The Foundation’s history and Alfred Toepfer’s biographical stations remain topics of scholarly analysis and provide a critical counterpoint to the Foundation’s activities. The debates about the Foundation’s history are made public on this page. We are open to and grateful for further input that informs a responsible assessment of our history.

The Foundation’s history and Alfred Toepfer’s activities have to date been analysed by a manageable number of historians. The conclusions drawn from the findings of their research remain topics of debate among historians, as do the research methods applied to particular objects of research. Two levels in particular play a role in the debates: firstly, individual aspects of content which have been assessed differently by scholars, and secondly, methodological questions about the independence of the research committee instated by the Foundation. Both aspects play a role in the publications and interventions by the geographer Dr Michael Fahlbusch, who works in the field of the History of Science, and by Lionel Boissou, a publicist with an interest in history. Additionally, the political scientist Dr Michael Pinto-Duschinsky (UK) worked on Alfred Toepfer’s commercial and philanthropic activities in 2010. Pinto-Duschinsky paid special attention to the question of whether, and to what extent, Toepfer still had contact with National Socialist functionaries after 1945, and whether he employed such individuals in his enterprises.
The Foundation supports research and other serious projects of study as much as possible by providing access to archives and support with preliminary research. To this end, and in support of further scholarly research, the Carl Toepfer Foundation handed over the Alfred Toepfer Archive, previously in its keeping, to an independent trust, the Hanseatic Economics Archive, in 2010.

Below, the debates about the Foundation’s history are listed in chronological order.


Professor Georg Kreis on the continuing dispute surrounding the Alfred Toepfer Trust F.V.S.
In 2005, Ariane Mnouchkine declined to accept the Hanseatic Goethe Award (see DOWNLOADS). This prompted the Swiss historian Georg Kreis to reassess the allegations made against the Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S. since the early 1990s on the basis of Alfred Toepfer’s biography and the history of his activities through his trusts. His article from 2005 provides a fundamental insight into the genesis of the allegations and contextualises Lionel Boissou’s and Gérard Loiseaux’s sustained criticism. The results of Georg Kreis’s research were at first only planned for publication in a volume of his articles, but they have graciously been made available for our documentation (see DOWNLOADS).


Research findings and positioning from Boissou and Fahlbusch
Lionel Boissou published a lengthy article about the F.V.S. Foundation Hamburg and the Johann Wolfgang Goethe Foundation Vaduz in Handbuch der völkischen Wissenschaft, ed. by Ingo Haar and Michael Fahlbusch, Munich: K.G. Saur Verlag, 2008. The article positions Alfred Toepfer and his trusts in the context of National Socialist politics. The factually incorrect statements about the Foundation’s work today are countered with a statement by the publishing house that is included in the compendium. The historians Georg Kreis and Hans Mommsen express their views on the article (see DOWNLOADS).
Michael Fahlbusch responded to the research carried out by Kreis and Mommsen in his article ‘Wissenschaft und Politikberatung – Zur Kontroverse über die Volkstumsforschung im Dritten Reich’, in Halbjahresschrift für südosteuropäische Geschichte, Literatur und Politik, ed. by. J. Böhm, 2 (2008), pp. 60-73.

‘Auschwitz, cést loin? De Kantorowicz aux Bienveillantes’ article 
An insight into another line of argument –stemming from ‘Auschwitz, cést loin? De Kantorowicz aux Bienveillantes’ by Laurent Dispot, published in the French journal La règle du jeu (May 2008) – can be found here. The article builds mainly on information outlined in Boissou’s piece (see above).

Debate about support for OPUS XXI
OPUS XXI was a German-French academy for contemporary chamber music which was held in La Chartreuse, Avignon. It was jointly organised by the Conservatoire National supérieur musique et danse in Lyon, the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hamburg, and the Landesmusikrat Hamburg. The Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S. joined the supporters and sponsors with a modest financial contribution as a result of its long-standing cooperation with the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hamburg. This contribution was the object of agitation and press releases, with Gérard Loiseaux behind them, aimed at organisers and supporters. This initially led to the contribution being turned down as well as to the publication of an article in the French regional newspaper Midi Libre (29 August 2008). The accusations and rebuttals in this debate are well documented (see DOWNLOADS). The events were also the topic of an article published in the taz Nord newspaper (4 December 2008).

Debate in the taz Nord newspaper
The OPUS XXI incident was the starting point from which the taz Nord newspaper began to investigate the Foundation’s transparency in dealing with its history: article in taz Nord, 4 December 2008. In reaction to this publication, Michael Fahlbusch explained his point of view in an interview in taz Nord, 14 January 2009. The chair of the Foundation’s board, Ansgar Wimmer, likewise replied to Fahlbusch’s account in an interview: taz Nord, 21 January 2009.


A British political scientist presents facts about the Foundation’s history as a newly uncovered scandal, supporting this claim with research results that have already been published by the Foundation ten years earlier.
In a contribution to the April 2010 issue of the British journal Standpoint Magazine entitled ‘The Prize Lies of a Nazi Tycoon’, the political scientist Dr Michael Pinto-Duschinsky examined not only the past of the Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S. and its founder, but also the way it deals with that history today. The article was critical and made weighty accusations. Pinto-Duschinsky, who had been supported by the Foundation in his research and had, contrary to his allegations, been granted unlimited access to the archives, presented numerous facts as a scandal which he had uncovered. However, the Foundation had already had these same facts researched, and published them, ten years earlier in the context of its efforts to come to terms with its past. In his article, Pinto-Duschinsky cited present-day representatives of the Foundation out of context, represented its process of historical inquiry incompletely, and painted instead a misshapen, distorted picture of a charitable organisation that allegedly still chose to ignore its own history. An overview of the course of the debate since 2008, of the Foundation’s position, and further information about Pinto-Duschinsky’s approach can be found in DOWNLOADS.

One unnamed source, among others, of the facts about the Foundation’s history that were presented as new was the biography Alfred Toepfer by Dr Jan Zimmermann, published in the series ‘Hamburger Köpfe’, produced by the ZEIT Trust, Hamburg: Ellert & Richter Verlag, 2008. Dr Jan Zimmermann has since shown in a precise analysis, under his own initiative and with support from the Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S, which of Pinto-Duschinsky’s findings were new, and to what extent his publication was based on already available research published by third parties.
Unfortunately, Pinto-Duschinsky had disclosed his extensive use of research findings made by other, Foundation-supported scholars to a very limited extent. Despite this, the Foundation stood up to the new research findings and the criticism connected with them.

The Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S. has emphasised for many years that it is necessary to come to terms with the past without reserve, and it takes responsibility for its founder’s entanglement in the period of National Socialism. The Foundation’s statement ‘Transparency as Guiding Principle’ makes clear that the Foundation has decidedly distanced itself from this and his post-war support for regime functionaries, and wholeheartedly regrets it. The Foundation takes great care in the work of its programmes as well as in its historical research not to whitewash, conceal, or justify any aspect of its own or its founder’s past. Unfortunately, the accompanying commentary to Pinto-Duschinsky’s article, written by the editor of Standpoint Magazine, as well as the subsequent commentary in the Sunday Times (28 March 2010) showed an equally profound ignorance of the Foundation’s work and orientation today. Therefore, the Foundation has taken the initiative in comprehensively informing its current award winners and scholarship holders about the controversies surrounding its past, and stands up to meet all debates that arise in this regard.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper published a sophisticated and factual assessment of the matter on 7 April 2010, bearing the title ‘Gutes Geld, dunkle Absichten’. Additionally, the Oxford student newspaper Cherwell published a report on 30 April 2010. On 10 June 2010, Pinto-Duschinsky repeated his accusations against the Trust in a commentary entitled ‘How historians remove stains’, published in the London-based Jewish Chronicle. He reinforced his accusations with serious allegations against historical research practices at the University of Oxford. The Foundation replied to this in the London-based weekly newspaper in an article entitled ‘Bordering on the absurd’ (see DOWNLOADS). Additionally, the Jewish Chronicle published a letter to the editors with the title ‘History Rebuttal’ (see DOWNLOADS) on 2 July 2010, written by the Oxford historians Professor Jane Caplan and Dr Nicholas Stargardt, which critically assesses Pinto-Duschinsky’s allegations against the University of Oxford. Finally, the Oxford Magazine published a statement by the Oxford historian Professor Dr Hartmut Pogge von Strandmann in June 2010 (see DOWNLOADS).

In preparation for a round-table discussion with representatives of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, the Foundation had compiled a comprehensive report in English, ‘To be unambiguously clear’ (see DOWNLOADS). In it, the Foundation set out its position with regard to its past as well as to Dr Pinto-Duschinsky’s allegations, his ‘research’, and the manner of his approach. In the interest of transparency, this report is available on the Foundation’s website. The very extensive documentation, where not presented on the Foundation’s website, can be accessed at the Hanseatic Economics Archive. Regrettably, Pinto-Duschinsky refused to take part in the discussion initiated by the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Additionally, the editors of the de Gruyter Verlag withdrew their acceptance of the scholarly study he had planned to publish with them.

Instead, Michael Fahlbusch published a translated and annotated version of the article under the title ‘Der Kampf um Geschichte’ in September 2010 in the collection Völkische Wissenschaften und Politikberatung im 20. Jahrhundert, ed. by Ingo Haar and Michael Fahlbusch, Paderborn, München: Schöningh Verlag, 2010. This contribution also featured many grave methodological and factual errors and presented a picture of the Foundation which was far removed from reality and from the Foundation’s contemporary standpoint. This was all the more regrettable since the Foundation was in complete agreement with the editors of the volume about the continued necessity of a competent and scholarly assessment of its history and Alfred Toepfer’s biography without any gaps. The editors presented themselves and their collection in the context of a public event at the Institute of Sociology at Basle University on 11 October 2010, and set out further theses about the – in their view – failed historical assessment.

On 26 November 2010, the University of Oxford decided to continue its collaboration with the Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S. after detailed consideration of the issue, which had lasted almost a year.

On 10 March 2011, the Times Higher Education Supplement published a comprehensive analysis by the renowned British historian Richard J. Evans about the debate over the continuation of the Hanseatic Scholarships.

In 2010, the Foundation made additional resources available as a response to this debate. The aim was to enable independent scholarly research about the history of the Foundation and its founder. Since then it has been possible for researchers and scholars to apply informally for funding subsidies if they plan to carry out research about this subject in the collections of the Hanseatic Economics Archive or other archives. A committee of experts which is independent of the Foundation decides which of these applications are funded. Members of the committee include the Director of the Centre for Anti-Semitism Research, Professor Dr Stefanie Schüler-Springorum, the Director of the research centre for contemporary history at Hamburg University, Professor Dr Axel Schildt, and the Head of the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial, Dr Detlef Garbe (see DOWNLOADS). 

2010, 2012, and 2013

Comments regarding the KAIROS Award prize-giving
For reasons of transparency and completeness, we would like to provide readers of this site with the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the comments made by Loiseaux and Fahlbusch regarding the award of the KAIROS Award 2010 to Icelandic writer and film-maker Andri Snær Magnason. Additionally, we provide Loiseaux’s letter to the 2012 KAIROS laureate, Katell Gélébart, as well as Fahlbusch’s publication on the occasion of the KAIROS prize-giving in 2012 and 2013. Unfortunately, both Loiseaux and Fahlbusch are not willing to engage in a factual or scholarly debate on the matter, the opportunity for which the Trust has repeatedly offered to both of them. They work, partially, with intentionally false statements, they present findings set out and published by the Foundation as results of their own research, and attempt to discredit the Trust’s work and activities in a polemical and completely partisan manner (see DOWNLOADS).


Publications by Professor Dirk Hoeges and Professor Dr Jürgen Reulecke
Dirk Hoeges, Professor for Romance Philology and Cultural Studies at the University of Hanover, concerns himself with Alfred Toepfer and the F.V.S. Foundation in his book Die Menschenrechte und ihre Feinde, published in February 2013 (Dirk Hoeges, Die Menschenrechte und ihre Feinde – Deutsche Profile zwischen Kaiserreich und Bundesrepublik, Cologne: machiavelli edition, 2013, pp. 153-217).

Professor Dr Jürgen Reulecke published a contribution about Alfred Toepfer in the edited volume Jugendbewegt geprägt, likewise in spring 2013 (see Barbara Stambolis, ed., Jugendbewegt geprägt: Essays zu autobiografischen Texten von Werner Heisenberg, Robert Jungk und vielen anderen, Göttingen: V&R unipress, pp. 701-17).


The Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S.’s commitment to transparency with regard to its past is a central element of its activities. This is prominently apparent at public events (e.g. Hans Mommsen’s speech on the occasion of the Foundation’s 75th anniversary in 2007; see DOWNLOADS) but also in individual conversations on initial contact with potential partners or the Foundation’s laureates.

The Foundation puts equal importance on giving attention to the activities of other parties who work towards illuminating the history of their own institutions during National Socialism. Eckart Krause and PD Dr Rainer Nicolaysen, for example, received the 2008 Max Brauer Award for their exemplary work where the history of the University of Hamburg is concerned.

Special attention is paid to the historical analysis of National Socialism when it comes to decisions about the funding of individual research studies and projects. The Foundation had a special interest in supporting a scholarly analysis of the role of Adolf Rein as Rector of the University of Hamburg, since Rein had also been a member of the Foundation’s board of trustees. See Arndt Goede, Adolf Rein und die ‘Idee der politischen Universität’, Hamburger Beiträge zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte, 2008.

Additionally, in DOWNLOADS you can find those works from the Foundation’s extensive funding programme which deal specifically with coming to terms with National Socialism.