The problem for the Nazis is that the more overt racial antisemitism they proposed did not have the support of the academic establishment necessary to give professional and independent credence to Nazi anti-Jewish policy. Through a mixture of academics seeking professional advancement by ingratiating themselves with the Nazi party, a range of research grants to doctoral students and the establishment of Research centres on the "Jewish Problem" they sought to reverse this dearth and promote a scientific basis for their politics of hate and, later, as a justification for their mass murder. It is clear that this was part of a wider propaganda campaign to which many academics were more than willing to ride out to its brutal conclusions.
In each chapter Steinweis takes a couple of such leading thinkers and offers a reading of their scholarly output and, where appropriate, how these authors sought to rehabilitate themselves in the academic community. As a theologian one of the most disheartening features of the Nazi period was the near total capitulation of the church to and facilitation of Nazi hegemony. Of the intellectuals studied a disproportionate number are theologians or biblical scholars; on the level of expertise this is understandable given their own mastery of biblical languages but on the level of moral culpability it remains the case that it is the theological faculty that was most guilty for providing the intellectual climate in which made the murder of millions of innocents a conceivable policy — one of the primary leaders in this mould was Gerhard Kittel (1888-1948).
As a theological student I did not ever have the occasion to read the work of Kittel, with one exception. That one exception was the work for which Kittel was (and probably is) best known, namely the Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament. This multi-volume theological reference remains a work that is often cited to this day — despite the question of its own antisemitic prejudice. As Alan Steinweis points out, were it not for the groundbreaking research of Robert Ericksen which culminated in the 1985 book Theologians Under Hitler: Gerhard Kittel, Paul Althaus, and Emmanuel Hirsch (a book, incidentally, that I recommend) it is quite possible the English-speaking world would have remained largely ignorant of his part in the promotion of antisemitism despite the fact that he died awaiting trial after his arrest (having been at one point incarcerated for 17 months).
In what was one of his tamer writings on Kittel, on 1 June 1933, - that is, a matter of months after the election of the Nazis the previous January - publically lectured on "The Jewish Question" (Kittel's lecture drew a response from Martin Buber). Steinweis summarises one aspect of Kittel's speech thus:
In 'The Jewish Question' [Kittel] bemoaned the existence of hundreds of thousands of Jewish Mischlinge, who, he added, "contribute in many ways to unbridled Jewish influence" ... The existing Mischlinge, numerous as they were, could eventually be absorbed into an Aryan and Christian Germany, provided that further mixed marriages could be prevented. In the absence of drastic measures against mixed marriage, however, Kittel believed the problem would fester. Mixed marriages, Kittel concluded, when not "radically prohibited," ought at the very least to be strongly discouraged by forcing the Jewish partner "and all his progeny" to belong to the Jewish community and thereby suffer all the disadvantages of "guest status" (70-71).
And, this "guest status" was Kittel's suggested approach after he had rejected the option of mass murder as impracticable(!) It is no surprise then that Kittel's lecture was republished at public expense shortly thereafter by the Nazis. Nor is it a surprise that the archaeologist W F Albright — an author, incidentally, that I did read in college — wrote in the immediate aftermath of Kittel's arrest that "In view of the terrible viciousness of his attacks on Judaism and the Jews, which continues at least until 1943, Gerhard Kittel must bear the guilt of having contributed more, perhaps, than any other Christian theologian to the mass murder of Jews by Nazis."