NEW YORK – The University of Göttingen unleashed a firestorm of criticism from scholars, students and Jewish organizations when it did not extend the employment contract of Dr. Samuel Salzborn one of the most prominent academic experts in German anti-Semitism.
“It is a scandal! It shows that critical research on right-wing radicalism/anti-Semitism is not desired in Germany,” Julius Schoeps, a leading German Jewish historian and a descendant of the 18th century philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, wrote by email in early May. “One can only shake his head.”
An open letter supported by scores of academics, student groups, and human rights NGOs was sent to the university’s administration in late April titled, “Retain the chair of Professor Salzborn.”
The letter states: “Prof. Salzborn is one of the most distinguished anti-Semitism researchers in the German-speaking area.Considering the Presidential Board’s focus on continuously being nominated as a ‘university of excellence’ (granted by a Federal research program) the decision not to extend the contract is highly inconsistent, to say the least. Prof. Salzborn is also a renowned expert on right-wing extremism, who has published many studies on the subject.”
Salzborn, who has been cited in the New York Times, also has an expertise in contemporary anti-Semitism the loathing and de-legitimization of the Jewish state.
Göttingen is a major university city in the state of Lower Saxony. During the widespread outbreaks of anti-Semitism including violence amid Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Salzborn told The New York Times: “There is a startling indifference in the German public to the current display of anti-Semitism.”
“In times of PEGIDA [Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West], arsoned refugee homes, the rise of the right-wing populist party AfD, and nearly five years after the neo-Nazi terrorist group NSU was discovered (the scope and support networks of which are yet to be fully examined) the Presidential Board’s decision to not extend the contract also sends a dubious political signal,” the letter reads.
“The faculty’s student representatives (FSR SoWi) strongly criticize abandoning research on right-wing extremism at the University of Göttingen this is undoubtedly the outcome of this decision.”
The protest letter, which has over 350 individual signees, closed with: “We are outraged by the Presidential Board’s decision and we demand that Prof. Salzborn’s contract will be extended, and to stop the continuous marginalization of our faculty and its programs.”
In an email Andrei Markovits, a professor of comparative politics and German studies at the University of Michigan, said “I think it is terrible to have Samuel’s position eliminated.”
Romas Bielke, a spokesperson for the university, wrote by email that “it can’t be spoken of a marginalization of the faculty, as it is called in the open letter. A weakening of the faculty is in no way intended. Rather a clear strengthening of the faculty is planned.”
When asked about the reasons for terminating Salzborn’s contract, Bielke said the university does not comment on “personnel matters.”
The university was engulfed in a modern anti-Semitism scandal in 2008 for teaching hatred of Israelis and a wild conspiracy theory about Jews.
The professor of sports, Arnd Krüger, argued in his lecture on “Hebron and Munich: How do we communicate sports history without getting caught in [the] snare of anti-Semitism?” that the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches who died at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich essentially committed suicide “for the cause of Israel.”
Krüger also said Israel had a high abortion rate compared with other industrialized nations, and that the Jewish state went to great lengths to prevent “living with disabilities.”
Ilan Mor, the then-chargé d’affairs at the Israeli Embassy, told at the time: “What does that have to do with” the Palestinian Black September terror raid against Israel’s Olympic squad? ”
Mor said whether or not Krüger “steps down is a matter for the decision-makers” at the university and the German Federation of Science of Sports.
“This is the worst form of dehumanizing the State of Israel,” Mor added.
The university did not dismiss Krüger. Bielke said the university’s executive committee said at the time it will set a signal “against intolerance, racism and anti-Semitism.”
Salzborn has taught at the university since 2012. His contract will end in 2017.