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Famous scholars from Kiel:

Heinrich von Treitschke

The historian and politician promoted Prussian interests for two semesters in the Danish-influenced city of Kiel.

"The thirteen year Danish reign obviously had an unethical effect on this valiant country, turning some dull and greedy, others cruel. But all were estranged from the fatherland and German culture." This was the judgement of Freiburg Professor Heinrich von Treitschke in a letter he wrote in November 1864 shortly after Denmark had to surrender the Duchies of Schleswig and Lauenburg to Prussia and the Duchy of Holstein to Austria. The future status of these duchies occupied minds as the "Schleswig-Holstein Problem."

The 30 year old Treitschke declared himself clearly in favour of an annexation by Prussia in two essays in the "Preußische Jahrbücher" (Prussian Yearbooks). A small state ruled by the House of Augustenburg was against Prussian interest in naval power in the North Sea, he claimed. The historian was explicitly praised by the Prussian envoy in Baden for this statement, and in 1866 the Prussian government held out the prospect of a professorship in Kiel to him.

The philosophical faculty was opposed to Treitschke’s professorial appointment. He had not only vilified the people of Schleswig-Holstein in his essays, but also individual professors. Four out of eleven declared themselves fervently against him. The remainder favoured another candidate, but were able to accept Treitschke. Prussia prevailed: Treitschke took up his professorship in History and Politics in the winter semester of 1866/67.

For the first time he saw the much-discussed Schleswig-Holstein with his own eyes. During his first public lecture he spoke about the “History of Europe from 1848-1850.” The Prussian 'Oberpräsident' of the Duchy of Schleswig, Carl von Scheel-Plessen, the military, colleagues and citizens of Kiel were in the audience. The success opened up new doors to Treitschke – he got on especially well with the influential patron and salon hostess, Lotte Hegewisch. During the summer semester Treitschke selected a topic for his lectures which made the new circumstances in Schleswig-Holstein clear: "Prussian History."

But Treitschke experienced problems with the mentality of the people of Schleswig-Holstein and the followers of the House of Augustenburg. So when the University of Heidelberg offered him a professorship, he seized the opportunity. The Oberpräsident regretted the "loss which will be very difficult to replace" in a letter: Treitschke had “chased away many a prejudice.”

Although Heinrich von Treitschke only lectured in Kiel for two semesters, his professorship was more than just an interlude. He distinguished himself as a politically controversial historian and obtained close contact to the Prussian government. The government, in turn, reinforced their new claim to power in the duchies with Treitschke's appointment. Treitschke promoted the interests of the German Reich in intellectual circles with his lectures. These interests would change Kiel fundamentally in the following years.

Eva-Maria Karpf

Prussian and anti-Semite

Heinrich Gotthardt von Treitschke was born on 15 September 1834 in Dresden. He studied History and Political Science in Bonn and Leipzig. In 1863 he became Professor of Political Sciences in Freiburg. He left the region of Baden in 1866 to become the editor of the Prussian Yearbooks in Berlin. He was appointed Professor of History and Politics in Kiel for the winter semester of 1866/67, and one year later he moved to Heidelberg on receiving a new professorial appointment. From 1873 until his death Treitschke acted as a successor of Leopold von Rankes at the University of Berlin. He was also a member of the German Reichstag from 1871 to 1884. His main work was »Deutsche Geschichte im Neunzehnten Jahrhundert« (German History in the Nineteenth Century) (5 volumes, 1879-94). Heinrich von Treitschke died on the 28 April 1896 in Berlin.

Treitschke provoked the "Berlin anti-Semitism dispute" in 1879, which was dealt with in the press and politics with his essay "Our Prospects", in which Jewish immigrants from East Europe were viewed as a danger to Germany and which ended with the phrase "the Jews are our misfortune." The classical historian, Theodor Mommsen, led the liberal opposite standpoint to Treitschke and ended the debate in 1880. Treitschke’s arguments remained in collective memory, however, and were exploited by National Socialists after the First World War.

Further reading: Peter Wulf: »"Unter Normalmenschen". Heinrich von Treitschke an der Universität Kiel 1866/67«, Forschungen zur Brandenburgischen und Preußischen Geschichte N.F. 18 (2008), S. 171-194.

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