PhD dissertations from Nazi Germany

PhD dissertations from Nazi Germany

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Inspired by this question, which asks for a list of students who were expelled from universities in Nazi Germany, I would be interested in knowing where I might be able to find more information about doctoral theses that were passed between 1933 and 1945 - specifically, those that dealt with racial science and other matters of a politically- or socially-charged nature.

Was there a noticeable increase in dissertations that dealt with the Jewish question during this period? Was there a marked rise in papers that looked at issues like Communism, the Trade Unions, homosexuality, criminality, disability, etc? I would very much like to know (assuming this sort of research has been done) by what percentage these sorts of studies increased, and whether or not (and by what percentage) they decreased again after '45.

I am specifically looking for doctoral theses, but studies that concern general academic literature during this period may be of interest too.

You should start with the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek.

The German National Library is entrusted with the task of collecting, permanently archiving, bibliographically classifying and making available to the general public all German and German-language publications from 1913, foreign publications about Germany, translations of German works, and the works of German-speaking emigrants published abroad between 1933 and 1945.

This is not a "retroactive" collection - the mission to collect all published German works actually started in 1913. Even in Nazi Germany a copy of each dissertation would have to be delivered to the Nationalbibliothek, so they should have a fairly complete set. And they have an online catalogue, so you do not have to travel to Berlin (although our fair city is always worth a visit).

PhD dissertations from Nazi Germany - History

Germany’s reputation as an outstanding research destination continues to attract the world’s finest minds. In 2014 an incredible Number of 85,000 people chose Germany to write their dissertations or join one of our growing number of doctoral research teams.
Discover your best route to a PhD in Germany, including financing options and advice on how to prepare for your research stay.

PhD programs in the UK (and rest of Europe) take around 3 to 4 years to complete. In the US, a PhD may take up to 5 or 6 years.

After a PhD in the UK, students generally go on to their postdoctoral research. After a PhD in the US, students tend to go directly from graduation to academia or research jobs without a postdoc.

In many UK (and European) universities, there are firm guidelines on just how long a PhD takes and those are more important than individual decisions by a student’s advisers. In comparison, in the US, some students can fly through their PhD in 3 years with tremendous amounts of research, while others can take as long as 8 to 10 years to complete their PhD.

There are different systems within Europe.

In Sweden and other Scandinavian countries, a PhD takes 4 to 5 years and includes additional teaching duties. Students in these schools are considered as employees. They receive monthly salaries which are comparable to the salaries earned by graduate students working in various industries and are taxable as well. A PhD student is allowed to either present or attend at least one conference anywhere in the world, expenses for which are taken care of by the research group.

In Germany, a 4-year PhD is considered too long and funding might not be available after the first three years of the PhD program.

Don’t Call Me Doktor

On Oct. 30, 2009, a 31-year-old graduate student at the Free University of Berlin named Franziska Giffey submitted her doctoral thesis, on the subject of “Europe’s Path to the Citizens.” As required in most countries’ university regulations, Giffey prefaced her dissertation with a statement vouching for its academic integrity.

Eleven years later, Giffey—now a rising star in Germany’s government—has already had her wrist slapped by her old university over plagiarism in her dissertation. When a new investigation into it is completed, she may have to resign from her position as a cabinet minister. So go political scandals in Germany, where other ministers have already had to resign over doctoral plagiarism. It raises the question: Do learned people make for better politicians?

On Oct. 30, 2009, a 31-year-old graduate student at the Free University of Berlin named Franziska Giffey submitted her doctoral thesis, on the subject of “Europe’s Path to the Citizens.” As required in most countries’ university regulations, Giffey prefaced her dissertation with a statement vouching for its academic integrity.

Eleven years later, Giffey—now a rising star in Germany’s government—has already had her wrist slapped by her old university over plagiarism in her dissertation. When a new investigation into it is completed, she may have to resign from her position as a cabinet minister. So go political scandals in Germany, where other ministers have already had to resign over doctoral plagiarism. It raises the question: Do learned people make for better politicians?

As doctoral dissertations go, Giffey’s oeuvre in political science was a relatively slim volume of 266 pages including annexes and an index. Giffey’s evaluators considered the dissertation worthy of the doctoral degree, which she was awarded in February 2010. Giffey, a member of Germany’s Social Democratic Party, went on to a political career, and in 2018 she was appointed federal minister for families, youth, women, and retirees. She’s considered a rare political star-in-the-making in the otherwise moribund party.

The minister, however, hadn’t reckoned with academically trained sleuths on the internet. In 2019, volunteers who specialize in identifying academic plagiarism announced they’d found serious plagiarism in Giffey’s doctoral thesis: A significant number of pages were more than 50 percent plagiarized material some even were over 75 percent. The sleuths found that 76 of the 205 pages contained some form of plagiarism. Even though Free University decided that Giffey should be able to keep her title of Dr. Giffey, the debate didn’t subside it blew up.

As a result, in November 2020 Giffey said she’d no longer use the title—a big deal in a country where people are customarily addressed with their surnames and titles—and the Free University has decided to examine her thesis again. It promises to deliver its verdict soon. No doubt Giffey, too, is hoping for a swift resolution, as she is planning to run for mayor of Berlin. Fellow minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, of the rival Christian Democratic Union party, says Giffey should resign if she loses her Ph.D.

This is what constitutes a political scandal in Berlin’s political circles. Indeed, it’s a thoroughly German political scandal. Whereas Sweden is ably led by a former welder—Stefan Löfven—and the United States was until recently led—considerably less ably—by a man who has a smaller vocabulary than any president since Herbert Hoover and by his own admission doesn’t read books or even briefings, Germany prides itself on its learned politicians.

Why do Germans care?

Germany seems to care a lot about the academic achievements of its elected representatives. As this year's election campaign turns nastier, the Green party's chancellor candidate Annalena Baerbock has had to fend off reporters and rival politicians asking about the exact nature of the degree she earned from the London School of Economics.

The cultural difference is something that has also struck Gerhard Dannemann, a professor of English law at the Humboldt University in Berlin and a researcher at Vroniplag Wiki, a loose, non-profit network of academics and researchers that checks Ph.D. theses for plagiarism.

"If you're a politician in Britain and have a doctoral degree you're probably going to hide it, whereas in Germany, and in quite a number of other countries, you're probably going to brandish it," he told DW.

Ursula von der Leyen and Frank-Walter Steinmeier were faced with allegations of irregularities which were found to be minor referencing mistakes

According to Dannemann, there's a historical theory why Ph.D. titles are taken so seriously by German politicians: Until the 19th century, the most influential people in society were aristocrats. "But if you were a commoner, one of the best ways to gain prestige was to have an academic degree." That, he added, led to huge plagiarism scandals in 19th century Germany, when doctoral degrees were virtually "bought and sold." It was partly because of that, he added, that all doctoral theses now must be published in Germany to be recognized.

Nowadays, degrees can only be bought from scammers on the internet — but unlike in most other countries, in Germany using unearned titles fraudulently is actually a criminal offense.


This dissertation is offered as a contribution to the historical theology of the German church struggle under Hitler. It attempts a reconstruction of the history of the formulation and revision of the Bethel Confession. An historical overview of the situation confronting the German Protestant churches in 1933 is provided and the flood of confessional literature down to the formulation of the Bethel Confession is surveyed. It attempts to piece together the events and correspondence which led to the Bethel confessional project in August of 1933. The Bethel Confession attempted to restate the classical loci of Reformation theology in a way relevant to the contemporary problem of the influence of Nazi ideology in the territorial Protestant churches of Germany which were uniting to form a single national Protestant church, the German Evangelical Church. A specific focus of the Bethel Confession was racism as a contradiction of Biblical faith. In its original form, that of August 1933, the Bethel Confession was the first full theological confession of the church struggle drawn up by those opposed to the "German-Christian" movement to coordinate Christian faith and life with Nazi ideology. Biographical and theological background on the authors of the Bethel Confession and for those who involved themselves in the process of critique and revision is presented. A complicated revision process resulted in the adulteration of the first form of the Bethel Confession. The most radical changes were introduced in the material dealing with Nazi racism. Archival sources of the Bethel Confession, including the two of the four drafts, correspondence and the written critiques were misplaced until their recent relocation, collation and transcription at the Bethel Institutions. An exposition of the four drafts is offered based on both the archival sources and on specialized studies of the Nazi-based "German-Christian" movement. It is the thesis of this study that the Bethel Confession deserves close theological attention as a theologically full witness of the church under persecution and that the document deserves historical attention because of the issues it addressed and the reaction it provoked. A concluding epilog ponders some of the enduring historiographic and theological implications of the Bethel Confession. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)

University: Columbia University
Faculty: History
Author: Julien Saint Reiman
Award: 2018 Charles A. Beard Senior Thesis Prize
Title: “A Starving Man Helping Another Starving Man”: UNRRA, India, and the Genesis of Global Relief, 1943-1947

University: University College London
Faculty: Geography
Author: Anna Knowles-Smith
Award: 2017 Royal Geographical Society Undergraduate Dissertation Prize
Title: Refugees and theatre: an exploration of the basis of self-representation

University: University of Washington
Faculty: Computer Science & Engineering
Author: Nick J. Martindell
Award: 2014 Best Senior Thesis Award
Title: DCDN: Distributed content delivery for the modern web

The dissertation is an independent piece of research

The exclusively research-based nature of a doctoral degree distinguishes it from university and state examinations for which you prepare while studying or as a means of completing your studies. These examinations are vocational in character and are intended as preparation for an academically or scientifically oriented profession. In addition, the writing of a dissertation – and thus your own research – makes a substantial contribution to the state of knowledge in the relevant discipline.

If you wish to enrol on a doctoral programme and write your dissertation at a German higher education institution, you must have an academic degree, usually a master's degree, Staatsexamen, Diplom or Magister. It is sometimes possible to enrol with a bachelor's degree if you have successfully completed an appropriate qualification programme.

Christopher R. Browning

Christopher Browning’s research focuses on the Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. He has written extensively about three issues: first, Nazi decision- and policy-making in regard to the origins of the Final Solution second, the behavior and motives of various middle- and lower-echelon personnel involved in implementing Nazi Jewish policy and thirdly, the use of survivor testimony to explore Jewish responses and survival strategies.

Some Notable Publications

  • Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave Labor Camp (W.W. Norton & Co., 2010)
  • The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939–March 1942 (University of Nebraska Press, 2004)
  • Nazi Policy, Jewish Workers, German Killers (Cambridge University Press, 2000)
  • Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (HarperCollins, 1992)

The Final Solution and the German Foreign Office (Holmes & Meier, 1978)


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*Though the History Department uses the name Pauli Murray Hall for our building, on official maps you will find it as Hamilton Hall. Joseph Grégoire de Roulhac Hamilton’s intellectually dishonest historical and archival work promoted white supremacy. In contrast, Pauli Murray marshaled unassailable evidence and analysis in the service of racial and gender equality. In July 2020, all of the departments housed in the building agreed to adopt the name Pauli Murray Hall in place of Hamilton Hall. An official request with the Chancellor is pending. For more information, please see here.

PhD dissertations from Nazi Germany - History

Note: Some authors restrict access to their electronic thesis or dissertation to on-campus users only for 5 years after graduation. If affiliated with UGA, view them on campus or through the vLAB service.

Print dissertations and theses

Dissertations and theses up through 2001 are available in print, and are held in our storage facility. You can request them from 'off-site storage' in the GIL-Find catalog, and we will email you when the item is available. If you are affiliated with UGA, you are usually able to check them out.

There are also some dissertations and theses in Special Collections. You can request to view them by clicking the 'Request to view in Special Collections' link in the GIL-Find Catalog. Special Collections copies cannot be checked out.

Search GIL-Find (the UGA Libraries' catalog) to find records for both print and electronic dissertations and theses.

Make sure to add the keywords “University of Georgia” and “dissertation” or “thesis” to your search in the GIL-Find catalog.

What if I am not affiliated with the University of Georgia?

Most of the dissertations in the Electronic Theses and Dissertations Database and Esploro (the UGA Institutional Repository) are available for public use. If the thesis or dissertation you want is not available online due to age or restriction to on-campus use only, place a request for the dissertation or thesis through your home library’s interlibrary loan department.

How are ETDs processed?

Graduate students submit their completed dissertation or thesis to Proquest. Then, the Libraries' Cataloging Department begins to catalog them in GIL in order to set our holdings in WorldCat and provide information needed for fulfilling interlibrary loan requests. They are also added to Esploro, the UGA Institutional Repository.