Johan Östling
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The rebirth of the university
in Humboldt and the modern German university

In the years of occupation after the Second World War, the German debate was characterised by a desire to examine and vitalise the academic heritage. This chapter concentrates on three of the most influential figures in the post-war debate on the German university: philosopher Karl Jaspers, historian Gerhard Ritter, and Germanic philologist Werner Richter. All were older mandarins and all had similar generational experiences: they were born in the 1880s, they had been professors of the humanities during the 1920s, and they had opposed Nazism in different ways. The proposals that Jaspers, Ritter, Richter, and several others formulated during the early post-war period were anything but timeless; they were expressions of the experiences and ideals of a particular generation. These debaters sought a rebirth of the university, but what they witnessed was the swan song of the mandarins.

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