C.H. Beck, Germany’s leading legal publisher, today announced that several of its publications will finally be renamed in light of the Nazi past of the jurists whose names they currently bear. All of these publications are household names for law students and practitioners alike.
The campaign for these names to be changed was pretty much a niche thing for many years and gained traction and public visibility only fairly recently.
The names that will disappear are those of Otto Palandt, a Nazi jurist whose name was on the commentary of the Civil Code (BGB), Theodor Maunz, a constitutional lawyer and professor whose name is on a Basic Law (Grundgesetz) commentary, Heinrich Schönfelder, whose loose-leaf collection of German laws you could not avoid in law school, and finally Walter Blümich, a tax lawyer. Other publications may follow.
The “Palandt” will, however, not become “Liebmann”, but “Grüneberg”, named after the current editor. The name of Otto Liebmann had been suggested, amongst others, as an alternative by a student initiative:
“From our point of view, Otto Liebmann is the favourite as the new name-giver. He was a renowned lawyer in the Weimar Republic and, among other things, the founder, publisher, editor and editor of Deutsche Juristen-Zeitung. In addition, his Berlin publishing house founded and published commentaries on important laws in the Weimar Republic and the first years after the National Socialist seizure of power. Liebmann, however, saw himself increasingly under pressure due to his Jewish origins and the ever-increasing discrimination against Jewish citizens. He therefore decided in 1933 to sell his publishing house to Heinrich Beck.
In addition to many advantages that the location of Berlin brought in the emerging Nazi central state, the purchase was associated with the chance to turn the successful pocket commentaries of Liebmann’s publishing house into the series of Beck’s short commentaries. The most important of these was later to become “Palandt”. Otto Liebmann thus laid the actual foundation stone for this work. According to the historian Stefan Rebenich, Heinrich Beck was not an ardent National Socialist, but as an “Aryan” businessman and, to a certain extent, a “silent partner” of the National Socialist regime, he knew how to take advantage of the opportunities that presented themselves to C. H. Beck from 1933 onwards: The acquisition of the publishing house Otto Liebmann – according to Rebenich’s judgement – “would have been unthinkable without the National Socialist rule”. Legal literature became the core business, profits multiplied.
Liebmann, on the other hand, became impoverished and died in 1942 from “the privations of the time of persecution”. His son was able to flee, his two daughters were killed in Auschwitz. To this day, he has not been given the honourable memory he deserves.”
And to this day, unlike Palandt, Maunz or Schönfelder, Otto Liebmann does not even have a Wikipedia entry – see here for a short bio.
The photo shows a “Palandt” on my office shelf in the “Liebmann sleeve produced by the student initiative.