Fury as top German uni votes to keep antisemite in its name

Eberhard Karl University in Tübingen, near Stuttgart, will not scrap its formal name despite calls for the change - Count Eberhard Im Bart was a virulent 15th-century antisemite who expelled all the Jews living in the city


A leading German university has voted to keep the name of a notorious antisemite as part of its official title —prompting fury among students and Jewish groups.

Eberhard Karl University in Tübingen, near Stuttgart, made the decision not to scrap its formal name despite calls for the change. Count Eberhard Im Bart was a virulent 15th-century antisemite who expelled all the Jews living in the city and surrounding area.

Hanna Veiler, vice-president of the Jewish Student Union of Germany (JSUG), told the JC the university’s decision was “utterly disappointing”, while Michael Blume, the commissioner against antisemitism for the state of Baden-Württemberg, where the university is located, called it “wrong”.

Ms Veiler said: “Of course we respect the fact that it was a democratic decision, but it is utterly disappointing.

“We find it so disappointing that the university had the chance to change this situation and to set an example.

“We realise that you cannot just change a difficult past, but it had the opportunity to draw the right conclusions. Here the university has just failed.” In a written statement to the JC, Mr Blume said: “The fact that the senate of my alma mater did not even listen to me before making its brief and wrong decision, despite my letter of support for the Jewish students, unfortunately speaks for itself.”

Founded in 1477, the university is internationally renowned, particularly in the sciences, producing 11 Nobel Prize winners.

In the hope of ending a decades-long controversy over its name, it commissioned a six-strong team of expert historians to determine the extent to which Count Eberhard could be deemed antisemitic. The investigation was led by Sigrid Hirbodian, director of the Tübingen Institute for Regional History, who concluded in her report: “Eberhard is hostile to Jews and thus in no way differs from the vast majority of his contemporaries and peers.”

The university senate then voted 16-15 to keep the name, with two abstentions. As a two-thirds majority was needed to change the title, the university will continue to be called the Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen.

Mr Blume said: “I consider the present report on the exculpation of Count Eberhard im Bart to be historically one-sided and weak and assume that there will be a new vote on renaming in just a few years. Nobody should have to study at a university that is named after a Jew hater, Jew expeller and public adulterer.”

He suggested to the university’s rector, Bernd Engler, that the university should be renamed after Eberhard’s mother, Mechthild von der Pfalz, a book collector and patron of the arts.

Students have campaigned since the 1970s to rename the university. Ms Veiler wrote in the Jewish newspaper the Jüdische Allgemeine last year: “How is it possible that with all the lip-service German politicians repeatedly claim to have learned from history, Jewish students still have to go in and out of institutions named after staunch antisemites? And how can it be that the discourse on this is conducted so far away from the students?

“We cannot and will no longer tolerate the unwillingness of German institutions to stand by their antisemitic past.”

Another name proposed is that of Ernst Bloch, a Jewish Marxist philosopher who died in 1977 and remains a popular figure with radical students. Flags bearing the legend “Ernst Bloch University Tübingen” are a familiar site at left-wing protests.

However, some Jewish students want the name to remain the same. Josef Peskin, board member of the Jewish Student Association for the Region of Baden, told the JC: “The JSUD (Jüdische Studierendenunion Deutschland) started a large-scale campaign last year: ‘Remembering means changing.’

“But we say changing does not mean deleting and erasing. Changing also means changing a perception.

“By just deleting something, this possibility, this opportunity for a necessary confrontation with the person is thereby completely taken away. ”
The controversial Mayor of Tübingen, Boris Palmer, who is of Jewish descent, is also opposed to the change.

He posted on Facebook: “The demand for this clearly stems from woke cancel culture. The evidence for Eberhard’s antisemitism is by no means drastic in the context of the time.” Despite repeated attempts by the JC, Mr Palmer was unavailable for comment.

Last year the Beuth University, Berlin, changed its name to the Berlin University of Applied Sciences and Technology because of the antisemitic history of 19th-century Prussian statesman Christian Peter Wilhelm Beuth.

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