- Becker, Carl Heinrich
- (1876-1933)Prussian Cultural Minister; championed educational reform. Born in Amsterdam, he took a doctorate in Semitic languages before traveling extensively throughout the Mediterranean. He completed a Habilitation at Heidelberg and went to Hamburg in 1908 as Professor for the History and Culture of the Orient.Following his appointment at Bonn in 1913, Becker's career made a sharp turn. His wartime writings on Middle Eastern issues brought assignment in 1916 with the Prussian Cultural Ministry. This led, in turn, to appointment in 1919 as State Secretary for Higher Education in the Cultural Ministry of Konrad Haenisch. By 1921 he was Cultural Minister in the Prussian cabinet of Adam Stegerwald.* Although the appointment was short-lived—he reverted to State Secretary in the fall of 1921—in 1925 he was again Cultural Minister, this time under Otto Braun.* He retained the portfolio until 1930.Combining a solid humanistic education with political savvy and cosmopol-itan bearing, Becker transformed the Cultural Ministry into a place of lively intellectual discourse. He promoted technical-school reform, founded an acad-emy to enhance teacher education, created the Prussian Academy of Poetry, and drafted a concordat between the Prussian government of Braun, a Social Dem-ocrat, and the Holy See. But his chief mission was to link higher education and the life of the nation, thus promoting contact between the academy and the Republic. To accomplish this, he sought greater participation from students and junior faculty in university governance. Yet his ideas generated hostility from both the Verband der deutschen Hochschulen (Corporation of German Univer-sities) and the Deutsche Studentenschaft,* the national student organization.Although Becker was close to the DDP, he remained nonpartisan. In January 1930 Braun was forced to replace him when the SPD demanded more cabinet portfolios. His departure thwarted plans for further reform and impaired Braun's government. Wise and evenhanded, his administration underscored the political success possible during the Republic.REFERENCES:Eyck, History of the Weimar Republic, vol. 2; ADB, vol. 1; Fritz Ringer, Decline ofthe German Mandarins; Steinberg, Sabers and Brown Shirts.
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.