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Josef Martin

Scholar of the Month: Josef Martin

* 13. January 1884 in St. Ingbert / Saar                                † 21. November 1973 in Würzburg

1902    Study of classical Philology, History and Philosophy in Würzburg and Munich
1908    Teacher in Munich and Amberg
1913    During occupation as a teacher: Conferral of a doctorate in Munich
1921    Transfer to the “old Gymnasium” in Würzburg
            Extraordinary Professorship at the University of Würzburg
1933    Ordinary Professorship for classical Philology
1945    Rector of the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

After the end of World War II, the University faced two major challenges: The first one was the destruction or damage on the majority of the University-Buildings. The second one, that a big part of the Professor body was removed from their offices during process of the denazification, due to their ties to the National socialist regime. Nevertheless, the academic life did not lay in ashes for long. Especially thanks to the tireless efforts of the first post-war-rector of the University, Josef Martin. The features of his working will be presented in the September-edition of the “Scholar of the Month”.

Research with Faith and Passion

The outstanding philological proficiencies of the teacher for Gymnasiums were already shown by his dissertation thesis, which Martin wrote parallel to his occupation as a teacher. His “studies and contributions to the explanation and timely determination of Commodian” was published in an eminent publication series about the early Christian literature. It was the first of many workings of Josef Martin about his interpretation of the time determination of Commodian as the oldest poet of Christian Latinity. The faithful catholic was primarily interested in the early Christian authors of the 3rd and 4th Century, but also researched on the traditions of Cicero, like in his Habilitation thesis, which he again crafted during his occupation as a pedagogue. His academic career was coined by a fertile activity of publications, which was soon rewarded with an extraordinary professorship and in 1933 an ordinary professorship. In this position, he passionately researched and interpreted Latin works for nearly 20 years, which strongly shaped classical Philology at the Alma Julia.

Rebuilding of the University

Martin was a pious catholic and was regarded as politically ingenuous, which is why he was asked by the American Military government, to take on the administration of the University. But Martin refused, as he proclaimed that he could only take such an office by being elected by the senate. The Military government accepted this condition. After functioning as the managing director of the University since July 1945, he officially was elected as the first post-war-rector of the Alma Julia on the first October of the same year.

The new rector always fulfilled his tasks in this challenging episode of the University’s history with great diligence and felicity. Therefore, already contemporaries called him the second founder of the University.

In order to execute the rebuilding of the University, also the students and lecturers were involved. Shortly after the end of the war, people started together to clear away the rubble and to organize the necessary materials to implement the rebuilding. During the time of Josef Martin as the Rector, “honorary services” of Students, e.g. to carry resources and materials, became part of the academic life. Generally, students had to prove, apart from their political unbiasedness, that they participated in a service for clearing the rubble for a period of at least six months, in order to study in Würzburg.

The teaching operations were gradually resumed, starting with the theological faculty on the 1. October 1945. Certainly, the University life was far from being normal. The facilities of the University were spread across the city, in the buildings that have not been destroyed. Martins office was located in the Luitpold-Hospital, while the senate was located in a room in the Institute of Physics. A huge step further towards normality was the official reopening of the University in the Aula of the Mozart-school on the 12. March 1947. Until the summer term, the number of Students rose to 3.680.

Recommended Readings:

Scholz, Udo W./Schönberger, Otto: Josef Martin (1884-1973), Klassischer Philologe, in: Baumgart, Peter (Hg.): Lebensbilder bedeutender Würzburger Professoren (= Quellen und Beiträge zur Geschichte der Universität Würzburg, Bd. 8), Neustadt an der Aisch 1995, S.341-354.

Süß, Peter A.: Kleine Geschichte der Würzburger Julius-Maximilians-Universität, Würzburg 2002, S. 143-149.