Baschwitz, who, as was customary in German middle class, was known by his second name Kurt, was a German Jew and a friend of Otto Frank, the father of Anne Frank. Baschwitz was called upon as an expert to authenticate the Diary of Anne Frank.
Baschwitz studied at several universities in Germany and graduated in economics and held pronounced liberal views. He was awarded a doctorate with a thesis about social reformer, Lujo Brentano.
Career in Germany
After conclusion of his academic studies Kurt Baschwitz started his career as a journalist writing for several German national newspapers.
During World War I he was correspondent for a newspaper in Rotterdam and learned to speak Dutch. Influenced deeply by what he considered to be humiliating terms forced on German at the end of the war, his political opinions veered considerably towards the right although he soon recognized the potential dangers of extremism in German society.
In 1923 he wrote his first book, about the manipulation of public opinion by the press and propaganda.In addition to his work as a journalist he became an erudite and popular public speaker. In 1930 he was offered a position on the faculty of the University of Heidelberg but he refused, on account of the growing anti-Semitic climate in Germany which would make his life and that of his family difficult.
Baschwitz continued to write on the history of the press, the hatred of minority groups in society and censorship.
Career in the Netherlands
Early in 1933, after Hitler came to power and when it was no longer possible for his work to be published in Germany, Baschwitz fled from Nazi-Germany to the Netherlands. There he started to work for a research agency which published information about the dark side of German National Socialism.
In 1935 Kurt Baschwitz was offered a position with the International Institute of Social History and then in the same year he started to lecture on the history of newspapers at the University of Amsterdam.
In 1938 he published a work on the abuse of on mass psychology which was a strong attack on the Nazi behaviour.
During the Nazi Occupation of the Netherlands
During the German occupation of the Netherlands Baschwitz rarely left his home. In 1940, he got arrested by German police during a street razzia and was brought to Westerbork concentration camp near Amsterdam. Only five days later, his daughter Isa Teske-Baschwitz, who was active in the anti-Nazi Dutch Resistance movement, achieved his release with the help of false identity papers which showed that he was not a Jew.
After World War 2
After World War II Kurt Baschwitz was reinstated as a lecturer at the University of Amsterdam.
In 1948 he became associate professor in the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences and four years later he was made full professor in science and mass media in the psychology department.
In July 1948 he founded and became the first director of the Dutch Institute for the Science of the Press which organized courses for the training of young journalists. Baschwitz was considered to be a pioneer in communication science and mass psychology and contributed much to the international exchange of information and research among scholars in the field.
After 1945, one of his major efforts was to rediscover information on the field had been lost because of the war. Gazette, the international journal that he founded in 1955, was the mouthpiece of this campaign and acted as a liaison centre for research and researchers from different parts of the world. His magnum opus, "Hexen und Hexenprozesse: Geschichte eines Masewnwahns und seiner Bekaempfung" which discussed methods of fighting attempts at mass delusion appeared in 1963 and was printed in several languages. Baschwitz also contributed to the founding of a ‘seminarium’ for mass psychology, public opinion and propaganda at the University of Amsterdam. In 1972 it was renamed the Baschwitz Institute for collective behavior studies, before merging with the public opinion section within the department for communication studies in 1985.
- Der Massenwahn, seine Wirkung und seine Beherrschung, 1923
- De strijd met den duivel. De heksenprocessen in het licht der massapsychologie, 1948
- De krant door alle tijden, 1938
- Du und die Masse, 21951
- ANNE FRANK - Was schrieb das Kind?, DER SPIEGEL 14/1959, 01.04.1959 http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-42624942.html
- © ING - Het Instituut voor Nederlandse Geschiedenis (Institute for history of the Netherlands) Den Haag. Bronvermelding: J.M.H.J. Hemels, 'Baschwitz, Siegfried Kurt (1886-1968)', in Biografisch Woordenboek van Nederland. Available online 7. February 2010 http://www.inghist.nl/Onderzoek/Projecten/BWN/lemmata/bwn4/baschwi