Academic journal article Shofar

Justice Imperiled: The Anti-Nazi Lawyer Max Hirschberg in Weimar Germany

Academic journal article Shofar

Justice Imperiled: The Anti-Nazi Lawyer Max Hirschberg in Weimar Germany

Article excerpt

Justice Imperiled: The Anti-Nazi Lawyer Max Hirschberg in Weimar Germany, by Douglas G. Morris. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005. 443. pp. $35.00.

Douglas G. Morris, very much like his subject, the Weimar-era German lawyer Max Hirschberg, is a practicing big-city criminal defense lawyer with a significant sideline as a scholar. His somewhar unusual background contributes to the success of this study of a lawyer ar work and helps make this carefully researched and lucidly written book a very valuable addition to our knowledge of law and the administration of justice in the Weimar Republic.

This knowledge remains surprisingly patchy. We know a lot about the jurisprudential dispures of the 1920s and early 1930s, as a wide range of legal scholars, philosophers, and historians on both sides of the Atlantic continue to be fascinated with Weimar constitutionalism, and with the profound disputes about the fundamental nature of law for which the Republic's troubled politics created especially fertile ground (See inter alia Michael Stolleis, A History of Public Law in Germany 1914-1945, trans. Thomas Dunlop [2004J; Peter C. Caldwell, Popular Sovereignty and the Crisis of German Constitutional Law: TIk TÌKory and Practice of Weimar Constitutionalism [1997]; Arthur J. Jacobson and Bernhard Schlink, eds., Weimar: A Jurisprudence of Crisis [2000]); Manfred Gangl, ed., Linke Juristen in der Weimarer Republik [2003]). We know a little about the practical politics of law and the legal profession in Weimar (Kenneth F. Ledford, From General Estate to Special Interest: German Lawyers 1878-1933 [1996]; Robert Kuhn, Die Vertrauenskrise der Justiz [1926-1928]: Der Kampf um die Republikanisierung der Rechtspflege in der Weimarer Republik [1983]; Tilmann Krach, Jüdische Rechtsanwälte in Preußen: Über die Bedeutung der freien Advokatur und ihre Zerstörung durch den Nationalsozialismus [1991]). But of the actual conduct of criminal trials, even the overtly political, let alone the unpolitical, we know very little; and despite the colorful personalities and contemporary fame of many members of the Weimar bar, biographies of lawyers are few, and good ones even fewer. Thus a scholarly biography of an important lawyer which pays careful attention to the hows and whys of his cases fills a major gap.

Hirschberg was born in Munich in 1883 and grew up a rather characteristic product of the Imperial German Bildungsbürgertum, idealistic, cultivated, and perhaps naive in equal measures. Hirschberg was never especially religious, and Morris suggests that Hirschberg's Jewish background was important only in contributing to a sense of separateness that he carried throughout his life (p. 19) - and, of course, in providing one ground for his flight from Germany after the Nazis came to power. Hirschberg opened a legal practice in Munich in 191 11 but as Morris shows, it was the First World War, in which Hirschberg served as a front line officer, and even more the revolutionary turbulence of post-war Munich, that shaped his political outlook (social democratic) and gave him a sense of political mission. After flirting with a formal political career, Hirschberg decided that he could most effectively contribute to a democratic Germany through his legal practice. …

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