Hans-Wilhelm Kelling’s Research: From Female SS Guards to George Bancroft

Throughout his career at BYU and continuing today, Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Kelling has remained an example of lifelong learning to his students. His paper entitled “Female Guards, Nurses, and Doctors in German Concentration Camps” was recently awarded the Best Paper Award by the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters in the Humanities/Philosophy/Foreign Language Division. In the paper Dr. Kelling details a gruesome chapter of recent German history that is generally not well known: the unspeakable crimes committed by women against helpless concentration inmates, torturing many to death.

In addition to this line of research, Dr. Kelling has devoted much time during the past few years working with his
colleague from History, Professor Paul Kerry, on the prominent 19th century American scholar, eminent historian, and statesman George Bancroft (1800-1891). As U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Bancroft founded the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1845 and in 1867 he was appointed ambassador to the Imperial Court of Germany in Berlin, a post he occupied until 1874 when he returned to Washington, D.C. Bancroft witnessed and wrote about the unification of Germany in 1871 when Otto von Bismarck united the German kingdoms and principalities into the German Empire which eventually drew the world into the First World War.

George Bancroft
George Bancroft

Dr. Kelling’s research on Bancroft led him to search German archives for valuable materials documenting Bancroft’s work in the late 19th century. These materials when combined with Bancroft’s handwritten notes from his years at the Universities of Göttingen, Berlin and Heidelberg have yielded valuable insights into Bancroft’s preparation for his future public life.  Dr. Kelling has been meticulously transcribing these school notes which Dr. Kerry located in the New York City Public Library. Written in a combination of handwriting styles that differ as Bancroft moved from German to English and other language such as Latin, Greek and Hebrew, these notes provide a glimpse of the lectures Bancroft attended, given by well-known professors in Germany. Like many noted American scholars during the 19th century Bancroft received his Dr. Phil. from Göttingen in 1820. The work is expected to culminate in a volume which should prove beneficial to a broad range of scholars, including historians and educators.


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