Ernst Hamburger

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Ernst Hamburger (later Ernest Hamburger ; born December 30, 1890 in Berlin ; † April 3, 1980 in New York City ) was a German-American civil servant and politician ( SPD ) until 1933 . Because of his Jewish origins and his socialist convictions, he went into exile after the beginning of National Socialist rule and became a university lecturer, United Nations employee and political-historical journalist .

education and profession

Hamburger was born in 1890 as the son of a senior executive. He attended to 1909 high school in Charlottenburg and then studied economics and philology at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the Friedrich-Wilhelms University in Berlin , where he in 1913 with a thesis Symbola ad Horati carminum elocutionem to Dr. phil. received his doctorate .

Afterwards Hamburger entered the higher Prussian school service as a student trainee in 1914. During the First World War he was a soldier. Between 1919 and 1920 Hamburger worked for the German Armistice Commission in 1918 . From 1920 he then worked as a study assessor in education administration. From 1921 Hamburg was head of the press office at the high presidium in Wroclaw . From 1922 Hamburg government councilor in the police headquarters in Breslau and from 1927 senior government councilor in the Prussian Ministry of the Interior in Berlin.

In addition, he was a lecturer in Hamburg at the State College for Business and Administration in Berlin.

Politics until 1933

At an unknown time, Hamburg became a member of the SPD . For this party he belonged to the Prussian state parliament from 1924 to 1933 . In 1928 and 1933 he was a member of the parliamentary group executive committee and temporarily deputy group chairman. In 1928 and 1932 he was a committee member of the Prussian State Bank ( Sea Trade ). As an administrative practitioner, Hamburger tried to contribute to the democratization of the administration. However, his proposals to replace political officials with Republicans often met with rejection from Minister Albert Grzesinski . With a view to the Franz von Papen government , Hamburger urgently warned in 1932 against the infiltration of the public administration by anti-democratic forces. After the state election in Prussia in 1932, which was catastrophic for the Weimar coalition in Prussia, none of the democratic parties was able to form a government with a majority. Neither Otto Braun nor Carl Severing were prepared for this situation . In particular, the Social Democratic parliamentary group leader Ernst Heilmann and his deputy from Hamburg urged the reluctant Prime Minister to defend the “bulwark of Prussia” from a minority government . This attempt failed because of the Prussian strike of Reich Chancellor Franz von Papen. In the debate in the state parliament on this event, Hamburger drew attention to the connection between the growth of National Socialism and the formation of the von Papen government. "This von Papen government actually owes its existence to the increase in power, the terror and the approval of the National Socialists." to complain “when someone else draws the anti-democratic consequences from such lessons.” Although Hamburger had no illusions about the character of National Socialism, he could not imagine Hitler taking over government in the light of the November 1932 Reichstag election . “In Germany Adolf Hitler and National Socialism will never come to power! The way from the Kaiserhof to the Reich Chancellery takes two minutes, but Adolf Hitler will not cover it in an eternity. ”With the formation of the Hitler government on January 30, 1933, this statement turned out to be a political misjudgment. Shortly before leaving Germany, Hamburger initiated an article against the Nazi agitation against Professor Cohn from the University of Breslau. According to Hamburger, this was the last article published in Germany against anti-Semitic student protests.

Exile in France

Immediately after the start of National Socialist rule, Hamburger was one of the first civil servants to be dismissed by the new government. He then went into exile and spent the first few years in France . According to reports from the Gestapo, he was involved in the Brown Book on the Reichstag fire . Hamburger was also a leader in the social democratic refugee work. He was chairman of the welfare committee of the workers' welfare in Paris . Above all, however, he was scientifically active at the Institut de Droit Comparé of the law faculty. He was also a co-founder of the Institut de Science de la Presse.

New York and Post War

From 1940 he lived in New York. There he was a professor at the New School for Social Research until 1958 . There he was a founding member of the Institute of World Affairs. In emigrant circles, he was a member of the executive council of the "German Freedom Council". Together with Hans Staudinger and other emigrants , for example, he also participated in expert opinions on German development. Hamburger has also contributed to the reform of New York law.

In 1945 Hamburger returned to Europe as a professor at the École des hautes études . From 1946 to 1956 he was the editor of the UNESCO Yearbook on Human Rights . Between 1948 and 1958, Hamburg was the representative of the USA in the human rights department at the United Nations . He was also from 1948 to 1955 First Officer in the Secretariat of the United Nations.

Leo Baeck Institute and Author

Since 1962, Hamburg was a board member of the Leo Baeck Institute in New York. Already before, but especially since then, he was also active as an author. One focus was on political and historical writings, particularly on Jewish history. In 1968, Hamburger published the study on Jews in public life in Germany . Only the first part of this work, which deals with the time before 1918, has been published. The planned second part did not come about for reasons of age. In 1973, Hamburger published his study Jews, Democracy and Weimar Germany . Hamburger also got involved in the historical debates of the time. Along with Karl Dietrich Bracher, he was one of the sharpest critics of Heinrich Brüning's autobiography . It was only after his death in 1985 that the work Jews as Voters in the Weimar Republic, which was important for historical electoral research , was published together with Peter GJ Pulzer .

The revocation of his doctorate during the Nazi era was symbolically reversed by the Humboldt University in 1998 .


  • The opening balance of the German peace economy. Statistical materials with explanations in a generally understandable presentation . Stalling, Oldenburg 1919.
  • To the coal and raw material shortage. Their causes and how to overcome them . Culture League, Berlin 1920.
  • The Paris demands . Culture League, Berlin 1921.
  • State Zionism. His way and his goal . State Zionist Organization, Berlin 1935.
  • Education for an industrial age . Cornell University Press, Ithaca 1948.
  • Ernst Hamburger Collection 1913-1980 . Leo Baeck Institute Archive
  • Jews in public life in Germany: members of the government, civil servants and parliamentarians in the monarchical. Time. 1848-1918 . Tübingen: Mohr, 1968
  • Jews, Democracy and Weimar Germany . New York: Leo Baeck Institute, 1973


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gerhard Schulz: Between Democracy and Dictatorship. Constitutional politics and imperial reform in the Weimar Republic. Walter de Gruyter, 1987, ISBN 3110024861 , p. 297 ( digitized version )
  2. ^ Heinrich August Winkler: The way into the disaster. Workers and the labor movement in the Weimar Republic 1930 to 1933. Bonn 1990, p. 553
  3. cit. after Wilhelm Ribhegge: Prussia in the west. Struggle for parliamentarism in Rhineland and Westphalia. Münster 2008 (special edition for the state center for political education in North Rhine-Westphalia) p. 526f.
  4. cit. after Ribhegge, p. 534
  5. Working and Looking Forward, pp. 35f.
  6. Ursula Langkau-Alex: German Popular Front 1932–1939. Akademie Verlag, 2004, ISBN 3050040319 , p. 86 ( digitized version )
  7. Ursula Langkau-Alex: German Popular Front 1932–1939. Akademie Verlag, 2004, ISBN 3050040319 , p. 243 ( digitized version )
  8. ^ Socialist communications on December 1, 1941
  9. ^ Ernst C. Stiefel , Frank Mecklenburg: German Jurists in American Exile (1933–1950). Mohr Siebeck, 1991, ISBN 3161456882 , p. 177 ( digitized version )
  10. ^ Opening address by Federal Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel. In: Marcus Lutter , Ernst C. Stiefel, Michael H. Hoeflich (eds.): The influence of German emigrants on the legal development in the USA and in Germany. Mohr Siebeck, 1993, ISBN 3161460804 , p. 7 ( digitized version )
  11. A tribe like the Bavarians. Jewish officials and politicians in the German Reich . Book review by Egmont Zechlin in: Die Zeit , October 1968
  12. ^ Werner Jochmann : Social crisis and hostility to Jews in Germany, 1870-1945. Christians, 1988, ISBN 3767210568 , p 208 ( Teildigitalisat )
  13. Declaration on the withdrawal of academic titles