German Orientalism in Times of Turmoil: The Kahle-Strothmann Correspondence (1933 through 1938, 1945 through 1950)
BY SABINE SCHMIDTKE (Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton)
This study offers an annotated edition of the correspondence between Paul Ernst Kahle (1875–1964) and Rudolf Strothmann (1877–1960), two of the leading representatives of Oriental studies in Germany during the first half of the twentieth century. Kahle’s and Strothmann’s early epistolary exchange (1933–1938) falls into the period of Nazi rule in Germany, shedding some light on the ways in which each of them negotiated the political intricacies, temptations and dangers of the period. The situation completely changed for the two scholars during the second period of their correspondence, 1945 through 1950. Although Kahle thrived in his scholarly work during his time in England where he emigrated in 1938, he had lost his position of power within German academia. His letters show that he did not realize that his voice was no longer wanted or needed and that he was out of touch with the reality of post-war Germany. Strothmann in turn had gone through difficult years. Moreover, in 1946 and 1947 he fell seriously ill and was repeatedly hospitalized for several months, in addition to other common hardships during the immediate post-war period. Strothmann’s letters illustrate those dire circumstances while at the same time reflecting his determination to pursue his scholarship at all costs, and with success.