Students' Fraternities, German

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STUDENTS' FRATERNITIES, GERMAN (Ger. Burschenschaften ). Different types of German students' associations have existed since the establishment of universities. As part and forerunners of the German national movement the specific German students' fraternities called Burschenschaften were founded in Jena in June 1815. Fanned by the reaction against Napoleon, the Burschenschaften rapidly expanded to include almost all German universities. The movement's outlook was essentially romantic, imbued with Christian, patriotic, and radical sentiments. However, at the beginning the organization was not overtly anti-Jewish in tone and Jews even took part in the foundation of some local Burschenschaften, as in Freiburg in 1816, and as so-called Alte Herren (Old Boys) were active members of the alumni organizations. Later, though, antisemitic agitation – particularly of the *Stoecker brand – found eager supporters among the student generation. The Verein Deutscher Studenten (vdst) (Union of German Students) aligned itself with the antisemitic petition demanding from the government the suspension of the legal emancipation of the Jews. It was also distributed by and among German students and handed over to Bismarck in April 1881. As early as 1878 the Viennese fraternity, Libertas, had passed a motion excluding Jews on racial grounds. By 1890 fraternities declared themselves judenrein, both in Germany and in Austria. In 1896 the member-fraternities Waidhofener Verband "dishonored" Jewish students by refusing to give them satisfaction in duels. By 1908 alumni associations also joined in ostracizing Jews. In Austria *Schoenerer emulated Stoecker by setting himself up as an anti-Jewish mentor to the students. Jewish students reacted to the increasingly antisemitic climate from the late 1880s by forming separate organizations. The first to be established was the Viadrina in 1886 at Breslau University, later part of the *Kartell-Convent der Verbindugnen Detuscher Studenten juedischen Glaubens (kc). From the start Jewish fraternities were socially excluded and repeatedly dissolved by university administrations.

From 1900 to 1914 there was a recess in general antisemitic agitation, but the war and its aftermath reactivated Volk and racist fanaticism. In 1920, at their general convention in Eisenach, German fraternities extended their racial ostracism to all members who married Jewish or colored partners. Throughout the Weimar Republic German fraternities were predominantly right-wing, voelkisch, and antisemitic, as was the student corpus as a whole. After Hitler assumed power they widely embraced the new development, although they had to join in the National Socialist students' organization (Nationalsozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund) and hence give up their own organizational framework. After World War ii the student fraternities reestablished their pre-war organizations, the umbrella organization of the German fraternities, the Deutsche Burschenschaft (db), became active again in 1950. They are still predominantly politically conservative but are no longer openly antisemitic. There are still different kinds of student associations in the sense of fraternities to be found on German campuses.


O.F. Scheuer, Burschenschaft und Judenfrage … (1927); E. Siecke, Die Judenfrage und der Gymnasiallehrer … (1880). add. bibliography: H.H. Brandt, Der Burschen Herrlichkeit. Geschichte und Gegenwart des studentischen Korporationswesens (1998); M. Gruettner, Studenten im Dritten Reich (1995); D. Heither, Blut und Paukboden. Eine Geschichte der Burschenschaften (1997); K.H. Jarausch, Students, Society and Politics in Imperial Germany. The Rise of Academic Illiberalism (1982); M.H. Kater, Studentenschaft und Rechtsradikalismus in Deutschland 19181933. Eine sozialgeschichtliche Studie zur Bildungskrise in der Weimarer Republik (1975); A. Kurth, Maenner-Buende-Rituale. Studentenverbindungen seit 1800 (2004).

[Emmanuel Beeri /

Miriam Ruerup (2nd ed.)]

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Students' Fraternities, German

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