The Past Nazi Involvement of Staff at the Federal Ministry for Atomic Issues / Ministry for Research, 1955-1972

Employees (IfZ):  Dr. Niels Weise
Weitere Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter:  

Dr. des. Daniela Hettstedt (LMU)


This project investigates the past involvement with Nazi institutions, personnel, and science policy on the part of the staff at the predecessors of today’s Federal Ministry for Education and Research between 1955 and 1972 (1955-1957 Federal Ministry for Atomic Issues, 1957-1961 Federal Ministry for Atomic Energy and Water Management, 1961-1962 Federal Ministry for Atomic Energy, 1962-1969 Federal Ministry for Scientific Research, 1969-1972 Federal Ministry of Education and Science). The study is able to build on the results of the IfZ’s feasibility study in 2014.

The project pursues the following central aims:

  1. An analysis of institutional continuity and discontinuity: The Ministry for Atomic Issues / Ministry for Research is an exceptional case among the West German ministries of the time. The National Socialist “Reich Ministry of Science, Education, and Culture” had not had a direct successor ministry in the Federal Republic, with experience of the NS period undoubtedly playing a role in this regard. The Ministry for Atomic Issues, founded in 1955 in a very particular historical situation, would eventually evolve into a Federal Ministry for Research and Science and would gradually take on other areas of competence – with limitations resulting from the federal system.
  2. A nuanced prosopographical analysis of the leading figures of the ministry: The question of former Nazi Party membership serves as an important criterion, while not to be viewed in isolation. As the “German Atomic Commission”, made up of representatives of the sciences, the economy, and society, took on great importance during the ministry’s first years, the members of this body will also be investigated prosopographically for this period.
  3. Detailed biographical analyses of selected leading figures of the ministry: These are particular studies of people at the top of the ministry (ministers and state secretaries) as well as ministry officials who may have been strongly tainted by a Nazi past.
  4. The examination of possible continuities in science policy: In cases in which individuals were confirmed to have been strongly tainted by a Nazi past, their professional activity within the ministry will be analyzed with regard to political-mental strands of continuity. Possible continuities in fundamental issues, such as priorities in the ministry’s support of research, also need to be taken into account.

The project’s findings are generally to be placed within the greater context of the institutional history of the Federal Republic of Germany and the results to be correlated with those of the other federal institutions with regard to the possible Nazi pasts of their staff members.

The report on the workshop was entitled Zukunftsorientierung und NS-Vergangenheit (“Orientation towards the Future and the Nazi Past”) and presented in Munich, October 10-11, 2017:


Raithel, Thomas: Machbarkeitsstudie: Vorgeschichte des Bundesministeriums für Bildung und Forschung bzw. seiner Vorgängerinstitutionen, München (“Feasibility Study: Background History of the Federal Ministry for Education and Research and its Predecessor Institutions“)

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