of terror that would be part of daily life in Germany for the next 12 years.

Johennes Höber’s letter to his parents telling of the Gestapo’s arrest of his brothers-in-law, Herbert Fischer and Paul Fischer, on November 8, 1933. (Deutschleser: Bitte klicken für ein größeres Bild.)

More stories about the Hoeber and Fischer families are to be found in Against Time: Letters from Nazi Germany, 1938-1939, published by the American Philosophical Society. Information is available here. Also available at

How Tyranny Begins

Seeburg Student Center, University of Kiel, where Nazi students prevented the lecture of Prof. Walther Schuecking, May 26, 1930.

Seeburg Student Center, University of Kiel, where Nazi students prevented the lecture of Prof. Walther Schücking , May 26, 1930.

The following account is based on documents I recently received from the Schleswig-Holstein State Archives in Schleswig, Germany.  I am indebted to my friend, archivist Dagmar Bickelmann, who  has been endlessly helpful in locating records relating to my grandfather’s time at the University of Kiel.

My grandfather, Rudolf Höber (1873-1953), was elected Rektor (Chancellor) by the faculty of the University of Kiel in March 1930.  Shortly after his installation, the university community  was shaken when the local chapter of the National Socialist German Student Association forcibly disrupted a lecture by the distinguished professor of international law, Walther Schücking (1875-1935).

Schücking had served in 1918 as a German delegate to the Versailles peace conference that ended World War I.  Thereafter, he became a strong advocate for the League of Nations, the international organization dedicated to ending war, and spoke often on the struggle for world peace.  On Monday, May 26, 1930 he was scheduled to speak in the ceremonial hall of the Seeburg, the student center on  Kiel Harbor. His lecture was entitled “The Moral Idea of the League of Nations.”  The Nazis opposed the League of Nations, just as they opposed “pacifism.” They claimed that ending war and supporting the League would cause Germany to live for decades under the onerous terms of the Treaty of Versailles, which they believed could be reversed only by a new war.

Prof. Schücking’s lecture meeting was chaired by a distinguished panel of academics and jurists.  The Nazis packed the hall early, making it difficult for anyone else to find a seat.  When Schücking began to speak, the Nazis interrupted his presentation, shouting insults and catcalls. His discussion of the accomplishments of the League of Nations was derided by the audience and met with raucous laughter. As Schücking continued his lecture, the disruptions got louder.  During a discussion that followed Prof. Schücking’s talk, a Nazi party member, Schalow, screamed that the League was a fraud and that leaders who preached the “emasculating” doctrine of pacifism were cowards.  He claimed that the presiding panel was nothing but a bunch of Jews.  The panelists intervened vigorously in the debate.  A jurist condemned the “murderous activities of the SA,” the Sturmabteilung or Nazi Stormtroopers who often physically assaulted their opponents. Nazis screamed that one of the panelists was a member of the Reichsbanner, a pro-democracy militia of the Social Democratic party. When it became apparent that the most disruptive speaker, Schalow, was a student, one of the professors threatened to bring him before the university disciplinary tribunal for violation of the university’s code of behavior. This temporarily brought the meeting back under control.

Near the end of his talk, Prof. Schücking spoke critically of the political ineptness and rudeness of German political fanatics. The Nazis showed their displeasure by stamping their feet so loudly that the meeting had to be brought to a close.  Triumphant at having  prevented Prof Schücking from finishing his lecture, the Nazi students launched into a chorus of the Horst Wessel Lied, an anthem of the Nazi Party.  They finished the evening by standing, giving the Nazi salute, and shouting “Heil Hitler!” in unison.  In response, someone in the audience, possibly another professor, shouted “Pfui!,” in those days roughly the equivalent of yelling “Disgusting!” Someone else in the audience – according to the Nazis, an angry “German worker,” not a student – responded by punching that person in the face. The meeting thus came to a tumultuous end.

Clipping from Nazi newspaper boasting about suppressing academic freedom by disrupting Prof. Schücking's speech. Schleswig-Holsteinische Tageszeitung, 31 May 1930.

Clipping from Nazi newspaper boasting about suppressing academic freedom by disrupting Prof. Schücking’s speech. Schleswig-Holsteinische Tageszeitung, 31 May 1930.

As it happened, the Nazi student group had reserved the same room in the Seeburg student center for a meeting of their own two days later, on Wednesday, May 28.  On the afternoon of the scheduled Nazi meeting, however, a notice was posted from Rektor Höber that read, “Because of the events on Monday evening … we hereby withdraw the permission previously granted for the use of the large hall for a National Socialist meeting.”

Rudolf Höber, Professor of Physiology, University of Kiel. He was actually a more cheerful and charming person than this rather serious picture shows him to be.

Rudolf Höber, Professor of Physiology and Rektor of the University of Kiel, around the time he banned the Nazi party from the University because of its disruption of free speech.

The president of the National Socialist Student Association, a student named Münske, went to the office the Rektor, who agreed to meet with him. Rektor Höber, however, refused to allow the Nazi meeting, in order to ensure there was no repetition of the violence of March 26.  In a letter to Rektor Höber three days later, Münske renewed his claim that the Nazis should not be held responsible for disrupting Prof. Schücking’s lecture and should not be excluded from use of the hall in the future.  Rektor Höber dictated a file memorandum noting that he would not respond to Münske’s letter, since he had discussed the matter with him  on May 28.  The memo included evidence showing the Nazis as a group to be responsible for breaking up the Schücking meeting.

Rektor Rudolf Höber's memo concerning the Nazi attack on Prof. Schuecking, 7 June 1930.

Rektor Rudolf Höber’s memo concerning the Nazi attack on Prof. Schücking, 7 June 1930.

The Schücking affair was a marker in the advance of the Nazi assault on liberalism, internationalism and academic freedom of speech.  It was a precursor to  the Baumgarten affair five months later, when Nazi students disrupted a sermon of the liberal theologian Otto Baumgarten, branding him a pacifist, “Jew-lover” and traitor to the nation.  In response, Rektor Höber expelled the students involved and permanently banned the National Socialist German Student Group from the University campus.  This action was one of the factors held against Höber when the Nazis took control of the country in 1933, leading to his expulsion from the faculty and emigration to the United States.

More stories about the Hoeber family are to be found in Against Time: Letters from Nazi Germany, 1938-1939, published by the American Philosophical Society. Information is available here. Also available at