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Photosynthetica

, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 75–85 | Cite as

On Otto Warburg, Nazi Bureaucracy and the difficulties of moral judgment

  • K. Nickelsen
Article

Abstract

Twentieth-century photosynthesis research had strong roots in Germany, with the cell physiologist Otto H. Warburg being among its most influential figures. He was also one of the few scientists of Jewish ancestry who kept his post as a director of a research institution throughout the Nazi period. Based on archival sources, the paper investigates Warburg’s fate during these years at selected episodes. He neither collaborated with the regime nor actively resisted; he was harrassed by bureaucracy and denunciated to the secret police, but saved by powerful figures in economy, politics, and science. Warburg reciprocated this favour with problematic testimonies of political integrity after 1945. Warburg’s case, thus, defies wellestablished notions of how scientists in Germany lived and worked during the Nazi regime, and, therefore, helps provide a more nuanced perspective on this theme.

Additional key words

Otto Warburg (1883–1970) history of twentieth-century photosynthesis research Nazi Germany 

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Copyright information

© The Institute of Experimental Botany 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.History of ScienceLudwig Maximilians UniversityMunichGermany

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