FRANKFURT, Dec. 11 (JTA) — A German university plans to display a portrait of a leading Nazi ideologue, despite protests by Jewish community leaders. Karl Astel, who led the University of Jena from 1939 to 1945, was an ethnologist. But according to Wolfgang Nossen, president of the Jewish community of Thuringia, the German state in which Jena is located, Astel also played a key role in developing racial theories for the Nazi government. Noting that during the Third Reich, Astel headed a state office for racial ideology, Nossen said it is shocking that the university would display a portrait of a top-ranking Nazi. The controversy erupted after the university announced a showing of newly commissioned portraits of eight former university presidents. University spokesman Wolfgang Hirsch said the school did not commission the portrait of Astel from artist Anke Doberauer, who painted the picture on her own initiative. Hirsch added that the university had decided to display Astel’s picture separately from the other seven portraits. In order to emphasize Astel’s Nazi ties, Doberauer did not paint a full-face portrait. The painting depicts a young boy with a flushed face who is looking at a photograph of Astel. The background of the painting is brown, the color that symbolized the Nazis. The university has kept a visual archive of its presidents since 1558.
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