File B1980-0010 - Boeschenstein, Hermann (oral history)

Hermann Boeschenstein (oral history) [audio]

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UTA 5001-B1980-0010


Boeschenstein, Hermann (oral history)


  • 27 Mar 1980 (Creation)

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1 sound tape reel (40 mins.)

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Biographical history

Hermann Boeschenstein, Professor of German at the University of Toronto, was born in Stein am Rhein, Switzerland on May 1, 1900. He attended the University of Zurich and pursued studies as well in Munich, Berlin, Kiel, Konigsberg and Rostock. At the University of Rostock he completed his doctorate with a thesis on the philosophy of J.P. Crousaz in 1924. The next two years were spent largely travelling including visiting Canada and travelling to the West coast. He returned to Switzerland in May 1928 and married his long time sweetheart, Elisabeth Schoch. By August, 1928, they set out for Toronto. He worked at the Banting Institute and University Library, and enrolled for philosophical studies with George Sidney Brett. While at the University he met Prof. G. H. Needler of the University College German Department who recognized Boeschenstein's potential and appointed him to the Department of German in 1930.

During the second world war, Prof. Boeschenstein was on leave from the University to serve as the Director for Canada of the War Prisoners' Aid of the Y.M.C.A. One of his duties was to supply German prisoners of war in Canada with up-to-date reading material. On return to his duties at the University he was made a full professor in 1948.

In 1956 Prof. Boeschenstein succeeded Barker Fairley as Head of the Department of German. He remained as head of the department until 1967. He continued his academic activities, taking on Visiting professorships at Zurich (1950), University College, London, England (1956), University of Chicago (1963, 1965), New York State University at Buffalo (1968), University of Waterloo (1968-1969), as well as others. He was editorial advisor for the "University of Toronto Quarterly" and also the Canadian-Australian periodical for German Studies, "Seminar". In June 1968 he received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. During his career he was the author of nine books and more than 40 articles including a two volume history of German literature 1770-1830 titled "Deutsche Gefuhlskultur".

He retired in 1970. He died at his home in Toronto on September 21, 1982.

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Oral history interview conducted by Humphrey N. Milnes. Covers Boeschenstein's career, ca. 1924-1970, both in the German Dept. and in the media and other occupations. Focuses on the Dept. of German, on the effects of the World War II on the University of Toronto, his war service as Director of War Prisoners Aid for the Y.M.C.A., student political activities, student-administrator relations, Presidents Cody, Smith and Bissell, and the issue of academic freedom.

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