CRIMINAL SOCIOLOGY IN THE WEIMAR YEARS
German criminology during the Weimar Republic was shaped by two opposing developments. On the one hand, the experience of the First World War and the accompanying surge in crime provided a powerful argument for the importance of the social causes of crime. On the other hand, the Weimar years saw an enormous increase in psychiatric research on criminal behavior that presented a strong case for biological explanations of crime. This chapter will examine the major studies of wartime crime and the development of a criminal sociology that elevated research on the social causes of crime to a new level of sophistication. The chapter's conclusion will provide a brief survey of the impact of criminological research on public attitudes, judicial practice, and penal reform under the Weimar Republic. The development of psychiatric research in what came to be known as "criminal biology" during the Weimar years forms the subject of the next chapter.
The most striking aspect of the development of the sociological study of crime in Germany before the Second World War is the virtual absence of sociologists or other social scientists working on the subject. The Handwörterbuch der Soziologie (Handbook of sociology), published in 1931, contained entries on a wide range of social phenomena from "the proletariat" to "the modern family" to "music," but nothing on crime. The prominent sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies was an exception. In 1895 he had published a brief article on "crime as a social phenomenon," in which he called for empirical research on professional criminals (Gauner). But he seems to have been unable to interest many of his students in the subject, and his own studies on crime in Schleswig-Holstein were minor contributions that did not significantly advance the field. 1. Since sociolo‐____________________