Academic Anti-Semitism and the Austrian School: Vienna, 1918–1945
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The theme of academic anti-Semitism has been widely discussed recently in histories of the interwar period of the University of Vienna, in particular its Faculty of Law and Policy Sciences. This paper complements these studies by focusing on the economics chairs of this faculty and, more generally, on the fate of the younger generation of the Austrian School of Economics. After some introductory remarks the paper concentrates on three case studies: the neglect of Mises in all three appointments of economics chairs in the 1920s; the anti-Semitic overtones in the conflict between Hans Mayer and Othmar Spann, both professors of economics in the faculty; and on anti-Semitism as a determinant of success or failure in academia, and consequently of the emigration of Austrian economists. Finally, we have a short look at the development of economics at the University of Vienna during and after the Nazi regime.
KeywordsHistory of economic thought Austrian School of Economics University of Vienna Anti-Semitism
JELA14 B00 B25
“He has always been a representative of the Marginal Utility School contrived by half-Jews. … The teaching of this school … is the most sterile ever experienced in economics up to now. Having been contrived by Jews it is the exact counterpart to … the mathematicism and logicism of Jewish neo-Kantianism”.1
This might suggest a straightforward characterization of the Austrian school as a victim of anti-Semitism, yet the following will show that the full picture was not so simple. In regards to time and place, the focus will be on the interwar period and on the fate of the school’s third and fourth generation at the University of Vienna. As is well-known, these two decades mark the rise and fall of the school in its home country, which ended in the emigration of most of its members.
The investigation will proceed in the following steps. After preliminary remarks on the issue of academic anti-Semitism, we then take a closer look at the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences of the University of Vienna, where the economics chairs were located. The core of this contribution consists of case studies from the interwar period, complemented by a short section on the developments after the Anschluss of 1938. The final section attempts to draw some conclusions.
A note of caution is in order as this study cannot provide a full and coherent picture and instead must restrict itself to specific observations. The main reason for this is the fragmentary nature of the evidence, in particular the relevant archival documents. For example, almost all the documents relating to the Faculty of Law of the Vienna University before 1940 were destroyed in the final phase of the war, so we must substitute for this primary evidence the copies preserved in the Ministry files and scattered remarks in correspondence and recollections.
The increasing weight of anti-Semitism as an element in the political discourse in the German Reich as well as in the Austro-Hungarian Empire is so well documented that we need not go into details here.2 Within academia, discrimination against Jews in regards to academic careers was common practice both in Germany and in Austria, although varying in intensity. Turning to the University of Vienna, and in particular to its law faculty, we find that at the turn of the century – mostly thanks to the decisions of the Imperial Ministry of Education – discrimination had eased and given way to a more liberal policy. Jewish scientists as well as those with known socialist leanings, e.g. Anton Menger, the brother of Carl, occupied chairs at the university. Yet, with few exceptions, Jews were appointed to a chair only after they had left the Jewish community and converted to a Christian faith (see Staudacher 2009). Nevertheless, at least for the Law Faculty and some others, discrimination was coexistent with an “over-representation” of Jewish teachers (in relation to the share of Jews in the whole population), a situation quite distinct from that at preeminent American universities (see Weintraub 2013).
At the Vienna Faculty of Law and Policy Sciences, students could earn a degree in either of these two disciplines. Apart from the various law chairs, other disciplines taught by the faculty included statistics, sociology, and economics.3 At the end of the monarchy, the three economics chairs were occupied by Carl Grünberg (an Austro-Marxist teaching economic history), Eugen von Philippovich (a “socialist of the chair,” yet not inimical to the Austrian approach) and Friedrich Wieser, the heir to the Austrian school, appointed to teach “exact theory.” Between 1917 and 1924, all three chairs became vacant, either through death, retirement, or departure, with Othmar Spann, Hans Mayer, and Ferdinand Degenfeld-Schonburg succeeding.
Viewing the faculty and the composition of its members, the following broad picture emerges with regard to its Jewish members.4 Restricting attention to professors who made up the so-called faculty council, these consisted of “ordinary” (full) professors, typically heading an institute or a seminar, and “extraordinary” (associate) professors who usually complemented the activities of these institutes. This must be strictly distinguished from the mere title of “extraordinary professor,” which as a rule was conferred upon lecturers (Privatdozenten) after a few years of teaching, yet not coupled with any type of remuneration. Then we see in 1920 that ten of the 22 chairs of the faculty were occupied by scholars of Jewish origin. Of these, four had recently been appointed or promulgated to an ordinary professorship, and in the 1920s only one professor of Jewish origin was newly appointed, whereas seven Jewish incumbents had vacated their chairs by 1930, which left just four in 1938 – all of them were dismissed after the Anschluss and none survived the Nazi regime.
These statistics point to the fact that during the 1920s, within the faculty as well as at the university as a whole, the resistance (from Pan-German and Catholic circles) against the academic careers of Jews had strengthened, culminating for some faculties in a kind of numerus clausus for Jewish scholars. The same tendency expressed itself in the number of habilitations by Jewish applicants. In the Austrian university system the habilitation, i.e. the acquisition of a lectureship, played a key role for the academic career of young researchers, as it constituted an indispensable requirement for the appointment to a chair. The formal procedure put the decision to award or reject the lectureship into the hands of the faculty council on the basis of two reports of its members on the habilitation thesis.5 In the law faculty during the First Republic, we find five successful habilitations by teachers of Jewish origin: Max Adler (1919), Fritz Sander (1920), Felix Kaufmann (1922), Fritz Schreier (1925), and finally Franz Xaver Weiss (1926). After Weiss – excepting the honorary professorship bestowed on Richard Schüller in 1926 – for the remaining dozen years until the Anschluss, the faculty did not award a venia legendi to any scholar of Jewish ancestry.6
The Austrian School and Academic Anti-Semitism: Some Examples
In the following we select as examples for the role of academic anti-Semitism (1) why Mises was not appointed to an economics chair, (2) the conflict between Hans Mayer and Othmar Spann, and (3) the weight of anti-Semitism for the push and pull that resulted in the emigration of many prominent Austrian economists.
The Neglected Mises
At the end of the First World War, Wieser was the only one of the founding fathers of the Austrian School who was still active in academia; in fact, he had reentered the university in 1919 after two years spent in the final imperial cabinets as Minister of Trade. Böhm-Bawerk had died in 1914 and Menger lived in retirement until his death in 1920. Of the next generation, the most prominent members were Joseph Schumpeter, Hans Mayer, and Ludwig Mises. Schumpeter had been appointed early to a chair in Czernowitz, then in 1911 became professor in Graz, and after an interlude in politics, as the hapless Minister of Finance, in 1919, he eventually retired from teaching for a (still less successful) career in the Austrian banking business. Hans Mayer was the favorite pupil of Wieser, who strongly supported his career. Although in 1912 his habilitation thesis had not yet been finished, Mayer – allegedly with the help of Philippovich – had been appointed as extraordinary professor at the University of Fribourg, and then to a chair at the German Technical University of Prague shortly before the war. After spending most of the war as a member (and a colleague of Spann) of a scientific committee at the Austrian War Ministry, in 1921 he followed Schumpeter as the chair in Graz. Ludwig Mises, who had been awarded his habilitation from Vienna University for his important monograph on the theory of money (Mises 1912), at the time worked at the Vienna Chamber of Commerce; among the three scholars, he was the most outspoken liberal and, of course, he was the only Jew.
In retrospect, people close to Mises, like Hayek and Robbins, claimed that Mises’ failure to be chosen for one of the vacant Vienna chairs in economics was based on his being a liberal and a Jew. While one of these drawbacks might possibly have been forgiven, both in conjunction would not be.7 This is only half true, in my view. First, there is little evidence that a socialist candidate of Mises’ stature would have fared better than a liberal one, for at the same time the faculty ceased appointing Jews to chairs it also ceased appointing those with socialist leanings. Indeed, of all the appointments after 1918, Hans Kelsen was probably the only one to whom sympathies for socialism could have been attributed, although he was certainly no party man. In contrast, Max Adler (in 1926) was denied a sociology chair to which he had aspired and for which influential politicians of the Socialist Party had agitated (see Siegert 1971).
Secondly, what chairs were at stake in the period in question?8 The first one was the succession to Philippovich, for which the faculty finally nominated the German economist Kurt Wiedenfeld and Spann, who was appointed after Wiedenfeld’s withdrawal. As this was considered the chair to represent “the practical-political approach” of political economy in Vienna, Mises – who at the time had not published much beyond his 1912 monograph – was not regarded as a serious candidate. In the end, however, Spann who probably had no more experience with practical economic life than Mises had from his dealings in the Chamber, turned away from teaching economic policy to his own new brand of sociology; universalism. The next chair to be filled was Wieser’s after his retirement in 1922. Indeed, here both Schumpeter and Mises should have been judged as serious alternatives to Mayer. Yet, despite the rather limited extent of his literary production, Mayer was the declared favorite of his teacher Wieser, and the rest of the faculty led by Spann and Kelsen joined him in his opinion. In the final decision, the faculty put Mayer first on the list, followed by Alfred Amonn and Ludwig Mises as distant second and third.9 In a letter to the Ministry, Spann clarified that he rejected Mises for the extreme individualistic type of his theoretical approach – one might argue that it was not necessary to remind the Ministry of Mises’ ancestry. In any case, comparing Mises’ and Mayer’s future scientific performance from today’s point of view, one may feel that Mises deserved the appointment more than Mayer, this was not a totally irrational decision. Mayer was given priority for the simple fact that, as far as hierarchies mattered, he had occupied a chair for almost ten years, while Mises was just an unpaid lecturer. However, one might point to Mises’s lack of patronage, compared with Mayer’s, which provided Mayer with an undeserved starting advantage. Finally, the chair of Grünberg’s successor was dedicated to represent again a “practical approach” (as Spann had ceased teaching in this field), and thus all pure theorists were excluded from consideration. Eventually, after a long, drawn-out bargaining process, the Ministry chose Degenfeld, mainly for the reasons that he was cheap and an Austrian citizen.
Mayer Versus Spann
When Mayer was chosen to succeed Wieser as the main representative of the Austrian school, Spann and Mayer were still on friendly terms. It is possible that, despite their opposing views on the nature of economic theory, both may have hoped for peaceful cooperation in the future. These hopes, however, were soon gravely disappointed. Indeed, for most observers of the evolution of economics at the Law Faculty during the interwar period, the outstanding feature was the bitter conflict that developed between Mayer and Spann.10
As a follower of the strand of Austrian economics associated with Wieser, the main focus of Mayer’s works rested on the refinements of Austrian value theory as applied to the phenomena of time, production, and imputation. Spann had started his academic career as a statistician in the tradition of the "socialists of the chair", yet by the time he arrived in Vienna, had come under the spell of the German romantic school, especially of Adam Müller, which led him to develop his own specific approach of universalism, which grew beyond the boundaries of economics to encompass sociology and philosophy in general.11 From Spann’s point of view the main conflict in economics, as in all social sciences, was between his own romantic view of universalism and individualism. He associated individualism with liberalism as well as with socialism, both following from the same fundamentally mistaken view of society. Consequently, he opposed all facets of modernism, liberalism, socialism, democracy, and so on, in favor of his own propagated ideal of the corporate state.12 In political terms his view translated into a combination of conservative Catholicism and German nationalism (or Pan-Germanism), again in contrast to the cosmopolitan perspective of liberals and socialists (where “cosmopolitan” was often nothing more than a code for “Jewish”).
With regard to the “Jewish question” Spann propagated his own specific approach (see Haag 1973). Accordingly, he postulated a “spiritual” definition of the German or Jewish identity, such that although people are predisposed in their development by their genetic endowment, it is the spirit that shapes the unique character of a person, leaving some margin of freedom. In particular, the essence of the truly German spirit lies in the adherence to the idea of a hierarchical corporate state, while liberalism and socialism are the results of the Jewish spirit. Obviously, this distinction between the German and the Jewish spirit need not coincide with ethnic or racial affiliation (which set Spann in contradiction to the “materialistic” definition of race propagated by the Nazis). This view of the problem led to important consequences. On the one hand, Spann could identify the liberal Austrian school as an outcome of the Jewish spirit, that is, as being un-German (Baxa 1931), disregarding the ethnicity of its concrete members. On the other hand, this means that actual character traits of persons of the German or Jewish “race” need not be fully determined by their ethnicity.13 This permitted Spann, although generally hostile towards Jews (especially in academia), to be selective in making exceptions and occasionally to cooperate with researchers of Jewish origin and even allow them into his own circle – as in the cases of Lily Katser, Ivo Kornfeld and Helene Lieser (see Müller 2013). With regard to Germans, it posed the task of transforming those of German ethnicity into “true Germans.” Consequently, as Spann thus believed himself in the unique possession of the key to true “Germanness,” this put him in the position to aspire to the intellectual leadership of the Pan-German, and in particular of the German Nazi movement – an attempt that was doomed to fail from the outset.
When the opponents Mayer and Spann clashed on the practical issues of academic politics, it became ever more difficult to disentangle the scientific from the political and merely personal. Yet, it was the involvement of anti-Semitism that incited the most vitriolic attacks. One such occasion occurred in the habilitation procedures for Weiss. Weiss had earned his reputation as a pupil of Böhm-Bawerk, the editor of Böhm’s minor writings (1924) and an adherent to his interest theory. His habilitation thesis (Weiss 1921) contributed to this field. Furthermore, he worked as the managing editor of the old Viennese Zeitschrift, which increasingly had become an object of contest between Mayer and Spann. Spann had opposed Weiss’ first application in 1922, which had then been supported by Wieser, and had been able to delay the decision. When the procedure was resumed in 1925, Mayer replaced Wieser after his retirement and delivered a positive report while Spann’s was negative. In the end, in February 1926, the faculty, with the exception of Spann, followed Mayer and thus Weiss’ became the last habilitation of a Jew. In the meantime, as the procedure had still been hanging on, hostilities between the two main opponents escalated to a new dimension. In November 1925 the Viennese newspaper, Deutsch-Österreichische Tageszeitung (or Dötz), the mouthpiece of the Austrian wing of the Nazi Party, published a vituperative attack on the Austrian school in general and on Mayer and Schumpeter in particular.14 It repeated the allegations of Menger and Böhm’s, and thus the school’s, Jewish origin and it castigated Mayer for his lack of serious scientific accomplishments and for his habit of supporting the academic careers of eastern Jews, meaning Weiss and, earlier, Schreier. Although the article was anonymous, it was widely believed that the author must have been close to Spann.15 Similar complaints about Mayer were voiced in a secret session (in December 1925) of the Deutsche Gemeinschaft, a society with the explicit aim of furthering the careers of Pan-German and Catholic scholars, and conversely sabotaging those of Jews, liberals and socialists.16 Again on this occasion Spann accused Mayer of supporting Jews, and he puzzled over whether this might derive from some psychic or sexual defects on Mayer’s side.
The election of the Dean of the Law Faculty for 1926 and 1927 gave rise to another incident. The election produced a kind of scandal over the very fact that the faculty had chosen Joseph Hupka. Right-wing newspapers17 and students organized in the so-called German student body questioned the legitimacy of a Jewish scholar occupying such a leading position at a German university like that of Vienna. In this vein, students petitioned the Academic Senate of the University of Vienna, its highest decision-making body; typically, the Senate declined to defend the dean against these attacks, but only declared itself formally incompetent. In contrast, the faculty – in a step allegedly promoted by Mayer – supported Hupka with a vote of confidence. The role attributed to Mayer in this incident instantly drew vitriolic criticism,18 which was reinforced when in the following term Mayer himself was elected dean in a contested vote against a representative of the Pan-German camp, Alexander Hold-Ferneck. This provided the right-wing press with the opportunity to characterize Mayer as a dean dependent on Jewish grace.19
Academic Careers, Anti-Semitism and Emigration
Another aspect of the conflict between Mayer and Spann was that starting in the 1920s both tried to fill the faculty with lecturers who closely followed their own approach. In this vein, Spann promoted the habilitation of adherents to universalism and Mayer did the same for members of the Austrian school. (One might note that Mayer’s was the more difficult task because the younger Austrians were possibly more varied in their approaches; furthermore, some were loyal to their extramural mentor Ludwig Mises, with whom Mayer’s relations were always strained.) During the 1920’s Spann was rather successful in promoting members of his circle to lectureships: Jakob Baxa (1923), Wilhelm Andreae (1925), Gustav Seidler (1926), Johannes Sauter (1927), Walter Heinrich (1928), and Klaus Thiede (1929) acquired the right to lecture for such diverse fields as economics, sociology, economic history, policy sciences and social philosophy. At the end of the decade, Mayer also managed to steer his protégés through the habilitation procedures: Haberler (1927), Morgenstern (1929) and Hayek (1929), followed by the less prominent Hans Bayer (1929) and Alexander Mahr (1930). None of them were Jewish. Others of Jewish origin were less successful.20
In the procedures of Haberler and Hayek,21 strongly opposed by Spann, anti-Semitism did not play a role. The situation was different for Morgenstern, then Mayer’s assistant. During his student days, Morgenstern had come for some time under the spell of Spann’s influence, but turned away from him and towards Mayer in 1925, just when the tensions between Spann and Mayer began to increase. Hence, there was some mutual hostility between Spann and Morgenstern. In any case, at least the young Morgenstern had entertained political positions that were not very far from Spann’s: He was an outspoken Pan-German, born in Germany, naturalized as an Austrian citizen in 1925, and, like Spann, a member of the Deutscher Klub. In addition, from his diaries we can ascertain that, in particular during the early 1920s, he nurtured anti-Semitic feelings, especially directed at Mises and his group.22
Morgenstern’s application for his lectureship evolved into a formidable battle. From the outset Spann opposed Morgenstern’s thesis; when he refused to write a report in time, he was replaced by Degenfeld, who provided a short positive statement. The faculty followed, and that should have settled the case. Yet, at a time when the procedure had already been closed at the faculty level, so that the Ministry’s task would only have been to confirm the decision, Spann accused Morgenstern of plagiarism and demanded to restart the whole process. Although these accusations were swiftly rejected by Mayer and Degenfeld, they provided the ministerial bureaucracy with a pretext for delaying its decision for almost a year. In the meantime, Spann began a campaign aimed to influence the Ministry’s position, spreading rumors of Morgenstern being a Jew and a member of the Freemasons. Although this campaign failed in the end, it is crucial to note how in this case anti-Semitism was used as an instrument in an attempt to block the academic career of a non-Jewish candidate.
While young Austrians like Haberler and Hayek, although lecturers at the Vienna University, eventually chose to leave Austria, the ban on habilitations of Jews prevented other members of the school from accomplishing even this first step. Specifically, this had been the case with Paul Rosenstein-Rodan, Fritz Machlup and Martha Stefanie Braun.
Rosenstein, born in Poland, studied at Vienna University under the direction of Mayer and in 1926 was hired as his assistant. During the campaign directed against Mayer by the right-wing press in the mid 1920’s, the attacks focused also on Rosenstein, Mayer’s “Jewish assistant.”23 When Rosenstein submitted his doctoral thesis on the problem of imputation for appraisal, of the two economics chairs Mayer graded it as “excellent,” but Spann only as “sufficient”.24 Rosenstein’s main contribution to Austrian economics (Rosenstein 1926), was widely acclaimed as a major accomplishment except for Spann’s derogatory critique (Spann 1928, 397). In any case, the campaign against Weiss and the considerable delay in Morgenstern’s procedure convinced Rosenstein of the resistance to be expected from the faculty should he dare to apply for a lectureship. As a consequence he took leave from Vienna, supported by a Rockefeller fellowship, and in 1931 started teaching at a lecturer position at the University of London.
Fritz Machlup’s position was slightly different because he earned his living outside academia as the owner of a small cardboard factory. He had studied at Vienna University and concluded his thesis under the supervision of Mises and with some justification could be called his pupil, a connection which might have done him more harm than good. Apart from his scientific writings, in the early 1930s he also engaged in lecturing the public on the insights of Austrian economics in numerous anonymous columns in Viennese newspapers.25 In 1933, during a Rockefeller fellowship, which he spent in Great Britain and the United States, he ventured to apply for his habilitation at the University of Vienna. However, his chances must have been nil from the outset: Spann rejected him both as a Jew and as a member of the Austrian school. Degenfeld appears to have been more amenable at first, until he learned of Machlup’s Jewish origin, which provided the reason for rejection on the grounds of the widely believed “precociousness” of Jews.26 Mayer was reluctant to support Machlup because of his closeness to Mises. Finally, there were others, like Richard Reisch, the former President of the Austrian central bank, who supposedly felt poorly treated by Machlup in his columns.27 Thus, after the faculty had refrained from any action on Machlup’s motion, he chose to withdraw in 1935. At that time, he had already found an academic position at the University of Buffalo.
Not much is known about the ambitions of Martha Stefanie Braun, a doctoral student of Mises and, like Machlup, a member of the Mises circle. Her monograph, Theorie der staatlichen Wirtschaftspolitik (Braun 1929), would certainly have qualified for a habilitation thesis.28 But being threefoldly disadvantaged as a woman,29 Jew and a liberal, she possibly never formally applied at the faculty. In the 1930s she lived mostly as a journalist in Vienna and in 1938 emigrated to the United States.
Before and After 1938 and 1945
In the 1930s the University of Vienna had experienced a slow but steady process of decline. Among the faculty, some highly reputed professors like Kelsen had left, some with Pan-German leanings had been dismissed in 1934 for political reasons, and in general the number of chairs had been reduced for lack of funds. The Austrian economics community had suffered from a considerable brain drain. Of the better-known members of the Austrian school only Mayer, Morgenstern and Richard Strigl remained in Austria. Politically, Mayer had adapted to the new situation and proved as loyal to the authoritarian Catholic corporate state after 1934 as he had been to the Republic before.30 Spann, always eager to promote his own version of the “true” corporate state, had tried to associate his circle with almost any of the then existing movements of the radical right, yet ultimately without any success. In particular, his activities in Hitler Germany under the auspices of the Institut für Ständewesen brought him into sharp conflict with the ruling hierarchy of the NSDAP, which consequently persecuted Spann and his circle as dangerous conservative dissenters.31
So after the Anschluss of Austria to the German Reich in 1938 curious things happened. As a result of the ideological and racial “cleansing” of the Austrian universities, Spann, the champion of the Pan-German and Nazi press in Austria, lost his chair and ultimately was put under arrest for some months, whereas Mayer retained his position.
However, Mayer must have felt rather vulnerable. His right-wing enemies had not forgotten his past deeds; in fact, we find a long list of his misdoings in his Gauakt and an anonymous confident aptly describes him there as a “quick-change-artist.” Indeed, Mayer was quick in adapting again. In the Zeitschrift Mayer greeted the new rulers in a special editorial (Mayer 1938), and he swiftly replaced his now unwelcome co-editors, Reisch and Schüller, with prominent foreign economists, like Frank Knight, who felt compelled to publicly declare his refusal to serve in the editorial board (Knight 1938). Mayer’s most notorious action occurred when he – as Robbins (1971, 91) put it “to his eternal shame” – as president expelled all “non-Aryan” members from the Nationalökonomische Gesellschaft (see also Mises 1978a, 99). In contrast, roughly at the same time, Mayer proved his courage as the author of an obituary of the Jewish member of the faculty, Adolf Menzel (Mayer 1939), whose contributions he praised as a model of “true” sociology. In any case, even now, Mayer’s hostility towards Spann remained unabated. When asked in 1941 by the President of the University, Mayer wrote a “Short Report on the ‘Vienna School’ of Professor Othmar Spann,”32 in which he chose a no-holds-barred approach. He not only judged Spann’s universalism as scientifically without value, but also criticized him for being a philo-Semite, he also alleged that Spann’s appointment in Vienna had been supported by “the Jewish Marxist dean, Grünberg, and the Jewish Professor of Law, Hans Kelsen,” a favor that Spann had reciprocated by his support for the habilitation of the “Viennese Jewish Bolshevik leader” Max Adler. Furthermore Mayer castigated Spann for his “spiritual” type of anti-Semitism as being in contradiction to the teachings of the Nazi party.
Almost at the same time, Spann fought both for his rehabilitation and for the pension he had been denied with his dismissal from the university. In a letter 33 he pointed to his illegal membership in the Austrian Nazi party since 1933 and presented a long and detailed list of the instances when he had supported the Nazi movement on various occasions. He also emphasized that he had “fought against the Jewish influence at the faculty, and permitted only Aryan students to attend my seminar and to pursue a doctoral thesis.”
After the war, Mayer kept his chair for five more years, until he retired with the usual honors awarded and was followed by Mahr, his chosen successor. Mayer (1952, 251–252) contented himself that all he had done had been led by the purpose of securing the survival of the Austrian school and its institutions. Spann experienced a more awkward fate.34 In a curious bureaucratic compromise, he was granted a paid leave of absence but not allowed to teach. He died shortly after his retirement in 1950. In Spann’s postwar-correspondence, in the single reference to Mayer, Spann still scorns Mayer for his obituary of Menzel to whom Spann referred as “a full Jew” who helped Mayer become a member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the full membership of which had been denied to him for all his life.35
In the interwar period, the University of Vienna experienced the growing influence of anti-Semitism in public discourse as well as in practical (academic) politics. The common type of anti-Semitism, ranging from the religious to the ethnic or racist variant, was often “naturally” combined with the adherence to Pan-Germanism or some (not all) strands of Catholic conservatism. It targeted Jews foremost as individuals, yet often also clung to claims of a Jewish conspiracy, such as the alleged Jewish dominance among Freemasonry or Bolshevism. With regard to the Austrian school, this meant that this kind of anti-Semite propaganda would count against the Jewish members of the school, yet could in principle accommodate the school’s economic liberalism.
The situation was different with Spann’s spiritual definition of the German or Jewish identity. Here, regardless of the ethnic or racial affiliation of concrete persons, liberalism and socialism had to be combated because they represented the “evil” Jewish spirit in its purest expression, just as true “Germanness” proved itself in the adherence to the corporate state. Accordingly, the approach of the Austrian school had to be rejected altogether as betraying the ideal of a truly “German economic science,” and it was perhaps only natural to use in this battle all the weapons from the arsenal of anti-Semitism. For example, this justified Morgenstern’s denunciation as a Jew because he represented the Jewish spirit of liberalism, even if he was not a Jew by ethnicity.
Of course, there is also sufficient evidence for what may be called “opportunistic anti-Semitism,” that is, invoking anti-Semitism as a means to destroy the academic career of a rival, Jewish or not. Among the cases above, Mayer’s 1941 attack on Spann, where he chastised him for his philo-Semitism might be subsumed under this category. Finally, the example of Mayer and to a lesser degree that of Morgenstern demonstrates that among the members of the Austrian school in Vienna we find victims as well as (co-)perpetrators, and also those who, although they lived in an atmosphere strongly contaminated by anti-Semitism, happened to escape largely unscathed.
See Gauakt Johannes [sic] Mayer, ÖStA, AdR, BMI, Gauakt Zl. 240.709 (enclosed in the Gauakt Johannes Sauter). For the abbreviation of archival sources, see the respective section in the references. If not indicated otherwise, translations from German-language sources are mine.
Typically, German nationalist newspapers published lists of Jewish members of the faculties and warned students against attending their lectures; this might also have been a signal for making them the target of violent disturbances. On attacks against Jewish teachers, see e.g. Nemec and Taschwer (2013).
See the respective documents in ÖStA, AVA, Unterricht, boxes 609–615. On the de facto existence of a numerus clausus, see e.g. the recollections of J. Herbert Furth, letter to Gottfried Haberler, May 11, 1984, in HIA, GHP, box 14, folder Haag (Furth was Haberler’s brother-in-law and a close friend of Hayek from their student days).
See on this Klausinger (forthcoming).
Notably in the faculty’s final vote to include Mises in the list at third place (with 11 pro and 8 con), of the seven Jewish professors present only one (Grünberg) voted against Mises.
For biographical information on Spann see Müller (2013).
“Grenznutzens Glück und Ende. Der ruhmlose Untergang einer vielgerühmten Lehre. – Josef Schumpeter und Johann Mayer als letzte Bannerträger”, Dötz, Nov 28, 1925, 3–4.
See “Wie Professor Spann über seine Kollegen schreiben lässt”, Arbeiter-Zeitung, Dec 1, 1925, 4. Haberler and Mayer himself, in letters to Morgenstern, Nov 30 and Dec 7, 1925, and Dec 8, 1925, respectively (in DL, OMP, boxes 2 and 3), left no doubt that they associated Spann with this attack.
The minutes of this session have been reprinted in Rathkolb (1989, 198).
“Abhilfe muss werden! Was sich Juden und Marxisten an unseren Hochschulen erlauben”, Dötz, Sept 26, 1926.
“Das Vertrauensvotum für Professor Hupka. Professor Mayer muß sich als Antragsteller bekennen”, Dötz, Dec 21, 1926.
“Jüdisches Diktat an der Universität”, Dötz, July 12, 1927. Referring to these years, the confident in Gauakt Mayer even speaks of the University’s “Jewish era”.
For the following, see Klausinger (2012) and the documents quoted there.
Since Reder (2000) Hayek’s position towards Jews has been questioned in the literature. Yet, Hayek’s friends from student days, e.g. J. Herbert Furth (see his letter to Stephan Boehm, Mar 17, 1993, possession of Stephan Boehm), himself of Jewish origin, largely absolve Hayek from this suspicion although he was born into a family where German nationalism and anti-Semitism prevailed. Hayek (undated, 37) himself recollects the “anti-Semitism in the post-war period,” and that “outstanding teachers” were “alleged not to have been promoted solely because of their Jewishness.”
See e.g. Rellstab (1991, 60–65). A particular striking example are the invectives addressed at Mises, when Morgenstern found out that Mises might be a competitor in the application for a Rockefeller fellowship, see the entry in Morgenstern’s diary of Mar 16, 1925 (in DL, OMP, box 12).
See “Berufungsmanöver an der Universität. Hervorragender Philosemitismus – hervorragende Gelehrsamkeit,” Dötz, Dec 30, 1926; the fact is also mentioned in the anonymous report in Gauakt Mayer.
AdU, Rigorosenakten, J RA ST 271, 1925.
See on this Klausinger (2004).
Wieser (1926, 373) also refers to the advantage of Jews in comparison to Aryans due to their “more rapidly maturing oriental nature.”
For Haberler’s very favorable judgment, see his letter to Morgenstern, Apr 6, 1927 (in DL, OMP, box 2).
Another female Viennese economist, Louise Sommer, had to go to Geneva for her habilitation; see Hagemann (2002, 690).
See e.g. “Professor Hold v. Ferneck – der neue Rektor der Wiener Universität,” Neues Wiener Journal, June 23, 1934, depicting the loyal Mayer as the rival candidate to Hold who was a well-known Pan-German.
Mayer’s report is preserved in AdU, Personalakt Spann (J PA 396), Akademischer Senat, Studienjahr 1941/42, S.Z. 213.
Letter to Dr. Wächter, April 9, 1939, in ÖStA, AdR, Unterricht, PA Spann, Z. 8144/1940.
See Grandner (2005, 307–311).
Letter to Hans Riehl, July 1, 1949, in Müller (1997, 23).
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