* research reading for CHOOSING HITLER … Justice Imperiled: The Anti-Nazi Lawyer Max Hirschberg in Weimar Germany

Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 28, 2013

Justice Imperiled


Fascinating detail of the major cases of a Jewish lawyer who fought for justice in Munich during the Weimar years. Max Hirschberg was the premier courtroom lawyer in Munich during the Weimar Republic, representing Munich’s Social Democratic Party in its most important political trials. He also took on numerous cases where the right-leaning criminal justice system had resulted in what he saw as a miscarriage of justice.

Right at the top of Hitler’s list, Hirschberg was arrested by the Nazis in the early morning hours after the Reichstag fire in February 1933. He was held in “protective custody” for over 5 months and then inexplicably released. He fled to Switzerland, then to America, and lived into the 1960s.

The lingering feeling I get from this book is the critical importance to a civilized society of the rule of law, how impossible life must be when this no longer applies, and how much we should appreciate those who fight to maintain it.

I have written about the perversion of the rule of law in my novels A Good Conviction  and Case Closed: … why the FBI failed to solve the 2001 anthrax case.

And of course Hirschberg’s cases raise yet again the question of how educated Germans could have failed to see what they were getting with Hitler, or if they knew, why they were willing to make the bargain.

I am thinking of imagining and writing a dinner conversation between Max Hirschberg and Munich’s Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, in 1930, where these issues and questions will be discussed. Faulhaber had been outspoken against antisemitism in the 1920s, became far less so when the position of the Catholic Church became one of accommodation to Hitler in the 1930s, then again adamant in the Church’s successful campaign against Nazi euthanasia in the early 1940s … while never mentioning the mass murder of Jews of which he surely knew. 

I think Faulhaber’s evolving positions are fertile material for my novel-in-progress, tentatively titled CHOOSING HITLER.

But … my wife tells me it is not possible that the Cardinal would come to dinner at a private home, especially that of a Jew. I’ll have to find another way.



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