Trilobites are one of the few groups of fossil invertebrates that are easily recognized by the public. For some 270,000,000 years (from the early Cambrian until the cataclysmic global extinction event at the end of the Permian) they crawled, swam, and burrowed in the oceans of planet Earth. As arthropods they had a hard exoskeleton that was shed many times throughout their life, giving them a remarkably rich fossil record.
|Neoasaphus (right) with eyes on the tops of stalks and Walliserops a spiny trilobite from Morocco|
Global in distribution, trilobites filled many niches in ancient marine ecosystems. Burrowers might be blind or have eyes perched on stalks to look around while most of the body remained hidden in soft sediments on the ocean floor. Some trilobites were smooth and almost featureless while other were covered with large spines.
|Opipeuterella, a giant-eyed planktonic species|
Some small ones had immense compound eyes that completely wrapped around their heads, cyclopean-like. These were pelagic species floating in surface waters, where good vision helped both in finding food and avoiding predators.
The smallest trilobites were just one millimeter long (3/64 of an inch) while the behemoth Isotelus rex reached a whopping 70 cm (28 inches).
|Trilobite colossi. A) Isotelus brachycephalus. B) Acadoparadoxides briareas. C) Terataspis grandis. D) Uralichus hispaniscus. E) Isotelus rex.|
Because of their abundance, diversity, and distribution, trilobites have long attracted scientific attention. Over 20,000 species have been described to date and many new species are still discovered every year. The earliest report of a trilobite in a scientific journal is that of Edward Lhwyd, who in 1698 published an etching of a specimen, of what is now known as Ogygiocarella, misidentified as “…. the skeleton of some flat Fish….”
|Lhwyd's 1698 flatfish.|
Tens of thousands of scientific papers on trilobites have been published since that beginning and paleontologists have long studied evolution using trilobite fossils.
A PALEONTOLOGIST OF GREAT PROMISE
|Dr. Rudolf Kaufmann|
Rudolf Kaufmann was born in 1909 in East Prussia. He attended university and was well trained as a geologist and paleontologist. He is best known for his work on the evolution of the primitive trilobite Olenus, a common fossil in the Cambrian alum shales in Sweden. He collected many specimens at closely spaced intervals through a great thickness of shale. He developed a special device to measure morphological features on these specimens and was able to elucidate which features were relatively stable and which varied and changed over time. He showed that species were evolving through small but consistent trends in variation over time until another species invaded from outside the area, replaced those species, and then repeated the pattern. Kauffman named this evolutionary phenomenon Artabwandlung but today it is known scientifically as allopatric speciation and punctuated equilibrium.
|A page from Kaufmann's Ph.D. Dissertation.|
Kaufmann’s innovative studies, involving careful measurement, large collections, and careful field observations produced results that are still, with some modification, valid today. Kaufmann was a far seeing scientist well ahead of his time. Unfortunately, he published his trilobite studies in the proceedings of the Greifswald Geological and Paleontological Institute. Because of the journal’s small circulation it remained little known in the wider scientific community. But clearly he had a bright and successful scientific career ahead of him.
ONCE A JEW ALWAYS A JEW
Anti-semitism was a fundamental and guiding principle of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. The Nazis were not unique in their anti-semitism, anti-jewish feelings were strong and widespread in Germany (and elsewhere) in the late 19th and early 20th century. The difference is that after seizing power in 1933 the Nazi party was able and willing to develop social and political policy based on make these feelings and put that policy into practice.
Many laws restricting the rights of Jews followed the Nazi ascension. The Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour of Sept 15 1935 stipulated, among other things, that
“I.1: Marriages between Jews and citizens of German or kindred blood are forbidden. Marriages concluded in defiance of this law are void …. [even if] they were concluded abroad.”
“II. Sexual relations outside marriage between Jews and nationals of German or kindred blood are forbidden.”
The latter is even more ominous that it sounds, because for a Jew a kiss, or even a hug, with a “German or kindred blood” could be construed as a sexual activity sufficient for prosecution.
Who was a Jew was legally clarified in the First Supplementary Decree of the Reich Citizenship Law of 14 November 1935
“IV.1. A Jew cannot be a citizen of the Reich.”
“V.2. A Jew is anyone who is descended from at least three grandparents who are racially full Jews.”
Such strictures were widely accepted, and even welcomed, by the citizenry. Even churches leaped on the bandwagon of Jew-hating. In 1938 Bishop Weidemann of Bremen dedicated two new churches, each bearing the following inscription inside “Church of Thanks, out of gratitude to God for the wonderful salvation of our Volk from the abyss of Jewish-materialistic Bolshevism through the deed of the Fuhrer, built in the year of our Lord 1938, in the sixth year of the National Socialist revolution.”
Since the term “Jew” was a racial concept to the Nazis, and not a cultural or religious one, the view was that once a Jew, always a Jew. Thus, baptism and conversion from Judaism to Christianity was rejected outright. A sign hung up in the town of Lippe stated it clearly “Baptism may be quite useful, but it cannot straighten a nose.”
All this would spell catastrophe for Kaufmann.
SCIENTIFIC STRUGGLES IN NAZI GERMANY
In 1933 Kauffman completed and published his Ph.D. Dissertation “Study of the Statistics of Variation Through Modification and Transformation of Species in the Upper Cambrian Trilobite Genus Olenus Dalm.” This was only a few months before the start of the Nazi regime and he settled into a position at Greifswald University. However, Kauffman was “only” a second generation Christian. Born to Christian parents, he had been baptized an evangelical Christian. But he was of Jewish descent so his family’s conversion and baptism now counted for nothing. He would never find a position in Nazi Germany and Jewish scientists without substantial experience were not wanted abroad via emigration.
He was dismissed from Greifswald in 1933 and left for Copenhagen. While denied a scientific career there, he was able to support himself through his hobbies as a photographer and a certified sports and athletics instructor. As conditions in Copenhagen deteriorated he migrated to Italy where in the summer of 1935 he met Ingeborg Magnusson, a 28 year old Swedish citizen vacationing in Italy. They fell madly in love, a romance that lasted six years. However, because of the onerous restrictions placed on Jews in Germany and German controlled territory, Rudolf and Ingeborg would only spend 13 days of those years together.
In 1935 Kaufmann returned to Germany to teach biology, geography, physics, art, and gymnastics at the Preacher Hirsch Boarding School, a Jewish school where, ironically, being an evangelical Christian didn’t matter. Over time Rudolf grew closer to Judaism, not as a religion, but as a realization that it was the only group that would accept him, even though he did not renounce his Christianity. But life was different now and his past friends and scientific colleagues avoided him. The Preacher School was in the city of Coburg --- the first German city to elect a Nazi as mayor and that as early as 1929. He continued to seek employment as a geologist, but to no avail. However, he and Ingeborg continued to write lovingly to one another and from time to time they were able to meet outside of Germany to spend a few fleeting days together.
In May of 1936 Kaufmann attended a local dance for relaxation and there met a young widow from Neues. They struck up a friendship that led, in a weak moment, to a sexual liaison. Later Rudolph realized that he has contracted a venereal disease. While seeking medical treatment from a local doctor specializing in venereal diseases Kauffman revealed who infected him --- a fatal mistake. The doctor knew that Kaufmann was legally a Jew and that the woman was of German blood. Both Rudolf and the woman were arrested.
On August 1 1936 the local Cosburg newspaper Bayerische Ostmark – Coburg Natinalzeitung carried the story:
“ARRESTED FOR OFFENSES AGAINST THE RACE LAWS. TYPICAL CASE OF JEWISH EFFRONTERY IN COBURG.
27-year-old Jewish athletics teacher Rudolf Kaufmann, of Coburg, has been arrested for contravention of Paragraphs 2 and 5 of the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor.”