Source: Public Domain

Issued: 21.10.2020

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An Independent Study into the Nazi History of Hertie

We hope this update finds you well in the middle of the pandemic. You know how weeks feel like years these days? Well, for our efforts in pushing for an open debate of the Nazi history of Hertie, the past two weeks have seen more action than the past two years – so let us update you on what happened and on what we need your help with coming up!

200 Guests at the Tietz Lecture on Addressing Antisemitism

We finally organised the first Tietz Lecture on Addressing Antisemitism, one of the first ideas we pitched to both the Hertie School and Foundation. Our proposals for events remained unanswered, so we decided to move forward independently, with the kind financial and logistic support of Stiftung EVZ, Humanity in Action and Schwarzkopf-Stiftung. We have been incredibly humbled by the response: Two renowned artists and vocal advocats against antisemitism, Igor Levit and Lena Gorelik, joined us in person to talk about antisemitic challenges today. Some 200 people attended our virtual event, with many questions and so many follow-up emails with incredible ideas and feedback. You can re-watch it on our brand new website: www.hertietz.de/lecture

Article on Hertie’s Nazi Past in the Süddeutsche Zeitung

This past weekend, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote a story about our initiative and the Nazi past of the Hertie name. We’re very happy about the response: The Hertie Foundation has announced publicly for the first time that they will commission a historical study. We welcome their announcement and remain committed to having a concrete and public conversation on how to move forward. 

A Truly Independent Study?

For us, however, a truly independent historical study of this past is a key part of how to move forward – and this is why we need your help: We argue for an independent commission of multiple historians with guarantees for making the study public and that there can be no interference. Why? The Foundation already has two pre-studies, which we have asked them to make public for over a year now, that they won’t publish. We’d like to make sure the same won’t happen with this new study – and as such, we also demand the Foundation publish the existing pre-studies immediately, as a sign of their commitment to this ongoing debate. 

Of course: We do not claim to be experts in studying the history of organizations, either. This is why we have teamed-up with experts from academia and from institutions like the German Foreign Office, who have already undergone the process of tackling their institutional history in a solid and transparent way. Together with these experts, we have developed a list of criteria that is the baseline for the design of an independent historical study.

Our Work Up To Now 

Our new website also has a full timeline of our efforts, from initial contacts with the School and Foundation since June of 2018 right up to the installation of the information board in the cafeteria, the content and language of which was part of a year of talks with the school’s administration. As happy as we are with what we’ve achieved, there are many other simple symbolic actions that we have proposed to the School that we think are nothing if not overdue: The renaming of the library to Tietz Memorial Library, the creation of a dedicated timeslot during orientation week to highlight this history, in which we would happily take part and, even more simply, the inclusion of this history, with the right kind of language, in a dedicated, visible section of the School’s website. There are many other suggestions we could make but we’d like to see the School take a proactive role in engaging this history, in creating events and even, perhaps, opportunities for students to devote themselves to studying antisemitism. 

Our Independence

Until then, we are happy to see the administration email all current cohorts for the first time with details of the history we’ve been so keen to commemorate in the School premises for so long, without any concrete offers to do so. So let us use these final lines to update you on a more bureaucratic note: We have never received any financial support from the School or the Foundation, even if we asked for it to cover our initial proposal in 2018 for events and awareness-raising. As an initiative, we have decided to make a public commitment to never ask or accept any support from either institution going forward, as we believe this is the best way to guarantee whichever money either institution channels to these efforts go to the people or organizations who need it. Finally, that allows us to always be completely independent in our advocacy for a transparent and open handling of the Nazi history of Hertie, to an active commemoration of the victims of the Shoah, and to fight the growing antisemitism today. 

As always, a sincere thank you for your support – we could not have done this without it! 

The team of the Her.Tietz Initiative

Would you like to help our cause? We are working on much more for next year, so if you’d like to volunteer your time, we would be very happy to have it! Email us at info@hertietz.de.

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