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December 03, 2004

Prewar student antisemitism -- not much has changed

The real story of Nazi's Harvard visit: "At a conference on the Holocaust at Boston University last Sunday, Stephen H. Norwood, a historian at the University of Oklahoma, claimed that Harvard University was 'complicit in enhancing the prestige of the Nazi regime' and cited the 'welcome' given to the Nazi publicist Ernst Hanfstaengl when he attended his 25th reunion in 1934. But a close examination of the Hanfstaengl affair reveals that the university and its president, James Bryant Conant, rejected Hanfstaengl's advances; it was Harvard students and alumni who embraced him. The real story is more shocking than Norwood's flawed reconstruction in revealing the common anti-Semitism of the time. ... On the charge of coddling Nazis, Harvard University has nothing to apologize for. The blindness of many of its students and alumni to the Nazi threat unfortunately reflected general American attitudes."