A new article in the Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel picks up the story of the Hertie Foundation’s alleged refusal to adequately address its Nazi past. The article highlights the demands of the Her.Tietz Initiative, founded by Hertie School Alumnus and Senior Fellow Alexander Busold and his team, calling for a transparent and thorough examination of the Hertie Foundation’s historical legacy. The originally Jewish-owned department store chain “Hermann Tietz” (whose name was later changed to “Hertie”) was “aryanized” by the Nazis, who forced the Tietz family out of their business through various Antisemitic repressions. As students and alumni of the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, which is being financed by the Hertie Foundation, the Hert.Tietz Intititive has been trying to raise awareness about the Nazi past of the Foundation, stating that, “The Foundation has a moral and historical responsibility to disclose the company’s history and initiate an independent study in accordance with scientific standards.”
“The Foundation has a moral and historical responsibility to disclose the company’s history and initiate an independent study in accordance with scientific standards.”
The Hertie Foundation has been responding to the criticisms stating that they are in the process of commissioning a study, a “slow institutional process” further inhibited by the global pandemic, that should not be perceived as unwillingness to confront the issue. Leaders of the Hertie School also announced a number of measures to inform students about the historic legacy of the institution. Members of the Hert.Tietz Intititive remain skeptical however: “The Foundation has been in existence since 1974 and to this day has not found it necessary to confront its Nazi past. I find it somewhat surprising that we are accused of being impatient and using the Corona virus as an excuse,” Alexander Busold is quoted in Der Tagesspiegel.
The Hert.Tietz Initiative notes that any future study should also take a closer look at the personality of Georg Karg, the managing director of the Hermann Tietz Company (later Hertie) after the “aryanization” of the company by the Nazis. The fact that the non-Jewish Karg profited from “aryanization” and the antisemitic expropriation of the Tietz Family is clear, but what specific role he played in the process still needs to be investigated.
A troublesome detail is the fact that Sabine Gräfin von Normann, a granddaughter of Karg, sits on the current board of the Hertie Foundation. Der Tagesspiegel points to a “tradition of silence” in the family and in parts of the foundation regarding the Nazi period.
- Read the full article in Der Tagesspiegel here (in German, by subscription only).
- The article in Der Tagesspiegel references and builds on the reporting by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, here and here (in German), as well as the Financial Times, here (in English, by subscription only).
- The Her.Tietz Initiative organized the webinar Addressing Antisemitism One Year After the Attack in Halle. Funding for this webinar came from Humanity in Action’s 2019 Grant Competition, Addressing Antisemitism in Germany, Poland, Ukraine, the United States and online, a project generously supported by the Foundation EVZ.