The memory of a university

Eckart Krause has built up the "Hamburg Library of University History," while historian Rainer Nicolaysen is dedicated to its scholarly evaluation. For their work, the two are today receiving the Max Brauer Prize, which is endowed with 15,000 euros.

It’s a kind of mental illness, says Eckart Krause. Day after day, he goes to the cafeteria to collect the students’ new flyers. When he is not there, the students come to him. In Krause’s office on the Hamburg university campus, the light is on in the evening, so they knock on the window from outside and hand him their flyer. His collection has now grown to 54 folders. It dates back to 1967, and anyone who browses through the folders for a while will have to agree with Krause’s findings: "There used to be a lot of writing," he says, "but now the design is pushing itself to the fore. Krause points to the Hamburg university newspaper: longer texts can hardly be found in it anymore, but pictures of satisfied students. "The newspaper used to be nicely political," says Krause, "now it’s purely a lifestyle magazine."

Since 2003, Eckart Krause has been in charge of the "Hamburg Library of University History," which includes about 16,500 volumes in addition to hundreds of folders of material. What makes it special: Krause, who was department planner for the history department for more than 30 years, built up the library himself, on a voluntary basis. For more than forty years, he has collected everything that provides information about the University of Hamburg, its telephone number directories as well as the writings of Karl Rathgen, the former founding rector. For this work, Krause is now receiving the Max Brauer Prize, which is awarded by the Alfred Toepfer Foundation for cultural or scientific achievements in Hamburg.

Krause shares the 15,000 euro prize with the historian Rainer Nicolaysen, a private lecturer at the University of Hamburg and currently also a research associate at the "Arbeitsstelle fur Universitatsgeschichte" (Office of University History), which Krause was entrusted with setting up in 2003. The collection is one thing, says Krause with regard to the library, "another is its scientific evaluation. Nicolaysen, who has already rendered outstanding services to university history, is to take on this task. He received his doctorate with a biography on the Hamburg political scientist Siegfried Landshut, who rediscovered and edited Marx’s early philosophical work in the early 1920s, survived the "Third Reich" in exile, and took over the first Hamburg chair of political science in 1951.

It was also the interest in the university at the time of National Socialism that brought Krause and Nicolaysen together. In 1983, Krause initiated a research project in which more than 50 participants from various academic disciplines researched the history of their respective subjects between 19. The publication of the contributions, all of which were written on a voluntary basis, coincided with "Enge Zeit" in 1991: In turn, Nicolaysen had played a major role in this exhibition about expelled and persecuted university members.

Finally, the two of them together snatched Magdalene Schoch, the first female lawyer to be habilitated in Germany, from oblivion. Schoch, who had taught for seventeen years at the University of Hamburg as a private lecturer, went into exile in the United States in 1937 – avowedly because she did not want to bow to National Socialist injustice. Krause suggested her as the patron saint for one of the old lecture halls in the university’s main building. And Nicolaysen went in search of clues, which led him to the jazz musician Lennie Cuje, a nephew of Magdalene Schoch, who now lives in Washington in his aunt’s house. With Cuje’s help, and by referring to her records stored in the basement, he was able to reconstruct Magdalene Schoch’s courageous life. When the Toepfer Foundation awards him the Max Brauer Prize today, Schoch’s nephew will be present: The vibraphonist will provide the musical accompaniment for the evening.

Nicolaysen is currently researching the history of the University of Hamburg in the post-war period. Almost nothing is known about this – unlike the early phase of the university, which was founded in 1919 as the first democratic university in Germany; and also unlike the National Socialist period, which can be considered to have been explored since Krause’s project. Perhaps, Krause says mischievously, someone will want to know someday what went on in 1968: "They would look in vain for a study on that at the moment." MAXIMILIAN PROBST

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