Zum Hauptinhalt springen

Frederick Tupper, Jr - University Life in Germany (1907)

Liebe Leserinnen, Liebe Leser,

heute  führt uns unsere Reportage in die Welt der Friedrich-Wilhelms  Universität Berlin in den Jahren 1900/1901. Der amerikanische  Englisch-Professor Frederick Tupper Jr. verbrachte einen Teil seines  Studiums im Kaiserreich und in diesem Artikel aus dem Jahr 1907  beschreibt er seine Erfahrungen. Mich haben gerade die Schilderungen der  wissenschaftlichen Karriere im Kontext unserer aktuellen  #ichbinhannah-Debatte fasziniert - denn was dort vor über 120 Jahren  geschildert wurde, ist etwas, das hoffnungsfrohen Doktoranden immer noch  zu bekannt vorkommen wird.

On  an October morning, some years since, a recent Vermont graduate and I  entered together the Aula of the Friedrich-Wilhelms-University at  Berlin. Lectures were still two weeks away; but Germany is a country of  leisurely beginnings and this was the morning of matriculation. The  great hall was thronged with an interesting company. At a long table sat  the Rector Magnificus, Harnack, the mighty theologian, and the  professors of the various faculties. Moving about the room were students  of three types: foreigners like ourselves; wanderers from other  universities of the Fatherland; and boys from the “Gymnasium,” who had  passed the “Abiturient” examination and become “mules” or freshmen.  These last we regard with interest. They are unquestionably the best  trained school boys in the world. For nine years they have been drilled  by the best masters, every one a doctor, for some thirty hours a week.  They have been taught not simply to remember, but to analyze, compare  and classify, until, at the age of eighteen or nineteen stand often on a  better footing than graduates of our colleges. But there is another  side to the shield, as I learned when I grew to know them better. They  have marred their sight — sixty per cent of Germans over eighteen wear  glasses. They have hurt their health by long hours of work at home and  by little play save perhaps skating in winter and gymnastic exercises on  the “Turnboden.” With all his learning, the German Jack is often a dull  boy. After presentation of credentials and payment of eighteen marks,  the entering student now obtains three things. The first is a certificate  of matriculation, a portly and florid document, twice as large as a  college diploma, attesting in pompous Latinity that, “under the auspices  and authority of the very august and potent lord, William II, a most  ornate youth has been duly enrolled, etc., etc.” The second is a  student-card. Great is the power of this. It exempts from arrest,  sometimes permits the holder to pass through crowds  as one of the elect, and always provides reduced rates at the theatres,  where the student may thus see for a trifle the greatest plays of  Shakspere, Goethe, Schiller and Ibsen. The third is the “Anmeldebuch,”  in which each course is entered upon the payment of twenty marks or five  dollars, and which each professor signs. The matriculant is now a  full-fledged student, free to come and go at will. Absolutely no  restrictions are placed upon him, he may attend all lectures or no  lectures. He wears no academic dress, he lives in no dormitory. As a  result, he comes in contact with few men outside his own clique, and  holds a little corner for himself against all mankind — Philistines,  Camels, men of other corps, foreigners. Then too his self-sufficiency is a  fearful and wonderful thing. “You English can never de Shakspere  grammatik understand like we,” declared loftily a bulbous youth after  the lecture, and one could only answer that his remark carried its  proof. Add “Rechthaberei,” an insistence upon one’s rights at every  cost, and a readiness to take offence, attested by many scars; and you  have certain ingredients of the German students, class-prejudice,  self-sufficiency, assertiveness and undue sensitiveness. Now let me  describe three students whom I knew well. Carl Jürgen was no noble, not  even well-born, but a man of the people. His clothes were shabby, his  coat ill-fitting and with an unnatural gloss, his linen or celluloid—I am  not sure that his collars and cuffs were of linen— seldom above  reproach, and his high hat was always brushed the wrong way. And yet he  was a painstaking, earnest scholar,—a man present at many lectures—a  student of intensive reading who, at the close of his six semesters,  would make his doctorate with honor and fill some modest place in the  state. He  knew few men; to the better class of students he was a Philistine, for  he loathed duels and despised the military. In theory he was a violent  social-democrat; yet I have heard him ask of a guardsman some simple  question with bated breath. He was not of the world of German gentry;  but he had in him some of the finer elements that German gentlemen seldom  have. He was a modest, gentle, kindly soul. Rudolf Biach, whom I met at  the University of Munich, was a very different person. His father, a  merchant prince of Vienna, out of his plenty, allowed his son some forty  dollars a month for expenses. On this, with characteristic German  thrift, he fared well; he dined heartily for a mark or less, he wore  good clothes. and his dickey or false bosom (the Teutonic substitute for  a shirt) was always a thing of beauty. He was at once young,  irresponsible, idle and conceited. He knew as few men as Jürgen, but for  another reason, a true Austrian, he despised the thick-witted  Baeatians, the Bavarians. He seldom went near a lecture-room, conceiving  in the pride of his youth that he knew more than many doctors; during  the session he was fond of ranging far afield, and I have wandered with  him, west to Augsburg, north to Nuremberg, south to the Tyrol. Finally,  he was as clever a boy as I have ever met — a wide reader, with fixed  views on all the arts, a brilliant talker and a linguist of surprising  gifts. After a few months’ training, he spoke English with fatal  fluency. At Oxford, where I encountered him a year later, his command of  the language, his wonderful self- possession, and his Austrian audacity  won for him the suffrages of our little colony. Then there was Kuno von  Eisenberg, a noble, whose people had been for five hundred years welcome  at court, and a fair type of the aristocratic student, who never reads  and who has no life outside of his corps. His cap of red, white and  blue, and the gay riband that crossed his chest were his distinguishing  marks. He had lived in an atmosphere  of duels and beer drinkings, until his fat face was seamed with scars,  and his body surfeit-swollen. He was always as full of quarrels as an  egg of meat. The two proudest moments of his bibulous and bloody  existence were the time when his mother led him forth to exhibit his  first gashes to less fortunate mammas, and the joyous season when he was  “fixed” or stared at and thus invited to a conflict by some famous  swordsman. To a foreigner, who could not and would not fight, his manners  were genial, gentle and kindly—in a word, charming. I can recall now,  how his heels went together, his elbow curved, and his hat was jerked  stiffly to the side when he bowed. ln the University of Berlin there  were many men like Von Eisenberg, for each of the seventy fighting corps  and vereins boasts fifteen or twenty members. Now for the German  professor! The last generation has seen the passing of the old type that  appears in “Fliegende Blätter” and “Jugend,” grimly bespectacled,  long-haired, absent-minded. He is now usually a capable, practical and  responsible man of affairs, whom the dust of the schools has not  blinded. He has made sacrifices for the higher end, for his upward  progress has been slow. After his doctor’s examination, following three  years of advanced work, he decided to forego an oberlehrer’s or higher  school teacher’s position with its seemingly princely salary of  thirty-six hundred marks (nine hundred dollars), and to take his place  on the lowest rung of the university ladder, as “Private- docent,” with  fees of perhaps eight hundred marks. His undoubted ability and  enthusiasm attracted students (perhaps too much stress is laid on his  drawing power), and after some two or three years of very lean kine, he  became extraordinary or associate professor. In the meantime he “scorns  delights and lives laborious days.” He can take no steps towards  soliciting a vacant professorship; but his “opus,” on which he has  labored so faithfully appears. His name is up from Freiburg to Konigsberg.  A call to a chair in a larger university, Berlin or Munich, comes, and  he is a made man of social rank and comfortable income. He is,  henceforth, an oracle among men, and his fame draws many wandering  students to his university. The fields of usefulness of the professor are  three: His lectures, his personal association with students and his  research. As a rule he is not a good lecturer, immeasurably inferior to  his compatriot of the Sorbonne, who is nearly always a golden talker,  and not approaching the best American or even English standards. There  are, of course, many exceptions. Harnack and Willamowitz-Wollendorf drew  and still draw large crowds to the “publicum” or public lectures; and  few of us will forget the delight with which we listened to Dessoir  discourse for many hours on Fine Arts. But Harnack and Willamowitz were  giants and Dessoir had French blood. I think my statement holds—the  lectures are often well planned, but they are too heavily burdened with  fact, are poorly delivered and lack inspiration. Mountains of method, a  thousand details, but few vistas and little illumination. The German  professor is a social being. I remember how one great-hearted, deeply  learned scholar affected young men. At the “kneipes” or feasts of his  students he sat at the head of the table (wherever he sat would have  been the head) directing the talk and joining lustily in the songs. The  reverence for him was great; a quarrel in his presence was felt to be  sacrilege, and the love of clash and conflict was nobly repressed. Then  he drew men to his home, opening up to them in his study great stores of  special knowledge, stimulating, quickening them by the force of his  personality and example. I shall always recall long walks with him in  the “Thiergarten.” His lectures and readings from Shakspere and the  English poets (“Vair is voul and voul is vair,” “I could not lofe dee,  dear, so mooch”) sometimes appealed to an American sense of humor, but  roads traversed with him in private  led always to treasures at the foot of the rainbow, and one was very  grateful. In research, the German professor is pre-eminent. The way that  he cuts is often very narrow, the path that he blazes through the wood  of recondite scholarship is wide enough for only one man; but he sets  those with whom he has to do journeying in this or that direction with  ax and torch. Lights flash and steel rings everywhere, until the forest  becomes known ground. Though others may range more extensively and with  far better perspective, he has in accurate, painstaking, intensive  scholarship, no equal on earth. And he attains and leads others to the  goal in the face of at least one tremendous difficulty, a library system  unparalleled in impracticability and inefficiency. Lack of catalogues and  a poor library staff necessitate an interval of twenty-four hours  between the time of ordering a book and its receipt, or rather the time  due for its receipt, for, in many cases, when it is not on the shelves,  its whereabouts are so uncertain that it may be reclaimed only when its  usefulness is passed. All sufferers from this will doff their hats to  the men who have triumphed over such conditions. A university lecture  room is perhaps the best place to study the students. It is 12 o’clock  and the famous Erich Schmidt is to lecture on “Goethe and Schiller.” But  every German class-hour has its “academisches viertel” or quarter-hour  of grace. And this noon one is passed by the men either in refreshing  themselves at the wine-and-beer shop kept by “Frau Pudel,” the janitor’s  wife, in the first lobby-room on the left of the entrance, or in  procuring orders for theatre-tickets in the first room on the right. But  by 12.15 the lecture-hall is filled with students, many of them munching  rolls or sandwiches (one never knows when “Semmel” or “Schinkenbrot”will  emerge from the capacious pocket of a German). The faces of the men are  strong, but seldom clean-cut and clear-eyed; their frames are heavy but  not athletic. I shall meet some of these fellows later at Munich, for  the German student is a wide-ranger and sometimes completes his special  course at three universities. The women are in large numbers at such a  class as this. Then the professor enters in haste. Before he has even  reached his desk, he begins, “Meine Herren und Damen!” (the order is  significant), and proceeds with a frightful velocity that seems to offer  defiance to note-books. But these students are all masters of short-hand  and pens move triumphantly over paper — you may buy a copy of such  verbatim notes, when the course is next repeated, and save yourself many  a long sitting. Occasionally scraping of feet, “Scharren,” a well-known  signal, warns the lecturer that his words are not heard at the rear of  the room, and he raises his voice, until the shuffling ceases. So the  lecture draws to its close. Now, let us watch the student at play. This  is the banquet hall of the Rhenania Corps on the evening of the  “Weihnachts-Kneipe” or Christmas Feast. The walls are hung with old  banners and armorial bearings, the long tables are groaning under steins  and tankards, the fir-tree in the corner is flashing with a hundred  lights. Forty men in the caps of the corps are steeped in the joyous  spirit of the German yule-tide. The “Bier-zeitung” of the brotherhood,  rich in comic illustrations and teeming with amusing personalities,  starts the revel. Songs are sung, as only German boys can sing them. The  leader gravely conveys to me his regrets that they have not yet  mastered the two national airs of America, “The Bowery” and “Linger  longer, Loo;” but “Tannenbaum,” “Gambrinus” and “Gaudeamus” more than  make good the omission. Salamanders are rubbed, jokes are told, speeches  full of innuendo are delivered, all with tremendous effect. Then enters  the humorist of the fraternity,  with the snowy beard and gray cowl of the “Weihnachtsmann” or Santa  Claus. To each and all he presents, amid shouts of laughter from the  jolly crew, startling gifts. For instance, the American receives a  handsome portrait of his esteemed country-women, “The Five Sisters  Barrison, Misses Lona, Olga, Gertrude, Irmgard and Sophie, die  beispiellos populärsten Damen des Continents.” Then the voices break  again into song. As I conclude this sketch, that splendid chorus rings  in my ears :— “Wer keine Sorge je und kein Verzagen weiß, Und wer sich  rasch erstürmt des Lebens kecken Preis, Wer ständig lichterloh, doch nie  zu Ende brennt, Lebt seinen Jugendtag als richtiger Student, Ja! Als  richtiger Student.”


University of Vermont yearbook, The Ariel 1907, pp. 25-31.