The Allied occupation of Strasbourg on November 23, 1944, spelled the end of the Reich University. Most professors had fled, but Johannes Stein, Dean of the Medical Faculty, stayed on. What did he know about the crimes of the National Socialists?
Most professors had already fled, only a few had stayed on. One of them was Johannes Stein, Dean of the Medical Faculty and grandfather of Kirsten Esch, the author of this film. This documentary is her coming to terms with her own family history. During the Third Reich, this university was seen as a prestige project of National Socialism. Intended as a spiritual bulwark of German culture in occupied Alsace, it was meant to spread Nazi ideology westwards and even eclipse the Sorbonne in Paris. The faculties were staffed with what were purportedly the best minds in Germany, including the Third Reich’s leading lawyer Ernst Rudolf Huber, and the physicist and later peace researcher Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker. In her film, the author looks at her grandfather’s role as Dean of the Medical Faculty. What did he know about the crimes committed there? Did he ever visit the nearby Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp, where August Hirt conducted unspeakable “experiments” on human beings? But Kirsten Esch also looks at the Reich University as a place of resistance, and talks about the local students who, led by Alphonse Adam, opposed the compulsory conscription of Alsatian men to the German Wehrmacht. For their resistance, many were sentenced to death.
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