Legal Scholarship in the Third Reich: The Career of Josef Esser

June 17, 2024

Josef Esser, as a legal theorist, doctrinalist, and comparative lawyer, significantly shaped the legal debates of the post-war period. His concepts of judiciary law and legal reasoning, as well as his textbook on the law of obligations, gained international recognition and influenced many generations of lawyers. However, his activities during the National Socialist era remain largely unexplored. Susanne Paas' research project sheds light on Esser's career from 1933 to 1949, providing exemplary insights into the career paths of legal scholars during this time.

The project examines the changes in university structures, new appointment procedures, antisemitism and discrimination in academia, as well as practical challenges such as shortages of paper and typewriters during the war. This contextualization is crucial in light of the legal situation in Germany, which, since 2022, mandates that legal knowledge be taught with an awareness of the injustices of the German dictatorships. This aims to sensitize students and highlight the susceptibility of legal ideas to political ideologization.

The project "The Unknown Josef Esser" contributes to filling this historical gap and deepening the understanding of the conditions under which legal ideas developed during National Socialism.

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