The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English- Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian- Americans, or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality than with the other citizens of the American Republic… Theodore Roosevelt


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We have chosen to illustrate this entry with three Germans whose intellectual gifts have had a profound impact on this country. The first is not, technically, an immigrant since he had acquired American citizenship when California, where he was living at the time, became a state in 1850. But his associations and impact on the study of archaeology were so profound in the 19th century that he was viewed as one of the luminaries of the field. Without debating his claims or his methods he was so profoundly American that he had his first name changed from Heinrich to Henry in gratitude for what his adopted country had done for him.

The second picture is Charles Proteus Steinmetz – a genius from Wroclaw that was then part of Prussia [today it is in Poland] – who came to the United States as an Immigrant in 1889 to escape arrest for being a socialist. He was not only a genius for his work with alternating current – which made GE the megalithic force in industry that it is today – but because he recognized the genius of the American system. He abandoned socialism and in spite of a full load at GE found time to serve as president of the Board of Education of Schenectady, and as president of the Schenectady City Council.

The third picture is Thomas Mann. He came to the United States in 1937 to escape Hitler and was invited to teach at Princeton and naturalized as an American citizen in 1944. He never became an American returning to Europe after the war. Like most of the personalities in Coser’s book these people were refugees, at best hyphenated Americans and  thought they had more to offer America than it had to offer them – which, after all, was only survival.

Refugee scholars in America : their impact and their experiences New Haven : Yale University Press, c 1984 Lewis A. Coser Political refugees United States Biography Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xviii, 351 p. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG   

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What were the contributions to American scholarship and culture made by European refugees from Nazi persecution?  How did these émigrés react to the experience of being strangers in the land of their refuge?  Coser examines the impact of refugee intellectuals on the social sciences and the humanities in America, painting a collective portrait that sheds light not only on the accomplishments of the Europeans but also on the development of the several disciplines in America that either welcomed or rejected them.

Coser explains, for example, why the émigrés had more influence in the field of psychoanalysis than in psychology; why Austrian economists were more successful in America than were German economists; why only a few European sociologists made significant contributions in America.  Discussing Bruno Bettelheim, Jacob Marshak, Hannah Arendt, Thomas Mann, Vladimir Nabokov, Roman Jacobson, Erwin Panofsky, and Paul Tillich, Coser describes their backgrounds, personalities, and careers in America, providing revealing anecdotes that help to bring these figures to life.  His accounts of those who were famous in the country of their birth but never achieved eminence or a feeling of adjustment in America provide a poignant contrast.

Coser concludes that the refugee intellectuals were most influential in areas of study where they filled a perceived need not previously met or in fields where they could build on already established traditions.  His perceptive analysis of the European-born men and women who altered American intellectual history is an absorbing and memorable story.
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