Silent (In)Tolerance? Jewish Academics in the Office of Rector at the German University of Prague before 1933

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Year of publication 2021
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Judaica Bohemiae
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Keywords The First Czechoslovak Republic; Austria-Hungary; History of University Education; The German University in Prague; Rectorship; Jewish Academics; Robert Zuckerkandl; Otto Frankl; Samuel Steinherz; Ludwig Spiegel; Heinrich Rietsch; Bruno Kafka
Description The aim of this study is to confirm or refute the thesis about the influence the Jewish faith had on attaining and performing the office of rector at the German section of the University of Prague between 1882 and 1933. It deals with four Jewish scholars who were elected rectors of the German (Charles-Ferdinand) University in Prague, namely Robert Zuckerkandl, Otto Frankl, Samuel Steinherz, and Ludwig Spiegel. The 1867 December Constitution of Austria- Hungary and the 1920 Constitutional Charter of the First Czechoslovak Republic granted equal rights to all citizens, regardless of their religious affiliation and language. Nevertheless, there were still surviving unwritten customs in the university milieu that did not allow for the post of rector to be held by an academic of the Jewish faith; the post of dean, however, was repeatedly occupied without hindrance by Jewish professors. This study analyses the circumstances surrounding the election to, and performance of duties of, the rector’s office by Jewish scholars in connection with the position taken by the superior ministry, and the reaction of the academic community and the general public. The intervention by German-national students and academic sympathizers against Jews holding the position of rector may be interpreted as a threat to the autonomy of universities in the First Czechoslovak Republic. In a broader context, the rector elections may be seen as a symbolic indicator of the share of power wielded by anti-democratic and nationalist forces in the state and society.
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