Obituary: Professor Dietrich Goldschmidt

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The Independent Culture
DIETRICH GOLDSCHMIDT, as much as anyone, was the voice of conscience in a post-war Germany trying to come to terms with its past. As a devout Christian of the "Confessing Church" involved with Pastor Martin Niemoeller and Helmut Gollwitzer, he became a leader in Aktion Suehnezeichen (the "Repentance Action Committee" which to this day tries to atone for the sins of the Nazi period) and served as a mediating voice between Church and university.

Last February, the Technical University in Berlin awarded him an honorary doctorate to add to the many distinctions he had achieved in the course of a remarkable life. Between 1933 and 1939, Goldschmidt had taken a degree at the TU in engineering and factory design. As a "half-Jew" he was only permitted to be a factory worker and from 1944 to 1945 was condemned to do slave labour in a work-camp.

After the Second World War, he studied at the University of Gottingen, where he also taught. Goldschmidt made major contributions in the fields of education and sociology, describing himself as a "sociologically orientated generalist" as his work embraced more and more areas. In 1956 he became a professor at the Pedagogic University in Berlin and then, from 1963 until 1982, served as one of the directors of the Max Planck Research Institute. In 1966, the West German government appointed him to the Deutsche Bildungsrat dealing with reforms within the German education system.

His concern with Third World issues took him to many countries. At the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania he established its Engineering Faculty. In the United States, he became part of a commission studying current educational structures. His life's desire seemed fulfilled when he was offered a visiting professorship at Stanford University; but he felt that his departure would leave Aktion Suehnezeichen and his peace work without leadership.

Goldschmidt was a leader in the dialogue between Christians and Jews, particularly through his work with the Working Group of Christians and Jews at the Kirchentag which meets every two years at a Protestant assembly bringing together almost 200,000 participants.

His many books include Technology in Developing Lands (1980); The University as an Institution: present problems and future trends (1983); Between Elite and Mass Education (1983); Unter der Last des Holocausts ("Under the Burden of the Holocaust", 1989); and a biographical study of Rabbi Robert Raphael Geis (1984).

Many of the German notices of his death mention Goldschmidt's private initiative in helping a village of old and suffering Jews in Drohobicz in Ukraine and asked that it be supported in his memory. Even in death, he endures as a voice of conscience.

Dietrich Goldschmidt, educator and political activist: born Freiburg, Germany 4 December 1914; Professor, Pedagogic University, Berlin 1956- 82; Director, Max Planck Research Institute 1963-82; died Berlin 20 May 1998.

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