Sunday, October 5, 2014

Spotlight: Walter Naumann


Dr. Walter Friedrich Naumann
Nov. 3, 1910-Jan. 1997

A picture from Naumann's AFSC File

In 1939, another refugee was welcomed by McPherson College, a professor: Dr. Walter Naumann. Just like Opa, Dr. Naumann was assisted by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). We will look at one of his correspondences with the AFSC next blog. We will follow some of his case file and share it with you in the future. This is some of Walter’s story from his AFSC file and what I could find on the internet. Enjoy his story.

A picture from the Spectator,
the McPherson student Newspaper:
1939
Walter Naumann was born in Nov 3, 1910 in the mountains of Bohemia. He came from a long line of Protestant ministers. His uncle was Friedrich Naumann, a German liberal politician (according to wikipedia, Friedrich co-founded the German Democratic Party and was “the father of the constitution of the Weimar Republic”). Walter studied literature, specifically French, with the Romance scholar Ernst Robert Curtius, under whose guidance he earned his PhD at the University of Bonn. From there, he went on to teach in various places...five months in Italy, four months in Spain, and then at the University of Toulouse in France. On our more recent timeline in the blog, he is in a hostel from February to March of 1939, then went to teach briefly at Pacific College in Oregon. By March of 1939, he is in Cambridge, MA. The AFSC works to get him a permanent position at a college, which ends up being at McPherson College.
          
In his AFSC file, you learn more about his desire to leave Germany. He was engaged to a Jewish girl, Hanna Jacobsohn, the daughter of a prominent former professor of German literature. While in Germany, if he were to continue his relationship with her, it would have been a race crime. So, he is trying to get her to the U.S. as well. He is successful and in January of 1941, they are married at McPherson College. 

I’ve pieced together information following his time at McPherson. He goes on to teach at University of Michigan and at Oberlin College. At University of Chicago, Wisconsin and Ohio University, he taught modern German literary history. He settled in at Ohio State University, where he held the rank of full professor. His family returned to Germany in 1954 and, when he was able in 1963, Walter Naumann went back to teach at the Technical University of Darmstadt. 

Throughout his career, he wrote many books and essays on the Romance languages and on many famous Austrian authors and playwrights. He died in January of 1997 and his wife died later that year.

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