Werner Weber (mathematician)

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Werner Weber (January 3, 1906 in Oberstein, near Hamburg, Germany – February 2, 1975) was a German mathematician.[1] He was one of the Noether boys, the doctoral students of Emmy Noether. Considered scientifically gifted but a modest mathematician, he was also an extreme Nazi, who would later take part in driving Jewish mathematicians out of the University of Göttingen.

He later started work as part of a group of five mathematicians, recruited by Wilhelm Fenner, and which included Ernst Witt, Georg Aumann, Alexander Aigner, Oswald Teichmueller and Johann Friedrich Schultze, and lead by Wolfgang Franz, to form the backbone of the new mathematical research department in the late 1930s, which would eventually be called: Section IVc of Cipher Department of the High Command of the Wehrmacht (abbr. OKW/Chi).[2][3]


Weber was born in 1906 in Oberstein (near Hamburg, Germany), the son of a merchant. In 1924, he graduated from the Abitur. He studied mathematics in Hamburg and at the University of Göttingen and in 1928 he handed over the Lehramt staatsexamen (state examination) in Mathematics, Physics, Biology. Weber took his examination for promotion of Dr. phil. in Göttingen with Emmy Noether, (who was described by Pavel Alexandrov, Albert Einstein, Jean Dieudonné, Hermann Weyl, and Norbert Wiener as the most important woman in the history of mathematics), with a dissertation titled: Ideal theoretical interpretation of the representability of any natural numbers by square forms, (German: Idealtheoretische Deutung der Darstellbarkeit beliebiger natürlicher Zahlen durch quadratische Formen)[4] Noether had not been authorized to supervise dissertations on her own.[5]

In Göttingen, his postdoctoral scholarship was co-sponsored by Edmund Landau in 1931, with whom he had been an assistant since 1928 and whom he represented in 1933 after his leave of absence. Landau and Noether had judged his dissertation to be excellent, but Weber was only a mediocre mathematician, and his usefulness for Landau consisted chiefly of his abilities in accurate proofreading, to which Landau devoted much attention (according to an anecdote which was then prevalent, he was able to distinguish between an Italic point and a Roman point).[6] In 1933, Oswald Teichmüller who convinced Weber to convert to National Socialism in 1933.[7]

He was involved in the publication of the Deutsche Mathematik and published a book on the Pell equation.[8]

From 1946, Weber worked as a publishing director in Hamburg and from 1951 at the private school "Institut Dr. Brechtefeld" in Hamburg as a teacher. He left a detailed manuscript (written down before 1940) about his discussion with Hasse,[9] which serves as an important source for the events at that time in Göttingen.

Nazi Biography[edit]

Weber was a member of the SA, but only appeared on May 1, 1933 the Nazi party (No. 3,118,177[10]),[11] although he had previously sympathized with the Nazis. In November 1933, he signed the Loyalty Oath of German Professors to Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist State.

Removal of Jewish mathematicians[edit]

Weber was involved in the removal of the mathematician Edmund Landau on 2 November 1933 from the mathematics faculty at the University of Göttingen. Richard Courant was also forced out of Göttingen in May 1933. As the leader of a group of pro-Nazi students Weber, along with the Nazi mathematician Oswald Teichmüller, along with the SS, organized a group that commanded a boycott of the Jewish Edmund Landau's lectures. In a letter that Richard Courant wrote to Abraham Flexner, he stated:

were some seventy students, partly in SS uniforms, but inside [the lecture theatre] not a soul. Every student who wanted to enter was prevented from entering by Weber.[12]

Landau received a delegate from the students, who informed him that Aryan students want Aryan mathematics...and requested him from giving [any more] lectures. The speaker for the students was very young, scientifically gifted man, but completely muddled and notoriously.[13] That person was Oswald Teichmüller. Landau would leave the university soon after.

Mathematical Institute[edit]

On February 13, 1934, the university Dekan (Deacon) asked Weber, who was acting director of the mathematical institute at Göttingen, for recommendations on who should replace Hermann Weyl as new operational director. Several days later Weber recommended, as the best mathematician, the algebraist Helmut Hasse, then working at the University of Marburg, but preferred the Nazi Udo Wegner.[5] In 1940, Weber would write:

On the morning of 25 April 1933, I sank into gloomy brooding over how to save German mathematics. According to Weber: The tradition of Felix Klein that had been destroyed by the Jews, could only be awakened to a new life by one man: Wegner[14]

The decision was made by the Nazi Theodor Vahlen, who appointed Helmut Hasse in April 1934. The Nazi were unsure if Hasse was fully committed to National Socialist policies, and tried to appoint someone to a second chair at Göttingen who was a firm Nazi supporter. Udo Wegner was a strong candidate, but the probability theorist Erhard Tornier and ardent Nazi eventually gained the second chair.[15]

Later Weber and other convinced national socialists, met in Göttingen with the designated new head of the Göttingen mathematical institute Helmut Hasse, who also sympathized with the Nazis, to question him about his ancestry, where Weber and his cronies did not consider him reliable for (Nazi) party politics, due to him having a Jewish grandmother. Although Hasse was acceptable to the Nazis, he was not acceptable to Weber, who refused to hand over the keys to the Institute.[16] Proceedings were started against Weber with Weber sending a 400+ page document to Dr Mentzel of the Reich Ministry for Science Education and Adult Education. War work interrupted the proceedings.

In 1945, Weber was dismissed due to his Nazi involvement.

War work[edit]

In the World War II, he worked with Oswald Teichmüller in the Cipher Department of the High Command of the Wehrmacht in section IVc under Wolfgang Franz which was scientific decoding of enemy crypts, the development of code-breaking methods and working on re-cyphering systems not solved by practical decoding. The agency was managed by Erich Hüttenhain. He successfully deciphered a cypher of the Japanese diplomatic service. He also worked on cryptanalytic theory.


  1. ^ Werner Weber at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. ^ "Army Security Agency: DF-187 The Career of Wilhelm Fenner with Special Regard to his activity in the field of Cryptography and Cryptanalysis (PDF)". Google Drive. 1 December 1949. p. 7. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  3. ^ TICOM reports DF-187 A-G and DF-176, ‘European Axis Signal Intelligence in World War II’ vol 2
  4. ^ Math. Annalen 102 (1930) S. 740–767
  5. ^ a b Segal 2014, p. 128
  6. ^ Segal 2003, p. S. 128
  7. ^ Segal 2003, p. 447 Note 85. According to Peter Scherk, Weber was brought to national socialism by Teichmüller
  8. ^ Die Pellsche Gleichung (= Beihefte Deutsche Mathematik 1). Hirzel, Leipzig 1939.
  9. ^ Bundesarchiv Berlin R 4901/10.091
  10. ^ Segal 2014, p. 447
  11. ^ Segal 2014, p. 129
  12. ^ Noether, Emmy; Brewer, James W.; Smith, Martha K. (1981). Emmy Noether: a tribute to her life and work. M. Dekker. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-8247-1550-2.
  13. ^ Krantz, Steven G. (2005). Mathematical Apocrypha Redux: More Stories and Anecdotes of Mathematicians and the Mathematical. Cambridge University Press. p. 223. ISBN 978-0-88385-554-6.
  14. ^ Menzler-Trott 2007, p. 46
  15. ^ O'Connor, J. J.; Robertson, E. F. (10 April 1016). "Udo Hugo Helmuth Wegner". Mactutor Archive – School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews, Scotland. JOC/EFR. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
  16. ^ Menzler-Trott 2007, p. 48