Processing the past: The Presidential Commission for researching the National Socialist history of the KWS


In 1997, MPG President Hubert Markl appointed an independent commission of historians to study the history of the KWS during the National Socialist era. The commission was chaired by historians Reinhard Rürup and Wolfgang Schieder, who had made a name for themselves as experts on anti-Semitism and the history of National Socialism. The independent research project was financed by the Max Planck Society and all documents and archived materials were made available to the historians. The first ideas that the Society should revise its view of its role in the past had begun to form back in the 1980s. The project focused on examining the policy of the administrative headquarters of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, the research on race and genetics conducted at the KWS institutes, and armament research and agrarian research carried out in connection with the National Socialist expansion policy; also under scrutiny was the expulsion of Jewish scientists and the role of individual staff members, including the Nobel Laureate and longstanding President of the Max Planck Society, Adolf Butenandt. The commission’s work resulted in a total of 19 monographs and 28 preprints.

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