GERMAN AND UKRAINIAN SCIENTIFIC COOPERATION DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR BASED ON THE MEMOIR OF PROFESSOR HEINRICH WALTER, GERMAN BOTANIST (1898–1989)

  • Olena Korzun

Abstract

The article – based on the “Confessions of an Environmentalist”, a memoir by Heinrich Walter (1898–1989), a world-famous biologist, specialist in the field of phytogeography – analyzes the perception by the German scholar of Ukrainian scientific life in the areas occupied during the Second World War by German forces and his relations with Ukrainian colleagues.

The life journey of Heinrich Walter is closely related to Ukrainian lands – he was born here, spent the first 20 years of his life in Ukraine, and later returned during the Second World War. The memoir mentioned is widely used by the international community of scientists as a source for studying the history of science. However, his views on evaluating the events of social and scientific life during the Second World War, and relationships with Ukrainian scientists living in the occupied lands have to date received little scientific attention.

After the onset of the German military expansion, changes occurred in the agenda of German agrarian science and agricultural research. The war enabled the usurpation of all agrarian scientific institutions and seed stations as well as the results of their research work in the Eastern occupied territories. Consequentially, the studies and the incorporation of genetic resources along with the scientific potential of the occupied territories into German research work were enlisted to serve the “agricultural autarchy” (“Nahrungsfreiheit”) of the German people and were deemed vital for the war effort.

In 1942–1943, the Ukrainian lands became a sort of a scientific experimental laboratory or platform for many German researchers. According to Walter, the military period was perceived as a complex of opportunities for the professional development of German scientists – including the advancements in utilization of the new territories, acquaintance with other research schools and scholars, and the scientific contributions to the efficiency of agricultural utilization of the occupied lands. On the other hand, it was an opportunity to demonstrate to the German state the value of their professional service through practical use of scientific knowledge gained in their professional fields, as experts on the local natural conditions encountered in the occupied lands, their knowledge of Russian, etc. Despite a gap of more than 40 years between the publishing of the Walter memoir in 1980 and the times depicted in them, the author continued to show his sympathy for Nazi policies on a range of multiple matters.

The life of the Ukrainian scientific community as depicted by the author illustrates that under the occupation, Ukrainian scholars employed various different survival strategies. Work at research institutions estblished by the occupation authorities allowed them to improve living conditions and continue research activities, and permitted them to preserve the scientific collections on hands in the midst of military conflict. The war conditions constantly served to stimulate changes based on the principle of the binary criterion “friend/foe” in the perception of other people, despite the extensive propaganda and stereotypes imposed. However, the colonial nature of the occupation policy succeeded in creating an illusion of the purported “freedom of scientific thought”, and integration of the Ukrainian scientific community into the architecture of the German scientific field. The scientific potential of Ukrainian land was used by German occupation authorities only to maximize the utilization of the occupied territory in all its dimensions.

Keywords: the Second World War, Ukraine, agricultural science, agricultural research, occupation, cartographic expedition, Regional Institute of Agricultural Botany, H. Walter, H. Makhov, Yu. Kleopov.

Published
2019-12-15
Section
SECTION 2. LIFE AND DEATH IN NAZI-OCCUPIED UKRAINE