L’Ecole Libre des Hautes Etudes at the New School in 1942, via France-Amerique
In 1937, the great German writer Thomas Mann suggested “To the Living Spirit” as a motto for the New School’s University in Exile. Since the Nazis had removed the same motto from the great lecture hall at the University of Heidelberg, the phrase would “indicate that the living spirit, driven from Germany, has found a home in this country,” and that home was on West 12th Street.
Between 1933 and 1945, The New School’s University in Exile offered asylum to more than 180 refugee scholars from fascist Europe. The exiled academics became the Graduate Faculty of The New School for Social Research and represented the largest contingent of refugee intellectuals in the United States. In the classroom, they made pioneering advances in the social sciences; in the war room, they advised the Roosevelt Administration on economic policy, war information, and espionage. Educating future Nobel Prize winners as well as future Oscar winners, they influenced American scholastic and cultural life to such a degree that even Marlon Brando remembered his émigré professors at the New School, “enriching the city’s intellectual life with an intensity that has probably never been equaled anywhere during a comparable period of time.”