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A pseudoscientific movement, it nonetheless won the support of many eminent physicists in Germany. The term was taken from the title of a 4-volume physics textbook by Nobel Laureate Philipp Lenard in the s. This movement began as an extension of a German nationalistic movement in the physics community which went back as far as World War I. On 25 August , during the German invasion of Belgium , German troops used petrol to set fire to the library of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

In , this led to a counter-reaction in the form of an "appeal" formulated by Wilhelm Wien and addressed to German physicists and scientific publishers, which was signed by sixteen German physicists, including Arnold Sommerfeld and Johannes Stark.

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They claimed that German character had been misinterpreted and that attempts made over many years to reach an understanding between the two countries had obviously failed. Therefore, they opposed the use of the English language by German scientific authors, editors of books, and translators. Thomson, had then signed further "declarations" , so that gradually a "war of the minds" [6] broke out. On the German side it was suggested to avoid an unnecessary use of English language in scientific texts concerning, e.

It was stressed, however, that this measure should not be misunderstood as a rejection of British scientific thought, ideas and stimulations. After the war, the perceived affronts of the Treaty of Versailles kept some of these nationalistic feelings running high, especially in Lenard, who had already complained about England in a small pamphlet at the beginning of the war. Socialist students organized a demonstration against Lenard, who was taken into protective custody by state prosecutor Hugo Marx a Jew. During the early years of the twentieth century, Albert Einstein 's Theory of Relativity caused bitter controversy within the worldwide physics community.

There were many physicists, especially the "old guard", who were suspicious of the intuitive meanings of Einstein's theories. While the response to Einstein was based in part on his concepts being a radical break from earlier theories, there was also an anti-Jewish element to some of the criticism.


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The leading theoretician of the Deutsche Physik type of movement was Rudolf Tomaschek , who had re-edited the famous physics textbook Grimsehl's Lehrbuch der Physik. In that book, which consists of several volumes, the Lorentz transformation was accepted, as well as quantum theory. However, Einstein's interpretation of the Lorentz transformation was not mentioned, and Einstein's name was completely ignored. Many classical physicists resented Einstein's dismissal of the notion of a luminiferous aether , which had been a mainstay of their work for the majority of their productive lives.

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They were not convinced by the empirical evidence for relativity. They believed that the measurements of the perihelion of Mercury and the null result of the Michelson—Morley experiment might be explained in other ways, and the results of the Eddington eclipse experiment were experimentally problematic enough to be dismissed as meaningless by the more devoted doubters.

Many of them were very distinguished experimental physicists, and Lenard was himself a Nobel laureate in physics. When the Nazis entered the political scene, Lenard quickly attempted to ally himself with them, joining the party at an early stage.

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Lenard [10] and Stark benefitted considerably from this Nazi support. Under the rallying cry that physics should be more "German" and " Aryan ," Lenard and Stark embarked on a Nazi-endorsed plan to replace physicists at German universities with "Aryan Physicists. There were no longer any Jewish physics professors in Germany, since under the Nuremberg Laws , Jews were not allowed to work in universities. Stark in particular also tried to install himself as the national authority on "German" physics under the principle of Gleichschaltung literally, "coordination" applied to other professional disciplines.

Under this Nazi-era paradigm, academic disciplines and professional fields followed a strictly linear hierarchy created along ideological lines.

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The figureheads of "Aryan Physics" met with moderate success, but the support from the Nazi party was not as great as Lenard and Stark would have preferred. After a long period of harassment of quantum physicist Werner Heisenberg , including getting him labeled a "White Jew" in Das Schwarze Korps , they began to fall from influence. Heisenberg was not only a pre-eminent physicist whom the Nazis realized they were better off with than without, however "Jewish" his theory might be in the eyes of Stark and Lenard, but Heisenberg had, as a young boy, attended school with SS chief Heinrich Himmler.

In a historic moment, Heisenberg's mother rang Himmler's mother and asked her if she would please tell the SS to give "Werner" a break.

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After beginning a full character evaluation, which Heisenberg both instigated and passed, Himmler forbade further attack on the physicist. Heisenberg would later employ his "Jewish physics," in the German project to develop nuclear fission for the purposes of nuclear weapons or nuclear energy use. Himmler promised Heisenberg that after Germany won the war, the SS would finance a physics institute to be directed by Heisenberg. Lenard began to play less and less of a role, and soon Stark ran into even more difficulty, as other scientists and industrialists known for being exceptionally "Aryan" came to the defense of Relativity and quantum mechanics.