Because I Am Simply Just One Giant Nerd

10/13/2010

I went on a tour of the Uniseum this evening. To clarify, the Uniseum is a museum devoted entirely to showcasing Uni Freiburg’s 550-some year history. It was rather interesting, but I had a hard time understanding the tour guide. Maybe its because she’s not a natural German speaker, but I think I just don’t know that kind of vocab, which is a problem because that’s the kind of vocab I’m going to need. Oh well… I’ll learn it quick starting Monday.

There were a couple things that were very interesting to me, so I’m gonna go in chronological order. The basement level of the museum is comprised solely of old arched masonry rooms that were built and/or updated during various eras of the University’s existence. The fact that the walls of the original university here are older than anything in the States is really amazing to me. I mean, before Columbus was even thinking of Nina, Pinta or Santa Maria, the University here was already teaching students Theology, Law, Medicine and Philosophy.

Jumping ahead about 500 years, the exhibits that they had on the University during the Third Reich were what I really found to be interesting. I found it fascinating to see a Nazi armband or swastika that could have once belonged to any one of the 80 or 90 year old men that I see on the street every day. The reason this stamp is so interesting, and why it was the only photo I sneaked (admittedly badly, sorry its so blurry) during the tour is that this stamp was the stamp of the University Cashier’s Office. Basically what this means is that had I been a student at Uni Freiburg between 1933 and 1945, every time I paid the University anything, they would stamp it with this swastika. To think that the institution that I researched, applied to and am attending was once an extension of the Nazi Party is honestly somewhat mind-blowing.

I have a book at home called “The Nazi Conscience” which is a book about the more academic side of the Nazis, propaganda, literature, culture and how it was used to take the Germans down the path we now know so much about. The author spends a considerable amount of a chapter discussing a man named Martin Heidegger who was a notable philosopher and professor at Uni Freiburg. He was also a Nazi. The tour guide mentioned his affiliation with the Nazis but then in practically the same sentence said that since he quit his post as head of the University in 1934, he wasnt really that bad. She even went on to say that it is an accepted fact that he even had “a Jewish friend.” I think that is a pretty slick way of trying to rationalize the continued esteem with which the academic community still wants to hold Heidegger. Every Nazi knew a Jew, in one of his most notorious speeches, Himmler acknowledged that every German had a “decent” Jew, but simply knowing a Jew doesn’t save you from the label of Nazi. Any man who at any time can be quoted as saying “The German people must choose its future, and this future is bound to the Führer” is irredeemably a Nazi in my book. I feel like that is a reasonable basis of judgment, don’t you?

The other thing that I thought was interesting was that they actually addressed the rather awful role that some Uni Freiburg trained scientists and doctors had in the Camps. The medical experiments with pressure are the focus of that part of the exhibit as you can see from the photo.

The museum website has a photo gallery of all the different exhibits, and the caption for this photo on their website translates to this, “The discrimination and dismissal of academic staff and students for racial and political reasons, opposition of Freiburg professors, laborers, medical tests on humans and the devastation of war are many, often contradictory facets of the Freiburg University’s history.” I mean, that pretty much gets their point across, dont you think?

I know it will probably sounds pretty repetitive and maybe slightly insensitive when I say this, but I really am getting such a thrill out of the fact that I am living in this history now. I’ve loved studying the Nazis (especially the people in charge, like Speer) every since I can remember (well, Speer has only been in the last couple years), and I want to spend the rest of my life studying them, but it was not until I got here that I was able to understand how much I am fascinated by it. The Germans I see on the street all have a story to tell, and I want to hear it. I wish there was a tactful way to ask people what their family did or saw. I love stories, but those go far beyond any others, and I will probably never get to hear them. I’m so in love with what I am learning, I want to spend every minute looking and reading and talking about it.

Now that I got that out of my system, the next blog I write will be more focused on life here and such, which I know is what you’re really reading this for anyways.

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One Response to “Because I Am Simply Just One Giant Nerd”

  1. Amy Says:

    This post is pure Sarah. It sounds like you found a home.Your calling is ringing sound and true in Freiburg.


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