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Erich Maschke (March 2, 1900 – February 11, 1982) was a Nazi and a German historian and history professor. He taught most recently at the Ruprecht-Karls-University in Heidelberg.[1] During the Nazi era he promoted racist and nationalist ideology[2] After the war he led the so-called Maschke Committee which claimed German prisoners-of-war during World War II were mistreated by Allies.[3][4]

Erich Maschke
Born(1900-03-02)March 2, 1900
Berlin, German Empire
DiedFebruary 11, 1982(1982-02-11) (aged 81)
Heidelberg, West Germany
OccupationNazi and racist activist, historian, professor



Born in Berlin on 2 March 1900, Maschke was the son of an ophthalmologist.[5] After graduating from Askanische high school in 1919 he studied medicine in Berlin, Innsbruck and Freiburg. He was involved in the Bündische Jugend, a German Youth Movement. He was an editor with the magazine Der weiße Ritter (The white knight). These experiences led him to change career. He went to Berlin in 1923 and Königsberg in 1925 where he studied history and geography, among other things, under Erich Caspar. In 1927, he completed his doctorate with a thesis on the Teutonic Knights and his habilitation in 1929 with his habilitation thesis on Peter's Pence in Poland and eastern Germany. His research was also focused on the history and historiography of Prussia and the European Late Middle Ages. Throughout his research on Eastern Europe he expressed racist formulations [6]


After completing his habilitation in 1929, Maschke was appointed lecturer and in 1935 non-tenured associate professor of East and West Slavic history in Konigsberg. He became a member of the Sturmabteilung (SA) in 1933 and also joined the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) in 1937. That same year he was appointed Chair of Medieval and Modern History at the University of Jena.[7] He became a propagandist for German aggression in Eastern Europe and celebrated what he described as "German right to the East". His research was riddled with racism and claims that German conquests are needed to allow "Growth of the German national body".[8]

For a publication accompanying an exhibition to the Nazi Party in 1938 under the title "Europas Schicksal im Osten" (Europe's fate in the East), Maschke posed the question of "east colonization", explaining that this is historically seen as the "ethnic history of the German return-migration in the once-Germanic East". He coined the phrase Dreieinheit von Rasse, Volk und Raum (trinity of race, ethnicity and space).[9]

During the Second World War he was in charge of training the Wehrmacht General Staff in Poznań. In his journalistic contributions in 1940 and 1941, he welcomed the military change as a prerequisite to the establishment of a German domination in Europe.[10] In 1942 he was called to the University of Leipzig, where he researched mainly on the Middle Ages, especially the study of the Staufers.In 1942 he praised in internal pamphlet Germany's aggression in Europe stating that "the Germans alone had 'drawn the eastern territory to Europe, organically, without breaks, without symptoms of poisoning".[11] From 1943 to 1945, Maschke lectured on the German American Bund. He also worked as a research consultant with the Amt Rosenberg, participating in the development of curricula for Nazi Ordensburg and worked as an editor for Alfred Rosenberg's Literature Office as well as for the Party Censorship Commission for the Protection of National Socialist Literature (PPK).[12] In 1943 he published the results of his research into the imperial history of the house of Hohenstaufen.


In 1953, after eight years of being a Soviet prisoner of war,[1] he returned to his family, then living in Speyer. Pursuant to an agreement with the city, he published various works on Speyer's history for several years beginning in 1954. In the same year he received, through Fritz Ernst, a teaching position at the Ruprecht-Karls-University of Heidelberg.[1] He taught the trade and economic history of the Middle Ages. In 1956 he became head of the Department of Economic and Social History. From 1959 until his retirement in 1968, he led, together with Werner Conze, the newly founded Institute for Social and Economic History. In the 1960s he published several works on 15th Century German cartels and the history of Gutehoffnungshütte. Through connections in France, including to Fernand Braudel in Toulouse, leader of the Annales School, in 1963 Maschke received one of the first invitations to a German after the Second World War as a visiting professor at the École pratique des hautes études in Sorbonne.

In 1958 he was appointed to the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences. From 1968 he was a member of the Heidelberg Academy for Sciences and Humanities and was also instrumental in the preparation for the Staufer exhibition in Stuttgart which took place in 1975.

From 1962 to 1974 he was the editor of a 22-volume series, Zur Geschichte der deutschen Kriegsgefangenen des Zweiten Weltkrieges (The History of German prisoners of war of in the Second World War).[12][13] This series was the report compiled by the Scientific Commission for the History of the German Prisoners of War, set up to investigate the killing of Germans captured as prisoners of war. The commission was headed by Maschke and was more popularly known as the Maschke Commission or Maschke Committee.[1][14][15] Maschke's commission report accused Allies of atrocities against Nazi Germany's soldiers taken prisoner.[1][16]

Today Maschke's views in particular towards Eastern Europe and alleged German identity are discredited by modern historians in Germany [17]

Personal lifeEdit

Maschke married Elsbeth Horn whom he met in 1931 while she was a student in Ziegelhausen, Heidelberg. Their marriage produced two sons. Maschke died on 11 February 1982 just days after the death of his wife, who had often accompanied him on meetings, conferences and lecture tours in his later years due to his visual impairment.[18] Maschke's estate is located in the Central State Archive Stuttgart, parts of his documents were also at the Bundesarchiv-military archive in Freiburg im Breisgau issued.[19]


  • Friedrich Facius, Jürgen Sydow (Editors.): Inhalt Aus Stadt- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte Südwestdeutschlands. Festschrift für Erich Maschke Volume 75. Geburtstag. Stuttgart 1975.
  • Barbara Schneider: Geschichtswissenschaft im Nationalsozialismus – Das Wirken Erich Maschkes in Jena. In: Tobias Kaiser, Steffen Kaudelka, Matthias Steinbach: Historisches Denken und gesellschaftlicher Wandel. Studien zur Geschichtswissenschaft zwischen Kaiserreich und deutscher Zweistaatlichkeit. Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-936411-23-9, pp. 91–114.
  • Eckart Schremmer: Erich Maschke (2 March 1900 – 11 February 1982). In: Historische Zeitschrift, Volume 235 (1982), pp. 251–255.
  • Michael Schröders: Eine Revolution unseres gesamten Geschichtsbildes? Erich Maschke, die NS-Geschichtsideologie und die politische Schulung in Ordensburgen der NSDAP. In: Nationalsozialismus im Kreis Euskirchen. Band 3: Kultur, Wirtschaft, Tourismus. Editors. vom Geschichtsverein des Kreises Euskirchen. Euskirchen 2011 ISBN 978-3-941037-83-0, pp. 341–415. Präsentation/Kurzfassung bei:, 2011


  1. ^ a b c d e David E. Lorey, William H. Beezley, eds. (2002). Genocide, Collective Violence, and Popular Memory: The Politics of Remembrance in the Twentieth Century. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 200. ISBN 9780842029827.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  2. ^ The Shaping of German Identity: Authority and Crisis, 1245-1414 Len Scales, page 29
  3. ^ Erich Maschke, Zur Geschichte der deutschen Kriegsgefangenen des Zweiten Weltkrieges Bielefeld, E. und W. Gieseking, 1962-1974 Vol 15 P 185-230.
  4. ^ Müller, Rolf-Dieter; Ueberschär, Gerd R. (2009). Hitler's War in the East, 1941–1945: A Critical Assessment. New York & Oxford: Berghahn Books. p. 360. ISBN 9780857450753.
  5. ^ Burleigh, Michael (1988). Germany Turns Eastwards: A Study of Ostforschung in the Third Reich. Cambridge. p. 57. ISBN 9780521351201.
  6. ^ The Heidelberg Myth: The Nazification and Denazification of a German University Steven P. Remy, page 229
  7. ^ Grüttner, Michael (1 April 2004). Biographisches Lexikon zur nationalsozialistischen Wissenschaftspolitik (Biographical Dictionary of National Socialist science policy) (in German). Synchron. p. 114. ISBN 978-3935025683.
  8. ^ War Stories: The Search for a Usable Past in the Federal Republic of Germany, Robert G. Moeller, page 177
  9. ^ Schroeder, Michael (2011). "Eine Revolution unseres gesamten Geschichtsbildes? Erich Maschke, die NS-Geschichtsideologie und die politische Schulung in Ordensburgen der NSDAP (A revolution of our entire view of history? Erich Maschke, the Nazi ideology of history and the political training in religious strongholds of the Nazi Party).". In Geschichtsverein d. Kreises Euskirchen e.V. (ed.). Nationalsozialismus im Kreis Euskirchen: Die braune Vergangenheit einer Region (National Socialism in the district of Euskirchen). 3. Verlag Ralf Liebe. p. 347. ISBN 978-3935221795.
  10. ^ Schneider, Barbara (2008). "Erich Maschke". In Ingo Haar & Michael Fahlbusch (eds.). Handbuch der völkischen Wissenschaften: Personen - Institutionen - Forschungsprogramme - Stiftungen (Handbook of racial science. People - Institutions - Research Programs - Foundations). Saur, Munich. p. 404. ISBN 978-3598117787.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  11. ^ Germany: The Long Road West: Volume 2: 1933-1990 Heinrich August Winkler, Alexander Sager - 2007 In a 1942 pamphlet intended only for internal use, Erich Maschke, an expert on the history of the Teutonic Order, wrote that the Germans alone had 'drawn the eastern territory to Europe, organically, without breaks, without symptoms of poisoning
  12. ^ a b Klee, Ernst (2005). Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945 (The Encyclopedia of People in the Third Reich. Who was What before and after 1945?) (Second revised ed.). Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer. p. 393. ISBN 978-3-596-16048-8.
  13. ^ Gunter Bischof, Fritz Plasser, Barbara Stelzl-Marx, eds. (31 December 2011). New Perspectives on Austrians and World War II. Transaction Publishers. p. 122. ISBN 9781412815567.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  14. ^ Lockenour, Jay (2001). Soldiers As Citizens: Former Wehrmacht Officers in the Federal Republic of Germany, 1945-1955. U of Nebraska Press. p. 204. ISBN 9780803229402.
  15. ^ Buttar, Prit (2012). Battleground Prussia: The Assault on Germany's Eastern Front 1944#45. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 9781780964652.
  16. ^ Doyle, Robert (14 May 2010). The Enemy in Our Hands: America's Treatment of Prisoners of War from the Revolution to the War on Terror. University Press of Kentucky. p. 399. ISBN 9780813173832.
  17. ^ The Other Prussia: Royal Prussia, Poland and Liberty, 1569-1772 Karin Friedrich, page 13
  18. ^ Schneider, Barbara (2008). "Erich Maschke". In Ingo Haar & Michael Fahlbusch (eds.). Handbuch der völkischen Wissenschaften. Personen – Institutionen – Forschungsprogramme – Stiftungen (Handbook of racial science. People - Institutions - Research Programs - Foundations). Saur: Munich. p. 405.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  19. ^ Colberg, Rosemarie; Schiffer, Peter (1989). "Bestand J 40/10. Vorbemerkung". Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart. Preface Erich Maschke estate.