, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 33–57 | Cite as

The Rockefeller Foundation and German physics under national socialism

  • Kristie Macrakis


Why did the Rockefeller Foundation think that it had to redeem its pledge of 1930 after the drastic political changes had occurred in Germany? It is my impression that the foundation was forced reluctantly to do so. There had, of course, been a resolution passed by the trustees in 1930 to vote the funds. This did constitute an obligation for the foundation which its trustees and officers were reluctant to disavow. It would probably have preferred that Planck could not meet the conditions set forth by the foundation. If this had occurred, it could have avoided the onus of failure to meet an obligation undertaken in 1930 and could then have also avoided providing support, even if only indirectly, for National Socialist Germany. When faced with the alternatives of withdrawal or payment of the grant, most of the officers preferred to delay action. Max Mason, on the other hand, had promised Planck that the grant would be made, despite the delay.

Increasingly, after 1933, the Rockefeller Foundation spent more time dealing with requests for refugee scientists than with the support of scientific work in Germany. The dismissal of foundation-supported assistants on “racial” grounds had angered some members of the foundation.

When the Rockefeller Foundation was chartered in New York in 1913 it declared that its objective was “the well-being of mankind throughout the world”. That remained its aim, but a fanatical nationalism made it impossible for the foundation to pursue an internationalist policy in a country with a regime entirely antithetical to that ideal.


Scientific Work Political Change Internationalist Policy Rockefeller Foundation German Physic 
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© Minerva Quarterly Review Limited 1989

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  • Kristie Macrakis

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