The Ambassador in Germany (Dodd) to the Secretary of State

No. 2385

Sir: I have the honor to report that the relentless Nazi campaign against the student corporations, which was recently successful in causing the dissolution of the graduate body of the corps, the Kösener Senioren Convent (see Embassy’s despatch No. 2363, of October 5, 1935), has just won a second victory in the announcement that the Burschenschaften have decided to disband themselves voluntarily. This success is the greatest that the Nazi students have so far achieved, for while the first eliminated only the parent body of the corps, leaving the undergraduate associations intact, the latest victory removes from the field the student units of the Burschenschaften, a group, moreover, possessing a considerably greater membership than the corps, even though it is of not so exclusive a character.

The decision was taken at a meeting of Burschenschaften leaders held at Leipzig on October 8. After listening to an address by Herr Derichsweiler, head of the National Socialist Student League which has been the rival and antagonist of the corporations, the leaders, so the papers report, decided to vote full powers to their president to proceed with the liquidation of the Burschenschaften and to arrange for their incorporation within the Nazi Student League. At the annual student festival to be held on the Wartburg October 18, the dissolution of the Burschenschaften will be formally announced and their old flags, now reposing in the University of Jena, will be handed over to representatives of the Nazi Student League.

The festival on the Wartburg has an historical background that it is perhaps interesting to recall. It was there in 1817 that the Burschenschaften were first founded by a group of liberal students who chose the 300th anniversary of the posting of Luther’s 95 theses to proclaim their fight against the reaction that had set in after the Napoleonic Wars. A great fire was built into which were thrown reactionary and monarchical writings as well as a corporal’s baton, intended to be symbolic of the military oppression of the times. The Burschenschaften grew in numbers and their student members and graduates played an appreciable role in the development of German parliamentarianism of the 19th Century. As distinct from the corps, whose membership was drawn from the nobility and from army families, the Burschenschaften recruited their following from the educated middle classes. This year’s festival will mark their inglorious capitulation to just such a movement as they formed to combat; it will provide [Page 389] also a significant commentary upon the middle-class philosophy of the present-day Germany.

It is pointed out that 110 student associations will be affected by the recent decision. The Burschenschaften will be assimilated as Kameradschaften in the Student League and their property and houses will pass over to that organization.…

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Respectfully yours,

William E. Dodd