Navigating power relations
(meditation of Michel Foucault’s conception of power and the Leonore Goldschmidt school’s story)
by Petra Gogna, 15 March 2019
Freie Universit ät Berlin, Institut für Philosophie Hausarbeit für das Modul “Interdisziplinärer Studienbereich”, Seminar: Jüdische Kultur als Überlebensstrategie, Dozent: Silvana Greco, Studentin: Petra Gogna, M.A. 3. Semester, Matr. 5249757
“As soon as there is a power relation, there is the possibility of resistance (Michel Foucault) (1)”
The charismatic figure of Leonore Goldschmidt and her story gave me the opportunity to reflect on the question “what is power?” “how does power work?”.
Subsequently, I came to confront myself with the enlightening analysis of power accomplished by philosopher Michel Foucault, whose work marks a radical cesura from all the previous modes of conceiving power.
The aspect of power stays in the center of the entire Foucault’s Philosophy: “Basically, I wrote nothing else but a history of power” (2). Power belongs to the triad Knowledge, Power and Subject, which in Foucault’s philosophy are the main factors which interact and collide in his analysis of social change.
Retracing Foucault’s conceptions and theory of power, gave me the chance to discover and to deepen two other concepts that are strictly related to it, namely freedom and resistance.
I considered it efficient to present the story of the Leonore Goldschmidt’s School as a great example of resistance to power, which can rightly refer to the foucauldian theory.
It is my purpose here, drawing primarily on a selected literature, mainly on the texts “Power, subjectification and Resistance in Foucault” by Kevin Jon Heller and “Foucault heute. Neue Perspektiven in Philosophie und Kulturwissenschaft” by Marita Rainsborough, to outline an overview of Foucault’s conception of power and the various forms of power he detects. I will next examine the “technology” of power, as defined by Foucault to describe the intentional, strategic, relational character of power to then turn to the question of freedom and resistance, defending the idea that resistance is structurally guaranteed for Foucault by the nature of power itself, in terms of no-absoluteness and reversibility of power mechanisms.
(1) Michel Foucault, “The end of the monarchy of sex”. In his Foucault Live. New York: Semiotext(e), 1989.
(2) Michel Foucault, “Man: is an animal of experience: Conversations with Duccio Trombadori” Frankfurt a.M (Suhrkramp) 1996a, S.98)
To conclude, I will address the crucial stages of the Leonore Goldschmidt School’s establishment, in accordance to the manuscript of Dr. Gertrud H. Thompson about Leonore Goldschmidt’s story (3). The purpose of this paper is to shed light on how this woman embodied a true example of resistance not only to the jewish community of her time but to humanity overall.
She stood up to the Nazi totalitarian regime and circumvented the rigid anti semitic system from the late 1930s. By founding loopholes in Nazi law she pursued a strategy in which she not only naturally acquired important contacts, rather, she took advantage from her social relations in the right way, at the right moment.
I. Foucault’s understanding of power
“Il n’est pas vrai que dans une société il y a des gens qui ont le pouvoir, et en dessous des gens qui n’ont pas de pouvoir du tout. Le pouvoir est à analyser en termes de relations stratégiques complexes et mobiles, où tout le monde n’occupe pas la même position, et ne garde pas toujours la même.” (4) Foucault’s conception of power breaks up with the classical definition of power, whereby power is merely seen as something that is “owned” by someone and “used” in order to repress others.
Foucault claims that within the western culture and philosophy there has never been a depiction or formulation of power beyond the one which defines it by his juristic or dominating aspect. All the most notorious theories of power, from the freudian to the Durkheim’s or the Levi-Strauss’s one, conceive power as repressive by intending it in the form of rule or prohibition. From this perspective, power has always been considered as a negative, coercive or repressive “thing” that forces us to do things against our wishes.
(3) Dr. Gertrud H. Thompson, Dr. Leonore Goldschmidt Schule 1935-1941. http://leonoregoldschmidt.com/index.html
(4) Michel Foucault “Le style de l’histoire”. In Foucault, Michel: Dit et Ecrits IV: 1980-1988. Defert, Daniel; Ewald, Francois (Edition), Paris (Gallimard), 1994, p. 654.
Foucault doesn’t deny that this sort of power is still existing, however what he underlines is that in modern societies this kind of repressive power (which he calls “sovereign” power) is only one (minor) type of power among many.
He argues that over centuries, societies have changed from feudalism, to monarchies, to totalitarianisms, to democracies but our political theories of power have not kept up with those changes.
In modern societies power is no longer something that somebody owns to the detriment of someone else who doesn’t, rather than that Foucault refers that power is “everywhere”, he states a “machinery” of power in which everybody is caught. In shifting attention away from the ‘sovereign’ power, traditionally centred in monarchies or in feudal states to coerce their subjects, Foucault points to a new approach to power that also transcends politics and sees power as an everyday, socialised and embodied phenomenon. Power is everywhere, in every relationship.
Therefore in modern societies power ‘becomes a machinery that no one owns’, a machinery which is underpinned by relational structures, complies specific logics and strategies and most importantly, that is never stationary but constantly floating. These characteristics make it easier to understand the very often reiterated expression “technology of power”, by which Foucault intend to highlight the “technical” aspect of power, as power were a practical rationality governed by a conscious aim. This “practical rationality” crosses all levels and areas of society and follows different modalities, functions and techniques according to each social-historical context.
Among the most important forms of power detected by Foucault, we find the above mentioned “sovereign power” which indicates forces of domination which we are familiar with. It refers to the mode of power in a monarchy, where the king or queen possesses ultimate authority over other people’s lives. In modern democracies this form of power is used by authorities to control other people by subjecting them to laws and coercive practices and is exercised through physical punishment and rewards. This form of power dominates only in a few institutions such as the police, the army, the tribunal, the politicians and so on.
Another form of power is the “pastoral power” which is characterised by the capacity to control other people the way a shepherd does with his flock.
The metaphor of ‘pastoral’ highlights the fact that pastors exercise power only to protect, maintain and nurture the flock: it wouldn’t make any sense to rebel against a pastor. It is the form of power whereby we blindly obey to directives because we are convinced that these are given to us solely for our own good.
But let’s get the salient point: Foucault’s keen and masterful intuition is that individual’s control exercised by authorities is only the tip of power’s iceberg in modern democracies: in our society we control our self.
While sovereign power could be considered as “last bastillon” of repressive power, Foucault sheds light on a more invisible yet rooted and seminal form of power that he calls “normalising power”: normalising power doesn’t repress at all. On the contrary, it generates knowledge.
If on one hand repressing power forces us to do things we don’t want to do, on the other hand normalizing power makes us want to do what we have to do: it turns us into beings that automatically, by their own will, do what society wishes them do to. Normalizing power is the kind of power which sets how a “normal citizen” should be and act like, by imposing a certain norm or standards. It determines what we see as normal, it constructs our view of the world and shapes our beliefs, our desires and our decisions, while at the same time giving us the idea that these are our own. This kind of power aims to the homologation of the masses.
Two types of power belongs to the normalizing one: disciplinary power and bio-power.
Bio-power is a modality of power that is exercised through our relationship to health and demography: it regulates “bio issues” including births, deaths, health, sickness, and demography (e.g., race, class, and gender). It refers to a modality of power that shapes how we think of ourselves in relation to populational factors like health, sickness, births, deaths.
Disciplinary power is the kind of power we exercise over ourselves. It is strictly related to knowledge about how we fit into society. We discipline ourselves on the basis of contents we get from society – knowledge, rewards, and images – which refer to “how” we are supposed to live.
We try to be normal by self-disciplining ourselves, and this occurs mostly in the absence of threats of punishment. By self-disciplining ourself we actively contribute to the consolidation, establishment and boost of power mechanism. This makes us subjects and objects of power at the same time. Knowledge is meant here in the broadest sense of the term: Foucault argues that we get different kinds of knowledge from all various social spheres such as schools, universities, hospitals, advertisement and television. All of these institutions function in a specific way, they follow established rules and a given logic and are perfect platforms for the exercise of power.
Even our families are a source of disciplinary knowledge. Particular kinds of knowledge allow us to govern ourselves in particular ways: as a matter of fact, it is on the basis of our knowledge that we self-discipline ourselves.
In his conversation with Millicent Dillon, Foucault stated his position on mechanisms (or technologies) of disciplinary power by claiming that “mass slaughter and individual control are two deep characteristics of all modern societies” (5). He examines the technology of power as the history of rationality as it works in institutions and in behaviour of people. Technology of power aims to manage the individual: “nothing in the life of the individual is a matter of indifference to the government” (6).
Foucault also submits that “subjectivity, identity and individuality are a great political problem since the 60s’” and he deeply doubts that we can speak about the existence of a “deep”, “natural” subjectivity, which is not determined by political and social factors” (7).
He expressed his view ab out disciplinary power and its technology, claiming that there is a logic inherent to institutions and in people’s behaviour: he said t hat “all human behavior is scheduled and programmed through rationality” (8). He also ventured to say that even the most violent behaviours or relations are “rational” and asserted that “what is most dangerous in violence is its rationality” whereby “the deepest root of violence comes out of the form of rationality we use”.
Ultimately he’s strongly convinced that technology of power “reaches into the very grain of the individual, touches his body, intrudes into his gestures, his attitudes, his discourse, his apprenticeship, his daily life” (9). There are many forms of power operating within democratic societies. Different modes of power are exercised with different mechanisms: we are sometimes subjects of sovereign power, sometimes disciplinary power, sometimes pastoral power, and sometimes bio-power.
(5) Millicent Dillon and Michel Foucault, “Conversation with Michel Foucault”. Published by Threepenny Review No 1 (winter – Spring 1980), pp 4-5.
In his essay “Power, subjectification and resistance in Foucault” (10) Kevin Jon Heller focuses on two characteristics of power in Foucault’s theory: power is intentional and non-subjective.
Before we examine what intentionality and non-subjectivity in relation to power mean, it is important to stress the fact that, following Foucault’s theory, power needs to be intended in the formula of relationship: there is no Power with capital P, but power-relations which allows power to be exercised. “There is no power, but power relationship”. In this sense individuals are both subjects and objects of power by undergoing power but also exercising it actively. In Foucault’s conception, power has a practical feature, it is exercised in a power-relation, it is not something that is possessed or something that negates or represses. It can be used for repression but it’s not repression itself. On the contrary, power is a dialogical practice between two interacting parts, it has a positive, productive gradient which relates to its transformative capacity. Power is not some kind of change, power is the medium for change.
When Foucault claims that power relations are always intentional he refers to the “technological” aspect of power, namely that power always follows a logic, a rationality. Along these lines, power relations can be described as intelligible, as they follow a calculation, they are enrolled series of aims and objectives.
By defining the exercise of power relations as intentional, Foucault doesn’t mean that it can be analysed in terms of conscious intentions, he rather intends that power is always exercised according to a strategy: he claims that transformations in social institutions are usually produced by individuals or groups in response to a consciously recognized economic and political needs.
From this perspective, disciplinary society must not be seen as a monolithic whole but instead, as the articulation of innumerable localized, intentionally-produced processes.
These processes are contingent, which means they relate to a specific context and therefore follow contingent schemes. Intentionality varies depending on the context, on contingent particulars needs but it doesn’t refer to particular subjects, rather to more complicated relational structures. This is why the exercise of power is non-subjective: it doesn’t depend on a single individual, but it takes place upon power-relations and mechanisms.
(10) Kevin Jon Heller, “Power, subjectification and resistance in Foucault”, Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press, SubStance, Vol 25, No 1, Issue 79 (1996), pp 78-110.
Heller underlines very well that “while the decision to exercise power is always intentional, the mechanism of power that individual uses to exercise power are intrinsically non-subjective, because “they do not depend on the existence of those individuals for their own existence.” Power-mechanism, because they are structured and reproduced by a “multiplicity of power relations that are not reducible to the individuals who exercise them, are necessarily incapable of being controlled by any particular individual (11)”. From the non-subjectivity of power, two important ideas come out as result: firstly, as we already mentioned, that power is not in “someone’s hand” and can’t be localized neither in an institution nor in a structure. As Foucault claimed “power is never localized here or there, never in anybody’s hands, never appropriated as a commodity or piece of wealth. Power is employed and exercised through a net-like organisation (12)”. The idea of power as woven into a net-like organisation, as something that can be exercised only through the net-organization which crosses the whole social body, is again stating the impossibility of its objectification as something localized.
It is indeed the net-like organisation that makes the exercise of power possible, and in the other hand, as we’ll see, the net itself is the starting point for resistance in Foucault’s vision.
But what does Foucault exactly intend with the expression of net-like organisation? The net-like organisation refers to the system of differentiations within society.
Foucault claims that a system of differentiations is internal to any society: differences between individuals can be determined by law, they can be economic, linguistic, cultural or competence differences. The foucauldian term to describe the totality of these structurally-determined differentiations is diagram. With the term power-diagram Foucault intends the totality of power-relation’s mechanisms which is coextensive within the whole social field.
(11) Kevin Jon Heller, “Power, subjectification and resistance in Foucault”, Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press, SubStance, Vol 25, No 1, Issue 79 (1996), pp 88.
(12) Michel Foucault, “Two lectures on Power” in his Power/knowledge. Ed Colin Gordon. New York: Pantheon, 1980, pp 98.
We can see now how for Foucault the exercise of power arise only from the differentiations carved in society, namely from the power-diagram: if in one hand it is only insofar as that powerdiagram pre-exist that the exercise of power is possible, on the other hand the exercise of power transforms the diagram. As a result, mechanisms of power are the base condition and result of the power’s exercise at the same time.
To sum up, differentiations in society constitute certain power-relations which determinate the so called power-mechanisms, which in turn allow power to be exercised.
After the analysis of power-diagram it is easier to explain why for Foucault power relations and power-mechanism are non-subjective: they are simply not reducible to the individuals who exercise them and they are necessarily incapable of being controlled by any particular individual.
Foucault argues very clearly: “Neither the cast which governs, nor the groups which control the state apparatus, nor those who make the most important economic decisions direct the entire network of power that functions in a society (13)”. It follows that all the individuals are equally trapped within a system of power-relations, nevertheless, as Nancy Hartsock has argued, some structural positions within the diagram enable, for Foucault, certain individuals or groups to control more of power’s mechanism then others.
This means that if on one hand Foucault denies the possibility of absolute power, on the other he doesn’t say that power is equally distributed and he acknowledges that “there are certain positions in power-mechanisms which permit an effect of supremacy to be produced” (14).
(13) Michel Foucault, “The history of Sexuality”. Volume I. New York: Vintage Books, 1990, pp 95.
(14) Michel Foucault, “The eye of power”. In his Power/Knowledge. Ed.Collin Gordon. New York: Pantheon, 1980, pp 156.
II. Freedom and resistance
Reached this stage of our analysis of power, another important question arises: does Foucault leave some space for freedom and resistance? We saw that Foucault’s analysis of power strongly rejects the idea that power is a kind of monolithic thing which creates a polarity between a ruler and the ruled. We saw that for him, when it comes to power, there is no binarism dominant-dominated; for him no one can direct the entire network of power, but on the contrary, power is everywhere and comes from everywhere.
Does this conception of power as something interwoven into the entire social fabric leave space for freedom and resistance? This question is a substantial concern for us, as it directly addresses us to the main issue of this essay: by deepening the foucauldian power’s theory, I wish to demonstrate how the events concerning the Leonore Goldschmidt School have ultimately shown that even power in the time of nazzism wasn’t polarised at all. I want to show that back then power was leaving margin for resistance and that it was, through Foucault’s frame, a power that could have been circumvented and somehow also evaded. Indeed Leonore Goldschmidt‘s achievements proved that this was not only possible but also feasible.
First of all let’s find out what Foucault thinks about freedom and we will see that in his conception of power, freedom and resistance are all intertwined with one another.
Unlike the most common philosophical conceptions of freedom, which tend to associate freedom with the absence of rule or domination, for Foucault freedom is not the opposite of power: it is indeed the base condition for the exercise of power. From this perspective it is wrong to think that as long as there is power there is no freedom; on the contrary Foucault argues that there can be power, namely exercise of power, only insofar as there is freedom.
“It’s clear that power should not be defined as a contrasting act of violence that represses individuals, forcing them to do something or preventing them from doing some other thing, But it takes place when there is a relation between two free subjects, and this relation is unbalanced, so that one can act upon the other, and the other is acted upon, or allows himself to be acted upon (15)”. Freedom constitutes the base condition for the exercise of power and can be seen as power’s other side of the medal. From this perspective, we can state that freedom for Foucault is not metaphysically conceived at all, rather it is a practical concept, intrinsically connected to the exercise of power and so to a relational, practical and ethical field.
In a political dimension freedom is a practice of change which always deals with power, it is a process of individual de-subjugation: a de-subjugation act.
In such terms, the concept of freedom is approached through its “negative” sense as “freedom from” certain rules or power. However freedom for Foucault must be also considered under its “positive”, active potential in terms of “freedom to”: freedom to do something and from this perspective freedom acquires a productive capacity as well as an ethical value.
“Positive” freedom does not only resist to power mechanisms but it also transforms power-relations, revealing a productive function, just like the exercise of power does.
There are many ways in which it is possible to practice freedom, in general Foucault affirms that a practice of freedom is an “act of navigating power relations”. De-subjugation is not only the capacity to stand up to power but also the ability to find breaklines in power-mechanisms and to circumvent and use power-relations on your advantage.
On the basis of his conception of power and freedom, Foucault assumes that there is always the possibility for resistance, as he deeply believes that the individual is the center of any transfo rmative actions, it is the motor of change.
From the foucauldian premise that power has a relational signification follows a consequential idea of resistance: if power relations always occur between two free subjects, they always contain the possibility of resistance.
(15) Charles Taylor, “Foucault on Freedom and Truth”. In Foucault: a Critical Reader. Ed. David Couzens Hoy. Cambridge: Basil Blackwell,1986. Pp 6.
As a result, resistance becomes the art of “navigating power-relations in ways that keep them open and dynamic and which allow the development of new, alternative modes of thought and existence (16)”.
Resistance is power’s counterpart, meaning that it also is practice of change.
Power is never illimited, as explained in my last analysis, it clashes with the individual’s freedom, which is at the same time its base condition and its limit.
Resistance shows up in the margins, interspaces, thresholds of power: Foucault calls resistance “counter-power”.
Indeed power and resistance are no more than two different names Foucault gives to the same capacity – the capacity to create social change.
As Heller points out “considered a power-relation between X and Y, whereby X uses the power at her disposal to modify the actions of Y and Y uses the power at her disposal to modify X’s actions: in this dialectical situation, eighter X’s or Y’s exercise of power can be designated as “resistance”, depending upon the perspective from which the power-relation is judged (17)”.
Power and resistance are, for Foucault, ontologically correlative terms.
Resistance is a particular form of power which relates to subject-categories that have the ability to exercise less power than their rivals. These forms of power are “resistances” because are lesser forms of power, not because they are power-less.
It is clear now to what extend freedom and resistance are implicit in the exercise of power.
Foucault says: “when one defines the exercise of power as a mode of action upon the actions of others, one includes an important element: freedom. Power is exercised only over free subjects, and only insofar as they are free. […] Without the possibility of recalcitrance, power would be equivalent to a physical determination (18)”.
(17) Kevin Jon Heller, “Power, subjectification and resistance in Foucault”, Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press, SubStance, Vol 25, No 1, Issue 79 (1996), pp 99.
(18) Michel Foucault, “The subject of Power”, Critical Inquiry, No 8 (summer, 1982), pp 790.
Following Christian Kupke’s analysis (19), freedom and resistance belong to the “im Sagbaren implementierten Unsagbaren” (20) in Foucault’s view, namely to the field of possibility which always inherts to reality.
Kupke argues that from the foucauldian perspective it is possible to apply a discursive division between two poles of reality finding the “immanent field” on the one hand, the field of actual reality which gathers the certainty of actual power-relations within the social body and the transcendent field on the other, which entails the possible’s field, and so the permanent possibility to change, unstructure the state of things.
The transcendent field of unfolded possibilities is where, for Foucault, resistance conquires its permanent raison d’être. Resistance begins with the form of “counter-power”, it starts as opposition to power, but it doesn’t end with it, precisely because it also has a reactive potential which leverages the field of possibility and it becomes a practice of change.
Power relations and power diagrams are never absolute or transcendent, but rather context-related and precarious. Foucault names two main reason why they are always circumventable: first of all because no group, no matter how socially, politically or economic hegemonic, can ever exercise complete control over every counter-hegemonic group: those groups will always have access to some mechanism of power that they can use to resist their domination. Additionally, Foucault claims that resistance can never be completely neutralized because the mechanisms of power are always potentially reversible.
In addition to the non-absoluteness and reversibility, I wish here to include Bhabha’s idea that power and power-relations are always negotiable. I wish to underline this point because I believe Leonore Goldschmidt actually used a negotiation strategy in order to receive all the permissions for her school.
For Bhabha resistance is not only to think in terms of de-subjugation: in his perspective there is a “third space” between power and counter-power, in which resistance becomes a reactive practice which functions within negotiations procedures.
(19) Christian Kupke, “Widerstand und Widerstandrecht. Ein politik-philosophischer Versuch im Ausgang von Foucault”. In Hechler, Daniel; Philipps, Axel (Hg): Widerstand denken: Michel Foucault und die Grenzen der Macht. Bielefeld (transcript), 2008.
(20) Marita Rainsborough, “Foucault heute. Neue Perspektiven in Philosophie und Kulturwissenschaft“, Bielefeld, Transcript Verlag, 2018, pp 178.
He claims that “we are always negotiating in any situation of political opposition or antagonism.
Subversion is negotiation; transgression is negotiation; negotiation is not just some kind of compromise. […] Similarly we need to re-formulate what we mean be “reformism”: all forms of political activity, especially progressive as radical activity, involve reformations and reformulations. With some historical hindsight we may call it “revolution”, those critical moments, but what is actually happening if you slow them up are very fast reforms and reformulations (21)”.
To be more specific, it’s important to underline that Bhabha’s conception of negotiation and his theory of the third space are not addressed in the first instance to a political implication, they rather take root in a post-colonial discourse and are related to the cultural field, supporting the idea of hybrid culture: he intends the third space as the arena for “transculturation”. Based on the assumption that in postcolonial discourse, there is no “pure” or “essential” culture or identity, Bhabha argues that all forms of culture are continually in a process of hybridity and this process takes place in the so-called “Third space” in the form of the negotiation.
The third space, a sort of in-between space within two different cultures, in which the ‘cutting edge of translation and negotiation occurs” (22), is a productive, interruptive and interrogative space where new form of cultural meaning blur the limitations of existing boundaries and call into question established categorisations of culture and identity.
I consider appropriate to bring Bhabha’s analysis to our discourse on power, by showing how the foucauldian conception of resistance can be also intended in the form of practice of negotiation, not only to navigate, but also question and reformulate power relations. This form of resistance, is to me, the one that Leonore Goldschmidt puts into practice and we will now discuss to what extend she did so.
(21) Bhabha, interviwe in Rutherford 1990: 216.
(22) Bhabha, H. K. (1996). Cultures in Between. Questions of Cultural Identity. S. Hall and P. Du Gay. London, Sage Publications.
III. The Leonore Goldschmidt School
I aim to retrieve the highlights of the Leonore Goldschmidt School’s story (23): a Jewish boarding school arose in Berlin in the years from 1935 to 1939 thanks to the efforts, perseverance and tenacity of Leonore Goldschmidt. I intend to point out those crucial moments in which her dexterity in circumventing power sticked out the most.
On September 26th 1933, Leonore received a dismissal notice, signed by the Prussian Minister for Science, Arts and Education, stating that her employment as teacher in a German public school would be terminated onNovember 30th, 1933: the only reason cited for her dismissal was her “nichtarische Abstammung” (non-Aryan descent).
The first step towards the creation of a Jewish boarding school is to trace on May 1st 1935. On this day occurred the opening of the school: Leonore devoted all the money she previously inherited from her prosperous cousin to the goodwill of the boarding school’s project, which had been in her thoughts since her dismissal from the public service.
The inauguration of the school, housed at Kronberger Straße 24, Berlin-Dahlem, took place in spite of receiving a letter from the Prussian Commissioner of Berlin stating that the application to open a Jewish boarding school could not be granted and that Leonore Goldschmidt had permission to teach groups of five non-aryan children only, as stated in the nazi directive of October 1933. But here comes the first strategic move, as Lore, cleverly, circumvented these teaching restrictions by forming a collective with other teachers, thus being able to increase the total number of students to be admitted to the boarding school.
Back then she also circumvented another official anti semitic restriction stating that all German female servants below 45 years of age were to be dismissed in Jewish households. Lore was able to dismiss from her household the non-Jewish cook Annie and the non-Jewish housemaid Lischen by employing both in the new boarding school.
It took until January 9th 1936, eight months after the school opened, for the official permission from the Prussian Commissioner of Berlin to open the school.
(23) All the following narrated events have been sourced from the manuscript of Dr. Gertrud H. Thompson and can be found on the website http://leonoregoldschmidt.com/index.html
The school began to grow and it rapidly turned into a senior school teaching foreign languages, which were French, English, Latin and Hebrew as part of the religious instruction. As well as physics, chemistry and biology were taught alternately, so were history and geography. Music and drawing were included in the morning syllabus. Lore was able to assemble a powerful and experienced staff not only because they had been dismissed by the Nazis but also because she had won their respect by her determination and courage.
On May 26th 1936, Leonore sent an application asking for permission to prepare for and hold the Reifeprüfung or Abitur. The application was written with attention to an accurate use of the language: Lore argued that it was vital for the students to complete their education in order to proceed to higher education in Germany or abroad. The argument that it was a matter of pride that her Jewish school should have the same status as aState High School was not presented.
Not long after the application for the Abitur, Lore was already planning the next step: she realized that the future of most of her pupils lay in emigration. She decided that besides the Abitur a leaving certificate from an English university would be of great value: thus, she decided to approach Cambridge University.
She will later succeeded in her proposal because she adopted two simultaneous tactics: on one hand she contacted an old acquaintance of her Walter Hübner, who was her professor of history of literature and later her examiner on the examination board that granted her a teaching position in the secondary school system. Moreover, Hübner was both interested and involved in teaching methods of English in German schools. At the time Hübner was Oberschulrat (Chief Inspector of schools), a very important figure in the german school system. Hübner not only suggested to Leonore all the main manoeuvres to undertake in order to succeed with her application, but he personally took action and became involved, sending many letters of recommendation, like the famous letter to the Stadtpräsident (President of Berlin) where he stated that he was firmly convinced that the Dr.Leonore Goldschmidt Schule would be able to meet the standards required by the University of Cambridge.
On the other hand, in summer 1936 Lore went to Cambridge to seek support for her application to become an Examination Centre, she convinced influential figures that supporting her school would have mean to help many Jewish students to emigrate more quickly. Thus, she was able to make a letter written from the assistant secretary of the University of Cambridge where it was stated that once German recognition had been received, the University of Cambridge would recognize her school as an approved school. Leonore Goldschmidt forwarded personally the letter to the Reichsminister für Wissenschaft (State Minister for Science), who was the minister in charge to give the approval for Cambridge’s certification.
Thus, with the double pressure from Hübner on one side and from the University of Cambridge on the other, on March 3rd 1937, the Leonore Goldschmidt school had been recognized as an Examination Centre for the University of Cambridge. This permission was granted until March 31st 1938 and applied to non-Aryan pupils only.
This stands, to me, as the second important moment, in which Leonore demonstrates her craft not only in circumvent power relations and use them to her advantage, as she did with Hübner, but also in creating new connections and tactical bonds that helped her to bypass regulatory hurdles and override nazi restrictions.
The bilingual final examination enabled students to enter English universities in Europe and North America, making their emigration easier. After this accomplishment she devoted all of her energy to the final part of her project: the emigration of pupils outside Germany and moving the school to England. She lodged applications for passports, contacted many institutions in the USA and in England to find locations for the accomodation of the pupils, she raised money in widely differing ways for the immigration, gaining help from Woburn House, German Jewish Aid Committee, from the Co-operative Society, from Oxford University and from parents.
Finally, after countless attempts she managed to move her school to England on September 1st 1939.
The Jüdische Privatschule Dr.Leonore Sara Goldschmidt was instantly transformed into Athelstan School, Shorncliffe Road, Folkestone. When the school in Berlin was officially shut down on September 30th 1939 the Goldschmidt family emigrated to England together with eighty students and some teachers. The Athelstan School continued until May 1940.
I intended to show how Leonore Goldschmidt resisted the anti semitic policy of her time by tactically circumventing power relations. She managed to actively resist the hegemonic power by pursuing a proper counter-hegemonic project: the establishment of a jewish boarding school in Berlin at the time of the Nürenberg laws. She not only gave an oasis of peace to Jewish children but she also managed to let them emigrate outside Germany. In my opinion, this stands as a significant example of active resistance, the ability to refuse power mechanisms by deconstructing them.
Her character and life project substantially illustrated a negotiation strategy: what she basically did for seven years was an endless serie of negotiations on all fronts.
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