This Week in Princeton History for March 11-17

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, Jacob Riis lectures on campus, four Princetonians are being held in the same German prison camp, and more.

March 12, 1925—The Jewish Student Congregation of Princeton University begins hosting a series of weekly lectures on aspects of Jewish history and religion. All are welcome to attend.

March 13, 1902—Jacob Riis, best known as the author of How the Other Half Lives, gives a lecture in Alexander Hall illustrated with stereopticon views of slums in New York.

March 15, 1871—The first issue of Princeton’s College World (precursor to the Princetonian) appears.

The first issue of Princeton’s College World, March 15, 1871.(Click to enlarge.) Princeton University Publications Collection (AC364), Box 36. College World was short-lived. The Princetonian explained in 1885: “It was doomed to an early grave, however, as its managing editors, both Whigs, unfortunately touched on Hall matters in a way unsatisfactory to Clio and to avoid trouble the College World was discontinued. ”

March 16, 1945—The Princeton Bulletin reports that four Princetonians—Sam Dorrance ’42, Nicholas Katzenbach ’43 (later Class of 1944), Bill Light ’41, and John Winant, Jr. ’45—are being held in the same prison camp in Germany.

Lt. John Winant ’45. Photo from Undergraduate Alumni Records (AC199), Box 250. Winant was feared dead before word reached the United States that he was being held prisoner. Due to his father’s position as the American ambassador to England, Winant was a prominent prisoner and Germany used him as a bargaining chip. Just before American troops freed the Colditz Castle prison camp, the Germans ordered Winant removed, hoping to keep him prisoner even as the others were freed. When other prisoners protested that this violated the Geneva Convention, the commander of the camp said that if Winant didn’t leave, the SS troops were set to “burn the castle and everyone in it.” Winant reportedly responded, “Well, I guess I’ll go down. If our boys are going to overrun the town in time, they’ll do it. If they aren’t, well, I haven’t been afraid of these guys yet and I’m not now.” Winant remained in captivity in Southern Bavaria after Americans freed other prisoners in Colditz Castle on April 15, 1945. He was a prisoner of war from October 10, 1943 to May 7, 1945.

For the previous installment in this series, click here.

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