Inside Higher Ed Reviews Norwood
In an interview, Norwood describes university leaders as indifferent to evidence of a barbaric regime rising abroad in part because of their own polices of anti-Semitism and exclusion back home. “They just didn’t care very deeply about Jews and anti-Semitism because they were themselves involved in maintaining quota barriers against Jewish students. There were very, very few Jews on the faculties of American universities throughout the entire inter-war period. And there are whole fields that were basically off-limits to Jews,” he says.
Norwood’s book begins by laying out the evidence of Germany’s “unprecedented relapse into barbarism” in the months immediately following Hitler’s ascent to power: “The Nazis’ anti-Semitic terror in 1933 precipitated demonstrations and boycotts on an unprecedented scale, often initiated at the grassroots level,” Norwood writes.
“But although academicians were the Americans most conversant with European affairs, few engaged in public anti-Nazi protest. As many working and lower-middle-class Americans marched in the streets and struggled to organize a nationwide boycott of German goods and services, American universities maintained amicable relations with the Third Reich, sending their students to study at Nazified universities while welcoming Nazi exchange students to their own campuses. American’s most distinguished university presidents willingly crossed the Atlantic in ships flying the swastika flag, openly defying the anti-Nazi boycott, to the benefit of the Third Reich’s economy. By warmly receiving Nazi diplomats and propagandists on campus, they helped Nazi Germany present itself to the American public as a civilized nation, unfairly maligned in the press.”