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

No. 2423

Sir: With reference to the Embassy’s despatch No. 2385 of October 11, 1935, I have the honor to report that the death struggle of the traditional student corporations with National Socialist student groups is entering upon its last phase, almost all of the oldest and most important corporations having to date decided upon disbandment.

The dissolution of the Burschenschaften took place according to schedule at the Wartburg festival held October 18. Historic flags and hatbands were handed over to leaders of the National Socialist Student League in which the Burchenschaften now lose their identity. The capitulation was carried out to the singing of the old song, “Ich habe mich ergeben mit Herz und mit Hand” (I have surrendered with heart and hand), which, whatever the Nazi papers say concerning the comradeship and good feeling prevailing at the ceremony, must have been chosen with conscious irony.

A few days thereafter announcement was made of the voluntary dissolution of the Landsmanschaften and the Sangerschaften, the second and fourth categories of student corporations (see footnote to page 2 of the Embassy’s despatch No. 2106 of July 1, 1935). The Waffenring, which is the outer organization of all “arms-bearing students,” or those who have fought duels in their corporations, has likewise been dissolved. Some of the Turnerschaften as well as several of the larger Catholic student corporations are still in existence but that it is probably only a matter of time before they too disappear completely is indicated in the dissolution of the central organizations of both these bodies which has just taken place.

The natural assumption has been that members of the dissolved corporations would all go over to the National Socialist Student League. That the question is not to be as simple as that, but that on the contrary the Nazi Student League will use its unchallenged power to carry out a political sifting of the applicants for membership [Page 390] is evident from a statement by one of its leaders that it is a mistake to assume that anybody may belong to the Student League; rather it is a case of who may be allowed to join.

An interesting story surrounds the affairs of the student corps. The most exclusive corps constituting the so-called “white circle,” namely, the Saxo-Borussia of Heidelberg, the Borussia of Bonn, the the Saxonia of Göttingen, have decided upon voluntary dissolution. Various other rings of corps have likewise disbanded and although several are still left, it is understood that proposals for dissolution have been put before meetings of these corps held at the beginning of term time, and are still under consideration.

A promiment corps leader has remarked in informal conversation that these groups have gradually come to the conclusion that dissolution was advisable as they have recently been involved in constant conflict with the Nazi university authorities who have gone out of their way to make life difficult for corps members. He admitted, however, that the corps have recently been losing ground, as has been shown from the smaller number of freshman admittances. There are not many students, he explained, who can now afford to follow the life expected of a corps member, particularly as tradition specified that the first two semesters during which a corps student is supposed to be “active” should be mostly spent in duelling and brawling. This individual, who cannot be called a fanatical Nazi, acknowledged that students coming to the universities from the Hitler Youth had quite a different conception of life, and that while the passing of the corps tradition was to be regretted it was probably for the best that they as an institution should disappear. In the light of present difficulties, moreover, the senior members were apparently satisfied that the corps should leave the field with flying colors without having to participate in any ceremony of surrender such as that performed by the Burschenschaften at the Wartburg.

The Nazis would appear to have just grounds for pride in eliminating such an institution as the corporations in which apathy, if not actual hostility, to the Party has been fostered, and one, moreover, which seemed so secure in its tradition. It is noted that Göring39 in his speech on October 27 before the Breslau Gau meeting could not resist a reference to this victory. With the complete dissolution of the corps in sight, Staff Chief Lutze has adopted a more generous attitude, having lifted his sweeping ban against the corps to the extent that members formerly belonging to corps which have scrupulously applied the Aryan paragraph may now be permitted to join the S. A. (see Embassy’s despatch No. 2385 of October 11, 1935).

Respectfully yours,

William E. Dodd
  1. Hermann Göring, German Minister for Aviation.