Like Yale and Princeton, Harvard University has declined to send representatives to the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the German University of Goettingen. The polite excuse is that it could not find any one to go. Had the authorities spoken with their customary frankness they would have made it plain that the refusal is in no sense a reflection on the German people or on German scholarship, but is a protest against the restrictions on academic and individual freedom imposed by the Hitler government.
This is, of course, the real reason why American colleges are so reluctant to take part in German celebrations. Themselves largely influenced by the best of the older German university traditions, many of the American colleges and universities regard the restrictions of the Hitler government as destructive of that scientific spirit and freedom of thought which rightly made German teaching great. They did honor to the older German scholarship by imitating it. Likewise, they have opened their doors to independent and fearless German teachers who have been exiled because of their courage and independence. Naturally, therefore, they are reluctant to do anything which might even indirectly be interpreted as doing honor to the new German spirit--a spirit of repression, narrowness and hostility to the truth.
In so doing they are living up to the highest traditions of great seats of learning. For centuries in France, England, America and pre-Hitler Germany the great universities have been the torchbearers of intellectual liberty and the nurseries of progress in the eternal struggle to test what is new by what is true. When the German universities have once more regained their freedom American representatives will gladly send their delegates and do them honor. Such greetings as may be sent to Goettingen and other German universities will be coolly polite and perfunctory until the great wrong done to German scholarship by the Hitler government has been atoned for.