The Social Politics of Karl Escherich's 1933 Inaugural Presidential Lecture

J Hist Biol. 2023 Mar;56(1):65-95. doi: 10.1007/s10739-023-09702-2. Epub 2023 Jun 19.


The essay offers a close reading of the inaugural address Termite Craze by the entomologist Karl Escherich, the first German university president to be appointed by the Nazis. Faced with a divided audience and under pressure to politically align the university, Escherich, a former member of the NSDAP, discusses how and to what extent the new regime can recreate the egalitarian perfection and sacrificial predisposition of a termite colony. The paper pays particular attention to the ways in which Escherich tries to appease the various factions in his audience (faculty, students and the Nazi party); in doing so, it also discusses how Escherich depicts his address in the altered versions of his later memoirs.

Keywords: Escherich; Eusocial insects; Karl; National Socialism; Racism; Social parasitism; Termites; Universities.

Publication types

  • Address
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Faculty
  • Germany
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Isoptera*
  • National Socialism*
  • Politics
  • Universities