Professor Paul Petzschmann has been awarded a Broom Public Scholarship grant to complete his “Germans and Nazis on Campus: Lindsey Thomas Blayney and the Carleton – Heidelberg Exchange” project examining archival photography from 1936.

Dean Blayney in Heidelberg, 1936
Dean Blayney in Heidelberg, 1936

Paul Petzschmann has been awarded a Broom Public Scholarship grant to publish preliminary research from a project based on research in the Carleton archives online on the occasion of Carleton’s Sesquicentennial celebration in the Fall of 2016. He used the grant to pay copyright fees relating to photographs from the Lindsey Thomas Blayney collection from the Woodson Research Centre at Rice University, TX and to compile an online version of a talk he delivered at the faculty retreat in 2015 with the help of Doug Bratland from College Communications and Nat Wilson from the Carleton Library Archival Collection. The site features as a Carleton story and on the timeline of the Sesquicentennial website as well as on Paul’s faculty page.

In December of 1939 a German student named Gerda Luyken discussed the state of the art of eugenics research in America, focusing especially on the Harvard Survey of the Relation of Race and Nationality to Crime in the United States. She noted approvingly that the statistical analysis carried out by the project had finally laid to rest the “environmental theory of crime,” providing conclusive proof that “the primary cause of crime is biological.” Yet at the same time she noted with regret that, unlike in Germany, the insights into the racial nature of criminal behavior had not resulted in appropriate policy action in the United States.

While discussions of eugenics were by no means uncommon in the 1930s, what made this piece significant was that it appeared in “Current Issues”, a student-edited journal produced at Carleton College and was written by an exchange student whose “sympathies were entirely Nazi” as college records noted. More remarkable still, Carleton College simultaneously hosted refugee students fleeing Nazi persecution in Austria and Czechoslovakia as well as German refugee academics such as Heinrich P. Jordan, forced out of the German Foreign Office because he was Jewish. While diplomatic relations between the United States and Nazi Germany were cool, academic exchanges and scholarly dialogue continued, if ambiguous and contradictory. Participating individuals and institutions constantly sought to reconcile ideals of unbiased scientific enquiry and open dialogue with German academia while distancing themselves from the Nazi political regime. The Carleton-Heidelberg exchange under the direction of Lindsey Thomas Blayney provides a fascinating insight in to this balancing act.

As Dean of Carleton College, Lindsey Thomas Blayney not only engaged in the day-to-day running of Carleton’s relationship with institutions at home and abroad but also with the Head of the German department. His reasons for supporting and driving forward the continuation of student exchanges with Nazi Germany were multiple and complex, and tightly intertwined with Carleton’s acceptance of a bequest by the late Frank B. Kellogg in 1938. At the centre of this project stands the exploration of Blayney’s trip to the University of Heidelberg for its 550 year celebration in 1936 through archival photographs. The trip by the American delegation was at the center of a major national controversy and also stands at the beginning of this very peculiar “OCS experience” in Nazi Germany.